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Citizens Watch Newsletter May 2005

Livermore Nuclear Foes at Non-Proliferation Treaty Conference

By Marylia Kelley and Tara Dorabji
from Tri-Valley CAREs' May 2005 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Tri-Valley CAREs is sending key staff and technical experts to the United Nations to participate in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, which will take place in New York from May 2-27. Tri-Valley CAREs is a UN-accredited non-governmental organization.

The Tri-Valley CAREs team will meet with delegates from more than a dozen countries to discuss measures to strengthen compliance with the NPT, including the disarmament obligation of the United States and other signatory nuclear weapons states under the Treaty's Article VI.

"The NPT is the most universal treaty of its kind, signed by nearly 190 countries. It commits the nuclear weapons states to eliminate their arsenals. In return the non-nuclear armed states agree not to acquire such weapons," explained Loulena Miles, Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney. "The U.S. is flaunting its NPT obligation by seeking to develop new nuclear bunker-busting bombs and other new and modified nuclear weapons at Livermore Lab," Miles continued. "This, in turn, weakens the basic foundation of the non-proliferation regime."

"It's hypocritical for the U.S. to insist that other nations not develop nuclear weapons while spending billions to modernize and upgrade its nuclear arsenal," charged Tara Dorabji, Outreach Director for Tri-Valley CAREs. "If we want to foster a strong global nonproliferation regime and prevent others from acquiring nuclear weapons, we need to stop developing new nuclear bombs ourselves." Dorabji added, "The U.S. cannot effectively insist on nuclear abstinence from a bar stool."

Tri-Valley CAREs will share a recently released report with the NPT delegations. Titled, "America's One-Nation Arms Race: An Analysis of the Department of Energy's Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Request for Nuclear Weapons Activities," the report documents a decade long upsurge in funding for nuclear weapons that supports a vast research and manufacturing enterprise focused on upgrading existing U.S. nuclear weapons and designing new ones.

The report is written by Dr. Robert Civiak, a physicist and former Budget Examiner at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). His responsibilities at OMB included oversight of the DOE nuclear weapons programs. "The current and proposed U.S. nuclear weapons budget directly contradicts the Administration's efforts to convince potential nuclear weapons proliferators that there is nothing to be gained from developing nuclear weapons," said Dr. Civiak. (for more information, see the insert in this edition of Citizen's Watch.)

"Our goal is to help other countries hold the U.S. government's feet to the fire to achieve disarmament," commented Inga Olson, Tri-Valley CAREs' Program Director. "Ultimately, the NPT offers us the prospect of genuine security; that is, a world free of the threat of nuclear annihilation. If it falters, we will all become less safe."

The Tri-Valley CAREs team will bring information to delegates on the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, a new bomb slated to be developed at Livermore Lab, and which, if built, would burrow into the ground before detonation. The group will also highlight U.S. plans to double the plutonium limit at Livermore Lab to more than 3,000 pounds. With the increase, Livermore Lab plans to develop new technologies to cast plutonium pits. These technologies are to be used in a new plutonium bomb factory, called the Modern Pit Facility, that will include the capability to manufacture more than 250 new pits per year, including new-design pits for nuclear weapons. Plutonium pits are the cores of modern day nuclear weapons.

While in New York, on the eve of the opening of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, several members of the Tri-Valley CAREs team will participate in a major rally to support the NPT. On May 1, the" No Nukes! No War!" demonstration will march by the United Nations and culminate in a rally in Central Park. At this important historical moment, Tri-Valley CAREs will join many voices from around the world calling for global nuclear disarmament, the withdrawal of the U.S. military from Iraq, and full compliance with the NPT.

Dozens of mayors from around the world, led by the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, will be present for the demonstration and the NPT Review Conference. Mayor Jennifer Hosterman of Pleasanton will be among them. In addition, thousands of peace advocates are traveling to the UN to participate, including survivors of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 60 years ago. Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament are intertwined. We, the people of the world, must act now to achieve both or we will have neither.

Action: Write or Call to Support the NPT

By Carah Ong
from Tri-Valley CAREs' May 2005 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Last month, our Congressional Rep., Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), joined Spratt (D-SC), Leach (R-IA), Markey (D-MA), Skelton (D-MO) and Shays (R-CT) to introduce the "Non-Proliferation Treaty Enhancement Resolution of 2005" in the House of Representatives. The resolution urges action in 10 major areas of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament to strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Write to Rep. Tauscher to say "thanks" or write to another Member of Congress to urge him/her to support the NPT resolution. Pen your own note, or send one from

This month's NPT Review Conference offers a decisive opportunity to advance international peace and security. The NPT contains a basic bargain: nuclear weapons states are to get rid of their nuclear arsenals and non-nuclear weapons states are to forego acquiring them. To strengthen the NPT, we must build a more equitable nonproliferation and disarmament regime.

With a few notable exceptions, the non-nuclear weapons states have kept their end of the bargain. On the other hand, the nuclear weapons states, and most notably the U.S., have shown scant inclination to fulfill their disarmament commitments. Both sides of the NPT bargain are equally important and mutually reinforcing.

The NPT is at a fork in the road. The House resolution states that "sustained leadership from the United States is essential to implement existing legal and political commitments established by the NPT and to realize a more effective global nonproliferation system." A companion Senate resolution may be introduced soon.

Elected officials need to hear from you during -- and after -- the NPT Review Conference this month. Email, call and/or fax your Representative and Senators to share your concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation and U.S. nuclear policy. The Capitol Switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. The U.S. should obey the legal requirement to disarm its nuclear arsenal under Article VI of the NPT. The Bush Administration's Nuclear Posture Review and the National Security Strategy should be revised to comply with these obligations.

Deadly New Nuke

By Carah Ong
from Tri-Valley CAREs' May 2005 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

"Many Deaths Still Expected with Earth-Penetrating Nuclear Weapons," reads the headline on the press release of the National Academies of Science. The science advisory group's new report looks at nuclear bunker-busters like the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP), which Livermore Lab is slated to design, and says they cannot go deep enough to avoid massive casualties at ground level ? and could kill a million people or more if used in a highly-populated area.

Moreover, the report found that use of a nuclear bunker-buster against buried chemical or biological agents could inadvertently spread them along with the bomb's radioactive fallout.

The report's conclusions are in line with what groups like Tri-Valley CAREs and independent physicists have concluded after studying the question using unclassified data, including past test results. The national academies, however, also had access to the latest classified information. Thus, their study ought to put to rest any further claims by government officials that the RNEP and other planned nuclear bunker-busters can safely destroy underground targets.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) issued a statement calling the report "the clearest evidence to date that our country should not pursue the research and development of these weapons."

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) sent letters signed by a total of 134 House Members calling for cancellation of the RNEP. The letters also calls for funding cuts to other new nuclear weapons programs, citing in particular the Reliable Replacement Warhead.

These 134 signatures represent an increase of 40 over the number that signed a similar letter last year -- and Congress zeroed out 2005 funding for the RNEP and "Advanced Concepts Initiatives" (which included the Reliable Replacement Warhead). Therefore, prospects for another cut this year are good, but are not assured. The House could vote on this issue as soon as the week of May 23rd.

Check the web for details. Or, call us at (925) 443-7148.

Danger: Livermore to Double Plutonium

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

The Livermore Lab is located in the sprawling Bay Area, with 7 million people living within 50 miles. It sits just off Interstate-580 and directly across from dense housing developments. The nearest earthquake fault is a scant 200 feet away.

Livermore Lab's plutonium programs have been placed on "standby" for the past 5 months due to severe, still-unresolved safety problems. The federal nuclear safety board recently disclosed that plutonium at Livermore Lab is stored in unsafe containers, including paint cans and food cans. Accidents, spills and leaks have contaminated workers and the community. The investigative arm of Congress has expressed concern that Livermore Lab's existing stockpile of plutonium may be vulnerable to theft or terrorist attack. So, what future direction would you envision for Livermore Lab?

Incredibly, the Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that it will double the plutonium storage limit at Livermore Lab to more than 3,000 pounds, which is roughly enough to make 300 nuclear bombs.

The DOE will also double the "at risk" limit for plutonium to 88 pounds. This is the amount of plutonium allowed to be put "in play," meaning in use in any single room at a given time, and thereby at risk of release in an accident. Eighty eight pounds is enough to make about 8 nuclear bombs.

Further, DOE will increase the storage limit for tritium at Livermore Lab from 30 to 35 grams. And, the "at risk" limit for tritium will shoot up nearly 10-fold, from the current limit of 3.5 grams to 30 grams. Tritium is radioactive hydrogen; it boosts the explosive power of modern nuclear weapons.

These shocking increases are outlined in the final Site Wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS) on Livermore Lab operations, released April 29, 2005.

The SWEIS is a planning document that sets out Livermore's programs for the next ten years. It's all nukes and not much other science. Further, according to the SWEIS, Livermore Lab will not only research and develop nuclear weapons, it will move into bomb production activities.

Here are snapshots of a few of the dangerous programs that will be moving forward.

Livermore Lab will produce prototype plutonium bomb cores. Scientists will melt and pour plutonium as they work the bugs out of new technologies for making plutonium pits, so called because the plutonium sits inside the nuclear weapon like an apricot pit sits inside the fruit.

Livermore Lab will also use plutonium, highly enriched uranium and lithium hydride in experiments in the National Ignition Facility mega-laser, which is still under construction. Use of these materials will involve redesigning the facility and will increase worker exposures (the SWEIS admits this). Further, use of these materials will enable NIF to engage in a much wider array of nuclear weapon design tasks, including for mini-nukes and other novel weapons.

Livermore is also slated to manufacture the tritium targets for NIF on site, one reason why the "at risk" limit for this radioactive gas is so dramatically increasing. Another reason is that Livermore scientists will "enhance" U.S. readiness to resume full-scale nuclear testing in Nevada by developing new diagnostics with tritium at the Lab.

At Livermore Lab's site 300 high explosives testing range, located near Tracy, plans are to construct a 40,000 square-foot high explosives processing center and four magazines; two capable of storing 1,000 pounds of explosives, and two capable of storing 500 pounds. Bomb tests on open air firing tables will continue, according to the SWEIS, and open air explosions that contain tritium will resume after being halted for more than a decade (due in part to extensive radioactive contamination).

The final SWEIS does contain two victories. First, it reveals that DOE received 9,000 public comments on the draft plan. Nine thousand is an extraordinary number of comments, and most of them came from you -- our members and friends -- and we thank you.

The sheer number of comments as well as the specific issues they raise will be valuable as we organize opposition and prepare to challenge the programs proposed in the final SWEIS.

Second, we did succeed in stopping one bad project from moving forward. It is called Plutonium-Atomic Vapor Laser Isotope Separation, and it would have used specially-dyed laser beams to separate plutonium isotopes for nuclear weapons experiments. This project would have contributed to local pollution and global nuclear proliferation. The final SWEIS confirms that Pu-AVLIS activities will be terminated.

Now, we must roll up our sleeves and redouble our efforts to stop the other bad programs. To succeed, we will need your help. Truly. Please call our office today.

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