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Citizens Watch Newsletter November 2002

Who Will Disarm America? Weapons Inspectors Visit Livermore Lab

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

On Veteran's Day, Nov. 11, 2002, about two hundred people formed citizen weapons inspection teams, including representatives from community, veterans and student groups. The diverse crowd delivered a notice of intent to inspect Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), a facility involved in the design, development and testing of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

In a six-page letter, quoting directly from United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 on Iraq, adopted Nov. 8, 2002, they demanded "immediate, unimpeded unconditional, and unrestricted access to any and all, including underground, areas, facilities, buildings, equipment, records, and means of transport," at Livermore nuclear weapons lab. A partial list of facilities to which the citizen inspection teams requested access included: the plutonium facility, the tritium facility and the National Ignition Facility mega-laser.

Representatives from Tri-Valley CAREs, California Peace Action, Western States Legal Foundation and Veterans for Peace set up tables at the LLNL gate to publicly display evidence the groups had collected detailing Livermore Lab's involvement in clandestine activities related to the research and development of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear and biological weapons.

"We are here demanding an end to all weapons of mass destruction, whether developed in the suburbs by University of California (UC) scientists, or in Iraq," stated Tara Dorabji, Outreach Coordinator for Tri-Valley CAREs.

"In light of the Security Council's vote in favor of sending weapons inspectors back to Iraq, we seek to hold our country to the same standard," declared Jackie Cabasso, Executive Director of Western States Legal Foundation.

Students from four UC campuses were on hand to demand that the Regents of the University, who manage the nation's two primary nuclear weapons labs, support ongoing inspections of the Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos labs. In order to verify the status and cessation of research and development activities involving nuclear and biological weapons at these labs, ongoing inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, other international agencies and public citizen-based weapons inspection teams will be needed, the students said.

"The Regents have a responsibility to the student community to admit weapons inspectors and adhere to international laws, such as the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)," stated Valerie Kao, a student at UC Berkeley. "However, it will take a strong student movement to get the Regents to comply with international law and pursue disarmament in the United States," she added.

Kao was present at the Veteran's Day event at LLNL, and she later delivered copies of the letter of intent to inspect while testifying before the UC Regents at their San Francisco meeting.

The letter of intent to inspect, addressed to LLNL director Michael Anastasio, was signed by more than 100 members of the inspection teams. David Schwoegler, spokesperson for the Livermore Lab, promised the letter would be delivered to Anastasio. He did not respond to the group's request to inspect, but told the Valley Times: "We just don't let people into special areas with nuclear materials."

"After reviewing multiple public Dept. of Energy documents, it is clear that Livermore Lab is developing new and modified nuclear weapons that will be more usable in conventional warfare," explained Erek Dyskant, a young citizen weapons inspector at LLNL and science intern at Tri-Valley CAREs.

The continued development of nuclear weapons at Livermore Lab puts the U.S. in material breach of the NPT, which became law in 1970. Under Article VI of the treaty, the U.S. is obliged to pursue (and achieve) genuine disarmament.

A phalanx of armed security personnel met the inspection teams at the gate. After delivering the letter, the crowd - singing "We Shall Overcome" - pledged to continue returning to Lawrence Livermore National Lab until teams of international and civilian weapons inspectors are admitted.


Tri-Valley CAREs Wins a Solid Legal Victory Against NIF

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

In the wake of revelations by its staff scientists and Tri-Valley CAREs, in 1999 Livermore Lab and Dept. of Energy (DOE) officials were forced to admit that the construction of their giant laser-fusion project, the National Ignition Facility (NIF), was more than a billion dollars over budget and at least 6 years behind schedule.

When Congress found this out, it conditioned further funding on a review panel convened by DOE to evaluate whether NIF's now-revised budget and schedule (called the "rebaseline") were credible.

DOE called the review panel "independent," and used its report in Sept. 2000 to assure Congress of "high confidence that the project can be successfully completed" and that NIF funding should proceed. Only after the report was transmitted to Congress did the names of the panelists become public.

Tri-Valley CAREs and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) obtained the list and found that the touted "independent" committee members held DOE contracts for NIF and stood to benefit directly from the mega-laser's construction and continued funding.

DOE was violating the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), and so Tri-Valley CAREs and NRDC swung into action and filed a lawsuit in Oct. of 2000.

FACA is a government openness law intended to ensure that advisory panels are publicly accessible, free of conflict of interest and offer a balance of views.

The Judge's Ruling

Fast-forward to Oct. 1, 2002 - Judge Emmet G. Sullivan rules in our favor that DOE violated FACA with regard to not just one, but three of its review committees: the NIF "Rebaseline Committee," described above, and two subsequent "Status Review Committees" that DOE convened in 2001 to reassure a still-skeptical Congress that NIF's costs were not spiraling further out of control.

Additionally, the Court ruled in favor of our "pattern and practice" claim, finding that the DOE had been carrying out a policy of convening closed, biased committees to advise it on the NIF in violation of FACA.

Because of the lawsuit, the DOE has, among other things, been forced to disband the latest NIF Status Review Committee, halt publication of that panel's recommendations and suspend its reliance on the Rebaseline Committee's report. Further, the DOE must use a disclaimer declaring it convened the committees in violation of FACA in the instances that the Court granted that DOE could refer to the tainted panels' recommendations.

"This is a major win," declared Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs' Executive Director. "Now, we call on Congress to take note of the Court's ruling and insist that an unbiased review committee look into NIF before more good money is thrown after bad."

"We believe that NIF's unresolved technical problems and nuclear proliferation risks will cause an honest panel to recommend that the project be severely cut back -- or canceled outright," Kelley added.

"One of our major goals in filing this lawsuit was to require that FACA law be followed," said Inga Olson, Tri-Valley CAREs' Program Associate. "Not only must panels represent a balance of views, but, in addition, FACA guarantees open meetings and the release of documents."

"The openness provisions are extremely important because the public has a right to see how its tax money is spent. The NIF and other nuclear weapons projects affect us all," Olson concluded.

The Judge's Opinion is available in PDF on our web site at www.trivalleycares.org/NIF-FACA-win.pdf.


Groups Examine the Precautionary Principle

by Nicole Collins
from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On Oct. 15, a group of Tri-Valley CAREs members and staff participated in a public symposium on the Precautionary Principle. The meeting's goals were to introduce the Precautionary Principle and its values, how it relates to scientific evidence, and how to achieve its greater implementation in the Bay Area.

The Precautionary Principle states: "When an activity raises the threat of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof." According to Carolyn Raffensperger, Executive Director, Science and Environmental Health Network, the Precautionary Principle can be used as an ethical directive and philosophical guide towards regulatory rule.

"It's easy to understand the principle's application when the DOE attempts to transport plutonium in unsafe containers on our highways" noted Tara Dorabji, Tri-Valley CAREs' Outreach Coordinator. "The Precautionary Principle has always been our group's working model" added Program Associate Inga Olson. "We are glad to see it formalized and achieving wider acceptance." Tri-Valley CAREs and colleague organizations first introduced the Precautionary Principle to the Livermore community at a Town Meeting three years ago.

As the Precautionary Principle's ideas spread, changes can occur at the community level and flow outward. By examining choices and choosing the least harmful option, private industry and local government can act together, according to Raffensperger. Establishing environmental and health goals, making decisions through open democratic processes, and forcing the burden of proof to fall on the proponents of a potentially harmful action rather than the public are three keys to implementing the Precautionary Principle.

Prevention is wiser and less expensive than cleaning up the damage, symposium participants agreed. All organizations in attendance spoke of their desire to further incorporate the Precautionary Principle in Bay Area policy-making.

Call our office for a copy of the Statement on the Precautionary Principle.


For Sick Workers...

by Inga Olson
from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

In 2000, an historic federal compensation act was signed into law to assist atomic workers who have become ill due to exposure on the job to radiation, beryllium or silica. A separate program is set up to assist workers who were exposed to other hazardous chemicals. In some cases, an employee's surviving family members may be compensated. Tri-Valley CAREs worked to get the law passed and continues to work now to strengthen it. Though there is still much room for improvement, some workers and family members have received $150,000 and/or medical payments.

Traveling Resource Center

The Departments of Labor and Energy are sponsoring a traveling resource center to assist sick workers or family members to apply for or answer questions about the compensation programs. Workers who have attended a traveling resource center in the past have commented favorably to us on the assistance they received. The hours are 8:30 AM - 6:00 PM. Drop in or call toll-free for an appointment at 1-866-697-0841. Dates and locations are:

  • Monday, Dec. 2 and Tuesday, Dec. 3, Four Points Hotel by Sheraton, 5115 Hopyard Road, Pleasanton, CA 94566, 925-460-8800.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 4 and Thursday, Dec. 5, Oakland Marriott (City Center), 1001 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607, 510-451-4000.

Action Alert

There is no permanent resource center for workers or their families in Livermore. In fact, there is not one anywhere in California. You can help by writing a short letter requesting that a resource center be opened in Livermore. Write to:

  • Shelby Hallmark
    Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs
    Room S3524
    U.S. Dept. of Labor
    200 Constitution Ave., NW
    Washington, DC 20210.

Additionally, Tri-Valley CAREs sponsors a support group for sick workers and/or family members. Give us a call.


Print Bites: All the News That Fits to Print

by Ann Seitz and Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

* Offensive Budget. On Oct. 9, House and Senate negotiators reached a compromise on a $355.1 billion fiscal year 2003 "defense" bill which boosts military spending by $35 billion and finances the purchase of dozens of new high-tech weapons including warships, fighter planes, and helicopters as the nation girds for war. As part of the war-making boost, the Congress allocated an initial $15M to study development of a Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator weapon. Scientists at Livermore Lab will conduct a feasibility study on strengthening the B-83 hydrogen bomb so it can withstand a high-speed collision and penetrate through rock, concrete and dirt. Scientists at Los Alamos will similarly study a further modification on the B-61 bomb. Engaged in spirited "nuclear competition" for 5 decades, the two labs are literally locked in a nuclear "design contest" where the winners are the weapons designers and the rest of us are left with the fallout. This study is proceeding without detailed analysis of the international proliferation risks.

* "King" George? Thirty-one members of Congress, led by Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH), filed suit in June 2002 to block Pres. Bush from withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Oral arguments in Kucinich v. Bush took place Oct. 31 in Federal District Court in Washington DC. A written decision by Judge John Bates is expected in the next few weeks. Said Kucinich: "The President's termination of the ABM Treaty represents an unconstitutional repeal of a law duly enacted by Congress." According to John Burroughs, Executive Director of the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy, "The Members of Congress bringing this lawsuit are reminding the country that under the Constitution the President is not a king....Decisions as momentous as withdrawal from the ABM Treaty must involve Congress if the U.S. is to remain a democracy."

* Bush Whacking Policy. Pres. Bush released a comprehensive (and explicit) policy guidance shifting U.S. military strategy from deterrence to a strike-first mode. The "National Security Strategy of the United States" is a report submitted to Congress by each incoming President. Bush's submittal is notable in its belligerence, stating, for example, that: "we will never hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting pre-emptively." Moreover, the 33-page policy declaration undermines the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a foundation of U.S. security, preferring "counterproliferation" measures from missile defense to new nuclear and other weapons.

* Cuba Signs Up. In Sept., Cuba announced that it would sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as part of its program to promote peace in the post-September 11 world. Cuba's foreign minister, Felipe Perez Roque, told Reuters news service that his country had not previously signed the NPT because it allowed certain nations to form, in effect, a nuclear club. However, he continued, as a sign of political will to support disarmament and peace, Cuba will formally sign and adhere to the NPT. Further, Cuba announced also that it will ratify the Treaty of Tlateloco, which declares the Caribbean region and Latin America as nuclear free zones.

* California Increases Accountability. Here in California we have a new victory to report. In Sept., Gov. Davis signed SB 2065, a piece of nuclear industry oversight legislation authored by Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica). For the first time, hundreds of low-level radioactive waste generators will be required to systematically report to the State Dept. of Health Services on the wastes they generate, treat, store, transfer and ship for disposal. The legislation was passed despite heavy opposition by big utility companies, the CalRad Forum (a nuclear industry trade group), Boeing Industries and the Navy. According to the BAN Waste Coalition, the overwhelming outpouring of calls and faxes from California residents supporting the bill carried the day.


DOE Plans to Build a New Bomb Factory

by Inga Olson
from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Most modern nuclear weapons depend on a plutonium pit as the "primary" that begins the chain reaction resulting in a thermonuclear explosion. The Dept. of Energy (DOE) announced its intent on Sept. 23 to begin examining several possible sites for a new nuclear bomb making facility to produce plutonium pits for new and refurbished nuclear weapons.

DOE claims it needs to have a new pit facility capable of producing 125 pits a year. In truth, the U.S. is awash in plutonium, possessing as many as 23,000 - 25,000 plutonium pits, of which 10,700 are in warhead form (and only 1,700 - 2,200 are slated to be "operationally deployed" in strategic weapons as a result of the Moscow Treaty).

A new pit production facility will send a strong signal to the world that the U.S. intends to ignore its obligation to seek nuclear disarmament, as agreed to in the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty and reaffirmed by the U.S. in 2000 as an "unequivocal commitment." In addition, a new pit production facility would be hugely expensive, costing $2 - 4 billion to build, $200 - 300 million to operate each year and billions of dollars to dismantle and clean up. Stay tuned.

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