Reading Room

Citizens Watch Newsletter November 2005

In This Issue...

- Tri-Valley CAREs launches a petition drive to stop the Dept. of Energy from doubling the plutonium limits at Livermore Lab. Your petition and fact sheet are enclosed.

- Deadly bio-weapon agents are still held at bay by our lawsuit. Please find your update on page 1.

- You are invited to a party, filled with food, friendship, music and fun. We take this occasion to celebrate you, our wonderful members, friends and volunteers. All the vital info you need in order to come is on page 2.

-The Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator has been canceled. YEAH, and many thanks to our members who helped make this victory happen. Read all about it on page 4.

- Tri-Valley CAREs "kicks off" its semi-annual fundraising campaign. We invite you to become a partner in stopping nuclear bombs and protecting our environment. We never sell or share our mailing list, and your contribution is tax-deductible. A letter from Marylia is enclosed, along with fun facts and news stories highlighting our work.

- Peace prize, and more...


Deadly Bugs Held at Bay as Environmental Lawsuit Continues

By Loulena Miles
from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 2005 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Operation of Livermore Lab's advanced biowarfare research facility has been delayed again for at least two additional months - until January 2006, wrote Justice Department attorney Todd Aagaard in response to Tri-Valley CAREs' recent inquiry.

The facility is slated to spray live anthrax, plague, Q fever and other bio-weapon agents on up to 100 small animals at a time. Due to Tri-Valley CAREs' ongoing lawsuit, the facility has never opened. We filed suit in 2003, charging that the Department of Energy (DOE) made the decision to build and operate the bio-facility on the basis of a faulty environmental review document.

"We remain vigilant in ensuring this dangerous facility does not operate while our case is being heard in the courts," said Tri-Valley CAREs' executive director, Marylia Kelley. "We can't let this facility begin operating in our community when the DOE hasn't taken a hard look at the risks. The potential for an accidental release of deadly pathogens is just too great."

Another legal hurdle was vaulted last month as Tri-Valley CAREs filed its Reply Brief in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. It highlights DOE's failure to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement. Additionally, the brief contends that DOE did not properly analyze the many significant environmental impacts posed by the bio-facility in the cursory review document the agency used to "green light" the lab's construction and operation in December 2002. In particular, our legal brief focuses on the severe health and environmental threats to surrounding populations from a release of bio-weapon agents in the event of earthquake, fire, terrorism, sabotage, transportation accident, and air filter failure. These very real hazards were either completely unstudied or summarily dismissed in DOE's short, incomplete Environmental Assessment.

"DOE analyzed what would happen if test tubes leaked in a centrifuge and labeled that the ?worst case' scenario hoping no one would object," said Loulena Miles, staff attorney at Tri-Valley CAREs. "The DOE failed to consider how escaping biowarfare agents could spread if the walls of the proposed bio-trailer were breached by a fire, earthquake or terrorist attack that resulted in an unfiltered release. In fact, DOE actually stated that a catastrophic failure of the building would minimize an outbreak because the pathogens would die from elements such as sunlight, heat and wind." Miles continued, "The DOE knows full well that while some bio-agents are indeed very sensitive to environmental factors, others are much more hardy and could persist in the environment."

Hazards DOE Failed to Analyze

Tri-Valley CAREs' brief also highlights DOE's failure to study the risks of an earthquake on the pre-fabricated trailer slated to house the advanced biowarfare research. The DOE's Environmental Assessment stated that there are no active faults in proximity to the proposed location. Seismologist Dr. Robert Curry testified on Tri-Valley CAREs behalf, revealing the government's falsehood by pointing out that the Las Positas and Greenville faults are directly adjacent to Livermore Lab.

The Greenville Fault was the cause of millions of dollars of damage and an internal radioactive tritium leak at Livermore Lab during a 1980 earthquake. The Las Positas Fault Zone sits less than 200 feet from the site boundary.

Filters failures were largely left out of the DOE's assessment as well. According to DOE, it has no expectation that the filters will become moisture-saturated, weakened or torn and, therefore, the agency need not analyze environmental consequences of unfiltered releases. "This is not a safe, health-protective approach," Kelley noted. "If this bio-lab were to begin operation, these air filters would be the primary ? and in some cases the only - barrier to prevent significant quantities of live anthrax and other pathogens from reaching the community."

As Tri-Valley CAREs' legal brief states: Defendants may not ignore a potentially catastrophic event just because they "expect" that an unfiltered release will not occur?. Here, tens of thousands of people driving nearby on Highway 580 could be exposed to lethal dosages of pathogens from an unfiltered release at Livermore Lab. The DOE's expectation of efficient filter operation is outweighed by the grave consequences of an unfiltered release.

The Energy Department also failed to study risks posed by genetically modified biowarfare agents that would be designed at Livermore Lab. DOE simply stated that it understood the risks of "natural pathogens." However, as Tri-Valley CAREs' expert witness Dr. Susan Wright explained to the court, "Experience with natural pathogens, for which protection was available," cannot be compared to future experiences with "altered pathogens, whose properties are not well understood with existing science, and whose risks have not been comprehensively assessed." Wright argued that since Livermore Lab researchers intend to engage in experiments to genetically modify biowarfare agents, the DOE's environmental documentation should consider the risks posed by a release of genetically modified agents.

Terrorist threats and internal sabotage were not considered "reasonably foreseeable" events and as such were not mentioned in the body of the DOE's Environmental Assessment. The document states that the biowarfare agent research facility would not be a desirable terrorist target for removal or theft of these agents. It assumes without evidence or analysis that terrorists (including disgruntled employees) would agree that the Livermore bio-facility is not of particular interest to them.

Additional Impacts Not Considered

As our readers may recall, Tri-Valley CAREs and its partner organization, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, originally filed this lawsuit against two planned DOE biowarfare research facilities ? one at Livermore Lab and the other at Los Alamos Lab. The DOE then withdrew its Environmental Assessment for the Los Alamos facility and announced it would undertake a new review. Thus, the outcome of this lawsuit will likely determine how detailed (or not) the upcoming environmental review will be for DOE's plans at Los Alamos.

Tri-Valley CAREs continues to believe that the DOE should be compelled to undertake a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement and hold public hearings before moving forward with a planned biowarfare research facility. The Livermore Lab has an environmental record that already includes plutonium loose in a city park, tritium in the rain and local vegetation, and a toxic and radioactive soup migrating in the groundwater. We certainly don't want live anthrax added to the mix.

Moreover, in addition to the health and environmental dangers to workers and surrounding communities, there are unanswered questions about the planned facility's impact on the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). Even if the U.S. government argues that the proposed bio-facility at Livermore Lab is entirely defensive in nature, combining nuclear weapons and biological warfare research at a classified weapons site may severely weaken the BWC and complicate establishment of an aggressive international inspection and enforcement regime.

The court will schedule oral arguments in the coming months. Beyond challenging this biowarfare research facility in the courts, Tri-Valley CAREs is also organizing in the community to encourage DOE to withdraw its ill-advised plan. If you would like more information on how you can help stop these deadly pathogens from coming to Livermore, call the Tri-Valley CAREs office at (925) 443-7148.


Nobel Peace Prize

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

In what is widely seen as a slap in the face to the Bush Administration's nuclear policies and war in Iraq, the Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to Mohamed ElBaradei and to the agency he heads, the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

It was ElBaradei who stood up to U.S. pressure and reported what he knew to be true, that the UN inspectors had found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It was ElBaradei who spoke for universal adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, telling the nuclear weapons states they must get rid of their arsenals. And, it was ElBaradei who Bush tried to oust as head of the IAEA earlier this year. Many of you responded to our January action alert, and, in concert with the desires of people around the world, the IAEA Board rejected the U.S. position and elected ElBaradei to a third term.

There are systemic problems with the IAEA, which has the dual role of promoting and policing nuclear power. But, the Nobel Committee left no question about why it was bestowing the Prize. The Committee called, as ElBaradei has, for the abolition of nuclear weapons. In accepting the award, ElBaradei vowed to keep on, and to "be impartial, act with integrity." For that, we salute you, Mohamed ElBaradei.


A Burial for the Nuclear Bunker-Buster

By Marylia Kelley, Inga Olson and Peter Strauss
from Tri-Valley CAREs' October 2005 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

For the second straight year, the Congress denied funds to the Dept. of Energy (DOE) for use in developing a nuclear bunker-buster, called the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP). This is an important victory for peace and the earth, and we thank all of our members and friends who wrote letters, sent postcards and made phone calls calling for termination of this new nuclear weapon.

After Congress zeroed out RNEP funding for 2005, the DOE came back with a $4 million request for '06, hoping perhaps that this more modest amount would slip by without too much controversy amid the $6.6 billion request for nuclear weapons activities. It didn't.

As the House-Senate conference committee was debating the RNEP's fiscal year 2006 funding fate, the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) was reading the writing on the wall. In late October, the NNSA withdrew its request for RNEP funds. The announcement was made by Pete Domenici (R-NM), chair of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee.

The DOE had wanted money to allow Livermore Lab weapons designers to "modify" the B83 to make it an earth-penetrating nuke. The B83 is a variable yield nuclear bomb with a top blast of more than a megaton (one million tons of TNT equivalent explosive force). That would be an RNEP with approximately 70 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb.

According to the National Academy of Sciences' 2005 report, a nuclear bunker-buster, depending on its size and where it was dropped, could kill up to one million people or more. Fallout would not be contained.

Specifically, the DOE planned to conduct a "sled test" of the new bomb's earth penetrating capability in 2006 at Sandia Lab in NM. While it is excellent news that the nuclear version is canceled (at least for now), the Defense Dept. is likely to move forward with research on new conventional bunker-busters.

Special recognition is due Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) a dogged opponent of the RNEP over the past several years. "I do not believe nuclear weapons will make us safer," she wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle when the NNSA withdrew its RNEP funding request. "They will only encourage other nations, such as Iran and North Korea, to follow our lead."

Senator Feinstein also sounded an important note in cautioning against the notion that defeating the RNEP means the task of stopping the development of new nuclear weapons is done. More accurately, Tri-Valley CAREs believes, that job is just beginning. As Feinstein put it, "The Bush Administration still appears intent on reopening the nuclear door in other areas."

Well deserved kudos for helping to "bury" the RNEP go also to Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-Livermore/Walnut Creek, CA) and Representative David Hobson (R- Springfield, OH), and others.

At our Nov. 17 meeting, we plan to have giant, hand-made "thank you" cards..


Citizen's Alerts

Thursday, November 17
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:30 PM, Livermore Library
1188 South Livermore Avenue
(925) 443-7148 for details

We will have petitions and our newest "Got Plutonium?" buttons to hand out. We will serve cake (how about chocolate?) to celebrate our recent victory in stopping the development of a new earth-penetrating nuclear bomb. Yes, it's true! Come and get all the latest info. Join your favorite peace group in creating positive changes in your community and the world. Our agenda will include: the Dept. of Energy plan to double the plutonium at Livermore Lab, and our plans to stop them; the defeat of the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator and who in Congress to thank; all the rest of the good, bad and the ugly in the 2006 nuclear weapons budget-and what's up with nuclear weapons issues locally, nationally and internationally. Please join us for our last meeting of 2005. Tri-Valley CAREs does not meet in December - but we do have a party (below, and on page 2).

Tuesday, December 6
Plutonium Sludge Task Force meets
5 PM, Livermore Library
1188 South Livermore Avenue
(925) 443-7148 for details

The task force is a locally-based working group of residents and health agencies working cooperatively to address the public's questions and the potential hazards posed by the historic distribution of plutonium-contaminated sludge to area residents. The plutonium came from Livermore Lab and was distributed by the City sewage treatment plant from 1958-1974. The nuclear weapons grade plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years.

Thursday, December 8
Tri-Valley CAREs mailing party
2 sessions: 4 PM - 6 PM and 7 PM - 9 PM
Tri-Valley CAREs' offices
2582 Old First Street, Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Join us in getting the December edition of Citizen's Watch ready for the Post Office. We will have holiday goodies to eat and great conversation to share. You supply the fingers to affix mailing labels. It's fun - and it helps the cause! Call for more information.

Thursday, December 15
HOLIDAY PARTY - VOLUNTEER
RECOGNITION - FOOD & SURPRISES

Tri-Valley CAREs' volunteer and
member appreciation party
4:30 PM to 6:30 PM, drop-in any time
2582 Old First Street, Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Dear volunteers, friends & supporters: Please join us for food, camaraderie, music and fun as we celebrate YOU and all that you have done for peace, justice and a healthy environment throughout the year. We could not have accomplished all that we have in 2005 without you. Let us show our appreciation. Attire and atmosphere will be casual/festive. Stop by for all or part of the fun.

 

Attention Lab Employees
You Can Support
Tri-Valley CAREs
through the
HOME Campaign

Once a year, the Lab encourages its employees to support non-profits. Tri-Valley CAREs is a non-profit with a 22-year history of creating positive change. We welcome donations from all our friends and allies. If you work at Livermore Lab, we invite you to contribute to our organization. You can find us listed on the HOME Campaign portal from your Lab computer. Or, call us at (925) 443-7148 for details.

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