Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
November/December 2008 Citizen's Watch Newsletter
by Robert Schwartz from Tri-Valley CAREs' November/December 2008 newsletter, Citizen's Watch
Lawsuit Filed to Stop New Kansas City Bomb Plant
Recently, a coalition of peace and environmental organizations that includes Tri-Valley CAREs filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C. against the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the General Services Administration (GSA).
The case concerns the legality of the government's plans to build a new nuclear weapons production plant in Kansas City, Missouri.
For more than 50 years, the non-nuclear components of nuclear weapons have been manufactured and procured at the existing Kansas City Plant (KCP), which is located at the Bannister Federal Complex. These bomb components -- electrical, electronic, electromechanical, plastic, and mechanical parts -- comprise approximately 85% of the total parts in each weapon.
Even though past activities have severely polluted the soil and groundwater at the Bannister Federal Complex, the government is refusing to consider the cleanup of the site in connection with the move to a new plant.
"It's disgraceful for the government to abandon its toxic legacy, particularly since the existing KCP is located in a flood plain," commented Robert Schwartz, Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney.
Another controversial aspect of the plan to build a new KCP is the financing scheme that is being used. Instead of paying for the plant outright, the government is proposing to have a private developer build the new KCP, with the government guaranteeing twenty years of lease payments.
As a result, a $500 million plant will end up costing taxpayers upwards of $1.2 billion in lease payments, and the ownership of a nuclear weapons production plant will pass to a private developer after twenty years.
To make matters worse, the construction of the new KCP is to be financed through municipal bonds and tax abatements targeted towards "urban blight removal." In fact, the new plant would be built on what is now 185 acres of vacant agricultural land at the edge of Kansas City. This land, which is neither urban nor blighted, contains wetlands that will be destroyed by the new plant.
There is some question whether the government's financing scheme will survive the current economic crisis. An initial round of bidding on the new KCP failed after each of the developers under consideration exceeded the rent cap established by Congress for the project. Now, the credit crunch is threatening the municipality's ability to raise the necessary funds for the construction of the new plant, even if a developer is selected in January, as planned.
Local protest against the new KCP persuaded one council member to withdraw his support. "This is my opportunity as a councilman to weigh in on the stupid policy of the federal government to continue funding nuclear weapons," stated Ed Ford.
The lawsuit was filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Tri-Valley CAREs, and individual plaintiffs who live in and around the Kansas City area.
Ti-Valley CAREs' goal is to force the federal government to consider cleanup and that it cannot build a new bomb plant on the basis of a faulty environmental review. Instead, we argue, the NNSA must shrink the size, capability and environmental impacts of both the existing Kansas City Plant and the overall nuclear weapons complex of which KCP is a part. The U.S. can't comply with the Non-Proliferation Treaty and eliminate its nuclear weapons by building new bomb plants.
by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' November/December 2008 newsletter, Citizen's Watch
Final Bombplex Plan: Read and Resist!
In October, the Dept. of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration published its final plan to revitalize and rebuild the nuclear weapons complex, at Livermore Lab and other sites across the country.
Under the "preferred alternative" for Complex Transformation, as the DOE calls it, all eight active locations in the current nuclear weapons complex will remain open indefinitely. So-called Complex Transformation provides a marked contrast to the 1990s when the nuclear weapons complex shrank from twelve active bomb-making sites down to eight.
"DOE is attempting to move sharply in the wrong direction," charged Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs' Executive Director. "Under Complex Transformation, many sites will get new-construction bomb plants with major new weapons research and production capabilities."
The Bush Administration's 2001 Nuclear Posture Review - not a forward looking vision - provides the underpinning for Complex Transformation.
"A record number of people, 120,000 strong, rose in opposition to the plan during the formal public comment period," said Kelley. "Now, we are seeing DOE brush aside the expressed wishes of the people, many of whom live downwind and downstream of U.S. nuclear weapons facilities."
"Complex Transformation will adversely affect communities around the Livermore Lab main site in Livermore and its Site 300 high explosives testing range near Tracy," explained Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney, Robert Schwartz. "It will mean continuing pollution and potential new dangers."
Under the final plan, nuclear bomb making quantities of plutonium and highly enriched uranium will remain at Livermore Lab until 2012, risking catastrophic release in an earthquake or terrorist attack. The storage limit for plutonium at Livermore Lab is 3,080 pounds, enough for about 300 nuclear weapons.
Similarly, Livermore Lab will continue two facilities that test nuclear bomb materials under differing environmental conditions until 2012. And, the Lab will carry out current and new activities indefinitely (read forever) with tritium, the radioactive hydrogen of the H-bomb, according to the plan.
The final plan elevates Livermore Lab's role in research and development of the high-explosives component of nuclear weapons, making it the "High Explosives R & D Center" for the entire weapons complex. To accomplish this, Livermore Lab will construct a new "High Explosives Applications Facility" (HEAF) annex to augment the current HEAF facility at the main site in Livermore. This new bomb plant may be built at either the main site or at Site 300, according to DOE.
The final plan backpedals from even the modest downsizing for Livermore Lab's Site 300 suggested in the draft plan. Instead of phasing out all bomb blasts as the draft had suggested, the final plan calls for indefinite operation of the Contained Firing Facility at Site 300. And, it ambiguously calls for only a "smaller footprint" for other bomb tests (including, possibly, open-air bomb blasts) by 2015 -- rather than a date-certain closure for these activities. Site 300 would also maintain "open burn/open detonation" explosives waste facilities, according to the plan.
"The DOE's Complex Transformation plan puts the air, water, land and communities around Livermore Lab at risk," concluded attorney Schwartz.
In addition to increasing the nuclear weapons mission at Livermore, Complex Transformation clears the way for an increase in plutonium pit (bomb core) production at Los Alamos Lab in NM after 2009 and calls for a new Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12 in TN. Moreover, the DOE improperly segments its Complex Transformation plan. For example, the agency put its decision to build a new Kansas City Plant on a "fast track," outside of the Complex Transformation process. Now, DOE is pushing forward with this new bomb plant on the basis of a flimsy environmental assessment. (See page 1 for details.)
In short, Complex Transformation is wrong policy, enabling new nuclear weapons programs, wrong direction, building unneeded facilities, wrong priorities, costing $150 billion or more and failing to quickly secure the country's most vulnerable nuclear materials, and wrong timing, putting the "cart" of new bomb-making capabilities before the "horse" of new policy and posture reviews - and an incoming Obama Administration.
We will continue to oppose the dangerous plan that DOE calls Complex Transformation, and we call "Bombplex." It is important to know that while DOE has published a final plan, the agency has not yet implemented any actions, which are called "Records of Decision" and must be published prior to enactment in the Federal Register. This means there is still time to STOP THE BOMBPLEX.
We urge you to contact President-elect Barack Obama and ask him to oppose Complex Transformation when he takes office in January 2009. We also ask you to contact Congress and the DOE to express your opposition to the Bombplex.
Contact President-elect Barack Obama: Ask that he pursue nuclear weapons abolition and oppose DOE Complex Transformation at http://change.gov/page/s/yourvision
Contact DOE: Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Web Feat. We are pleased to announce the launch of our newly-remodeled website. Kudos go out to Adrian, our Program and Administrative Associate, for making our site more navigable, image rich and user friendly, not to mention way more cool. Check it out at www.trivalleycares.org, and tell us what you think.
- Well-founded Fear. For all of you who share Tri-Valley CAREs' concerns about the "wisdom" of the biodefense building boom initiated by the Bush Administration, you have some new company. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), which advises the U.S. Congress, has released a frightening new report detailing security deficiencies at some of the country's most dangerous bio-labs. In two of the labs studied GAO investigators concluded that intruders could easily break into the facilities, called BSL-4s. These labs house biological agents that cause illnesses for which there is no known cure. The investigators also verified a number of Tri-Valley CAREs' long-standing contentions, including that the federal government does not even know the total number of advanced bio-warfare agent research facilities planned or in existence today.
- NIF Hybrid Hype. No, it's not laser-driven cars, it's fusion-fission hybrid nuclear power plants that Livermore Lab hopes will give its over-budget, behind-schedule National Ignition Facility (NIF) mega-laser a new mission - and many billions more tax dollars. In fact, more than $5 billion has already been spent on NIF, whose primary purpose is to advance nuclear weapons physics and train a new generation of bomb designers. NIF construction is now expected to finish in 2009, and thermonuclear "ignition" experiments are slated to begin in 2010. As we have reported, Livermore Lab plans to add plutonium to deuterium-tritium (fusion fuel) experiments in NIF. Now, with CA's "Governator" paying his first visit to NIF and an energy-conscious Obama Administration coming in, Lab officials have switched to touting NIF's utility for developing a nuclear reactor concept that had been largely discarded on the trash heap of history, i.e., hybrid reactors that would include a fusion-generated neutron source and a fission "blanket" to generate electricity. The Lab's new promotional materials state that there will soon be enough depleted uranium (U-238) to power these hybrid reactors "for close to 1,000 years." Absent from the promotional materials is the detail that U-238 plus neutrons makes Pu-239, which is weapons grade plutonium.
- Global Nuclear What? The Dept. of Energy has just released its draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) program that the agency hopes to jump-start. To summarize, Complex Transformation is new nuclear bombs and GNEP is new nuclear power plants. Can you say "NO"? To get a copy of the draft document and information on the 60-day comment period, call DOE at 1-866-645-7803, or go to http://gnep.energy.gov.
- Obama on an Obama Administration. The night of November 4, 2008, we learned that Senator Barack Obama would become the first African-American to win the office of President of the United States. In his moving and historic address that night, Obama said, "This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change." Bravo, President-elect Obama. That is truly spoken like the President you are to become and the community organizer you have been. The challenge of creating real change belongs to us all. Si se puede. Forward.
Alerts 4 U
Wednesday, December 3
Sick Worker Support Group meets
10 AM - Noon, Livermore Library
1188 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details
If you or a family member has suffered an illness due to on-the-job exposures at Livermore Lab, Sandia Lab or another DOE site, then please join us for this meeting. The support group is intended to share information on the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEPICPA) and other topics of interest to current and former workers. Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney, Robert Schwartz, will facilitate. Snacks will be served.
Wednesday, December 10
Tri-Valley CAREs Holiday Party
4:30 PM - 7:30 PM, Drop-in
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details
For you, a chance to see old friends and make new ones. And, for those of us on staff, a chance to say "thank you" for all you do throughout the year to promote peace, justice and a healthy environment. Please join us!
Thursday, January 8
Tri-Valley CAREs' mailing party
2 sessions: 4 PM - 6 PM and 7 PM - 9 PM
2582 Old First Street, Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details
Start the New Year out right. Help Tri-Valley CAREs get its January edition of Citizen's Watch ready for the Post Office. We will have dots and mailing labels to affix - and lots of good conversation and edible treats.
Thursday, January 15
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:30 PM, Livermore Library
1188 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details
Circle your calendar today, and we will see you at our first monthly meeting of the New Year.
November 22, 2008
Dear Tri-Valley CAREs supporter,
I am writing you today with a mixture of optimism and realism. On the one hand, I happily celebrate the historic election of Barack Obama to the Presidency of the United States. I truly believe that as the terrible dark cloud of the Bush Administration finally passes, new opportunities for change can emerge.
Yet, you and I both understand that the real social and political change we seek will not happen automatically because of a change at the top. As Obama himself has stated, change occurs from the bottom up.
This is where you and I come in. We must act, and do it NOW before the cement around a new Administration hardens. Yes, we have an exciting opportunity to achieve momentous gains for peace, justice, and a healthy environment -- and for a world free of nuclear weapons -- but only if we press forward together in a timely manner.
That is why I am asking you to take the next step by contributing financially to Tri-Valley CAREs. We will put your generous gift to good use
In December, I will travel to Washington, DC to meet with decision-makers for the next Administration and Congress and also with leaders from non-governmental groups. I will press for nuclear disarmament, in the U.S. and worldwide, a dream that you and I hold dear. I will place our recommendations into the hands of dozens of policy makers. With your help, I believe we can make our voices heard in the halls of power.
And, as you may have read in your Citizen's Watch newsletter, we must act now to prevent the Dept. of Energy from implementing its final "Bombplex" plan. A lot of mischief is being done hurriedly in the waning days of the Bush Administration, and we are your ever-vigilant watchdog group, guarding the public's right to know and making sure the government cannot quietly slip though any "Records of Decision" for new bomb plants.
You and I know that Tri-Valley CAREs is well positioned to create change. For 25 years (and still going strong), we have stopped nuclear weapons where they start ? at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Unceasingly, we have spoken truth to power in many effective ways, from organizing demonstrations at the gates of the Livermore Lab to testifying against nuclear weapons before the U.S. Congress to filing landmark environmental litigation in the Federal Courts.
Tri-Valley CAREs has an amazing record of achieving success. In the past year, we have:
- Focused public attention on Livermore Lab's plan to detonate open-air bomb tests using up to 5,000 pounds of depleted uranium each year and scores of additional toxic and radioactive materials. Our activities resulted in Livermore Lab withdrawing its permit application (and thereby giving up).
- Brought community members, including youth, to Washington, DC to speak with Members of Congress, Dept. of Energy officials and others. We conducted 100 meetings, and our efforts were instrumental in stopping a new H-bomb, called the Reliable Replacement Warhead, under development at Livermore Lab. By offering community voices and a scientific critique, we convinced Congress to cut the funds!
- Mobilized public opinion against the Dept. of Energy's proposal to revitalize the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. Working with colleagues, we generated upwards of 120,000 public comments against the plan, dubbed the "Bombplex." We organized press conferences. We produced fact sheets, technical comments and more. Last month, the DOE published its final plan; however no agency action to implement it has occurred. (We will stay vigilant.)
- Filed litigation against Livermore Lab's bio-warfare research; publicized the failure of Livermore Lab security personnel to stop mock terrorists (in a drill) from stealing sufficient plutonium to make a nuclear bomb; stopped a plan that would have sent up to 80 million gallons of toxic groundwater contaminated by Livermore Lab into the San Francisco Bay, untreated; and, much more.
Tri-Valley CAREs' work is priceless, but it is not free. I am asking for your financial help today so that we can fully rise to the opportunities (and challenges) of achieving our mutual nuclear disarmament goals in the upcoming Obama Administration.
I realize that you will probably receive funding appeals this holiday season from a number of groups and for a variety of causes. I know I do. Let me assure you that no one will use your donation more effectively than Tri-Valley CAREs.
Our research has become known nationally and internationally, with an increasing number of activists, government officials and foreign diplomats seeking it out. With your partnership, we will bring our reports to the United Nations this spring for a meeting of the states parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We will return to Washington, DC. And, we will continue local and regional outreach. Please give as generously as you can.
For peace, justice and a healthy environment,
P.S. You know that Tri-Valley CAREs brings you information that you won't find anywhere else. Your tax-deductible donation now will keep these materials coming to you and also get them into the hands of the new Administration. As a token of appreciation for your gift of $50 or more, please choose one of the premiums on the reply card. THANKS!