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Citizens Watch Newsletter October 2006

"Green" Team Bids to Transform the Livermore Lab

by Tara Dorabji and Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' October 2006 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On one side is the behemoth Bechtel Corporation, partnered with the Regents of the University of Calif. (UC) and poised to expand the nuclear weapons "business as usual" at the Livermore Lab. Should this consortium win the next Lab management contract, expect further nuclear weapons development, radioactive pollution and bio-warfare agent research at home along with increasing nuclear danger abroad.

Boldly entering the competition on the opposing side is the upstart Livermore-based Tri-Valley CAREs and a "green" management team, ready to change Livermore Lab's future direction, and with it, perhaps, the world's. On September 20, your peace and environmental group joined forces with one of the state's premier independent colleges, a clean energy company and a New Mexico non-profit to announce that it would submit a bid to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to run its problem-plagued Livermore Lab.

Specifically, Tri-Valley CAREs is partnered with New College of California, the Santa Fe-based Nuclear Watch of New Mexico and WindMiller Energy to compete with the UC-Bechtel consortium for the contract to manage Livermore Lab, one of two locations that has developed every nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal.

"Our bid will promote world class science by transforming Livermore Lab from a nuclear weapons design facility into a center for civilian science," vowed Tara Dorabji, Outreach Director for Tri-Valley CAREs. "By focusing on socially-beneficial scientific initiatives like sustainable energy, global warming and environmental cleanup, our bid will increase cutting edge research at the Lab and provide the greatest degree of genuine security proposed by any management team."

According to the DOE Lab Tables, 85% of Livermore Lab's current budget request is earmarked for weapons activities. Less than 1% is earmarked for energy conservation.

Martin Hamilton, President of New College, stated: "By bidding to manage Livermore Lab, we bid for a more sustainable earth, and for a future that is not chained to nuclear weapons. The role of academic institutions in science should not be to create weapons of mass destruction, but rather to seek sustainable solutions for humankind."

The "green" partners define the success of their bid in part by the discussion it catalyzes about the Livermore Lab's present mission - and what it could become. "One of our goals is to illuminate options for Livermore Lab management that are available to all bidders," explained Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs' Executive Director.

"Our bid will demonstrate how it is possible to increase transparency, improve health and safety for workers and communities, strengthen whistleblower protections, and provide incentives for bringing more civilian science to Livermore," Kelley said. "We challenge the UC-Bechtel consortium to show how it will accomplish these same tasks."

"Livermore Lab, located in a world-class wind resource area with ample solar resources, boasts an unrivaled team of scientists, coupled with state-of-the-art equipment and support," enthused Barry Miller, President of WindMiller Energy. "Therefore, Livermore Lab is uniquely situated to play a leading role in research, development and testing of renewable energy resources, such as those generated by wind and sun."

Since 1952, Livermore Lab has been managed by UC under a "no bid" contract. After repeated security and fiscal management scandals the U.S. Congress weighed in, and, in April 2003, the DOE announced it would open competition for the Livermore contract in 2006.

Prospective bids to manage the Livermore Lab are due by October 27, 2006. So far, the only announced bidders are UC-Bechtel and our "green" team, with no other challengers apparent on the horizon. The DOE is slated to announce its choice for contractor around the end of the year. The current contract between UC and DOE to run Livermore Lab expires on Sept. 30, 2007.

Dr. Hugh DeWitt, a prominent astrophysicist who has been employed at Livermore Lab for five decades, added his voice: "The next Livermore management contract should detail a phase out of classified work over a 5-year period. Plutonium operations should cease, and the material safely removed. Livermore Lab can most effectively serve our country by undertaking urgent, non-military endeavors, a task for which it is superbly equipped."

DeWitt continued, "I applaud Tri-Valley CAREs and its bidding partners for bringing these issues to the forefront of the contract debate."

Update: On Sunday, October 8, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a feature story on our "green" management proposal. You may read it, and other news articles too, at www.trivalleycares.org. Just click on the "TVC in the news" section.


North Korea Announces Nuclear Test

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' October 2006 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On October 8, news outlets reported that North Korea had detonated its first nuclear test. According the North Korean government, the test was successful. It was reportedly conducted in Hwaderi, near Kiju City, at 6:36 PM Pacific Time.

Various seismic stations reported that the test generated a magnitude of around 4.0 on the Richter scale. Most countries translated that measurement into an estimated test yield of 1/2 to one kiloton, although Russia's initial estimate came in at 5 - 15 kilotons. Magnitude to yield ratios are never precise as they are affected by surrounding geology as well as by technical aspects of how the test is conducted.

However, the low yield estimates have led some to question whether the North Korean test was intended that way -- or if it was, instead, a partial failure. Others speculated that the test may not have been nuclear at all, as 1/2 kiloton is within the range a country could achieve with conventional explosives. While the jury will remain out for several days until the seismic signal and other data can be fully analyzed, most analysts believe the test was nuclear. Further, there is speculation pro and con as to whether North Korea is preparing a second test to be detonated in the near future.

While technical details are important, it is the larger picture that demands our attention. For example, few news accounts (if any) are noting that North Korea's nuclear program accelerated after President Bush delivered his infamous "axis of evil" tirade during the State of the Union address, which was then followed by the Administration's nuclear posture review explicitly listing North Korea as a potential target for U.S. nuclear weapons (check the web for our report on the Bush NPR).

Moreover, as Selig Harrison points out in an analysis available on line and to be published next week in Newsweek, just four days after North Korea signed a denuclearization agreement in 2005 with the U.S., China, Russia, Japan and South Korea, pledging not to advance its weapons program in exchange for respect, peaceful coexistence and "steps to normalize... relations," the U.S. imposed sweeping financial sanctions against North Korea, branding it a "criminal state" and admonishing banks the world over not to conduct any transactions involving the country. According to Harrison, North Korean leaders viewed the move, and its timing, as an attempt to undermine the Kim Jong Il regime and force its collapse. North Korea, he says, sees normalization of its relations with the U.S. as the key economic and political goal, and it will not agree to fully disarm its nuclear weapons program in advance of achieving it.

Governments around the world have condemned the North Korean test. The UN security council is being asked by the U.S. to impose sanctions. Non-governmental players are quickly weighing in with more creative methods for resolving the crisis.

Bruce Cummings, author of "North Korea: Another Country," told the Institute for Public Accuracy, "There is no military solution... Sanctions also do not work.... The only solution is direct bilateral negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang."

The civil society-led Global Partnership to Prevent Armed Conflict had this to say: "As a result of extant cold war structures in the region, military pressure only exacerbates crisis..." The GPPAC recommends resumption of the Six-Party talks as the path forward.

France's Le Mouvement de la Paix, Belgium's For Mother Earth and numerous other groups have posted statements condemning the North Korean test as well as pointing to the hypocrisy of the U.S. position. All of the disarmament group statements we have seen so far call for some form of negotiation with North Korea, rejection of military force or punitive sanctions that would hurt the North Korean people, and urgent international action toward a global ban on nuclear weapons. Stay tuned / get active.


Attempt to Open Bio-Lab Thwarted

by Loulena Miles and Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' October 2006 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Tri-Valley CAREs received word last month that scientists at Livermore Lab were planning to start operations with potentially deadly biological agents in "mid to late October," jumping the gun in advance of a pending ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court.

"This is an extremely dangerous move because the Lab is proposing to begin experiments with bio-weapon agents without performing a thorough environmental review of what could go wrong," said Marylia Kelley, the group's Executive Director and a close neighbor of Livermore Lab.

"I'm outraged that the Livermore Lab would even consider operating the facility before the court issues its decision," Kelley continued.

A lawsuit seeking an in-depth environmental review for the Livermore Lab Bio-safety Level 3 (BSL-3) facility was filed against the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) in 2003 by Tri-Valley CAREs and Nuclear Watch of New Mexico.

The case was heard by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on June 13, 2006. Both sides are awaiting the ruling.

To prevent the bio-facility from going forward, Tri-Valley CAREs filed an emergency request, called an "urgent motion for stay," on October 3. The motion aims to stop Livermore Lab from transporting up to 60 shipments of deadly pathogens per month in and out of the BSL-3 and to forestall its opening.

Livermore Lab has previously announced plans to conduct aerosol experiments and genetic modifications in the BSL-3 with numerous lethal pathogens, including live anthrax, plague, botulism and Q fever.

"The deadly bio-agents tested at this facility could escape to the environment through earthquake, fire, terrorist attack, sabotage, operator error or failure of the containment filters through which the air in the facility would be exhausted to the outside," noted Loulena Miles, Tri-Valley CAREs' staff attorney.

The groups' underlying lawsuit challenges the DOE's slipshod analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires federal agencies to adequately consider the environmental impacts of major projects before taking further action. "Federal environmental laws clearly require DOE to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement before experimenting with deadly bio-agents in this densely populated urban area underlain with numerous active earthquake faults," added lead attorney, Stephan Volker. "I am confident the court will grant our emergency appeal. Moreover, I believe the Ninth Circuit Court will grant the relief we seek in the underlying case by compelling a comprehensive environmental review and public hearings."

So far, our lawsuit has prevented the Livermore Lab main site bio-facility from importing pathogens or commencing operations. We expect a hearing on our "urgent motion" for injunctive relief very soon, and the Ninth Circuit Court could issue its ruling on the entire suit at any time. Stay tuned.

In a separate but related matter, Livermore Lab and the University of Calif. recently submitted a proposal to the Dept. of Homeland Security - nominating Livermore Lab's Site 300 high explosives testing range in Tracy as the place to locate a massive 30 -100 acre bio-warfare agent research mega-plex.

Please see the enclosed insert (pages 1-2, page 3, page 4). And, see page 3 at left for an important "bio-convergence," scheduled for Nov. 13.


Citizen's Alerts

from Tri-Valley CAREs' October 2006 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Please see the calendar section of our website for the most current events!


Volunteer Web Master Sought

from Tri-Valley CAREs' October 2006 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Our venerable volunteer web master of 10 years' service, Will Easton, is about to embark on a new life adventure in parenthood.

We are seeking someone with excellent web skills who can volunteer about 5 hours a month to assist Will in posting press releases, newsletters, reports and other similar items to the Tri-Valley CAREs web site in a timely manner.

Call us for a complete job description, (925) 443-7148.


Thanks to You

Thanks to your generous support, we have produced a 4-page special report on the bio-warfare agent research mega-plex proposed for Livermore Lab's Site 300. It's titled, "Tracy in the Crosshairs," and it will appear this month in more than 17,000 Tracy residents' morning newspapers. Please find your special preview copy here (pages 1-2, page 3, page 4) -- and thank you truly for your donations.

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