Reading Room

Citizens Watch Newsletter September 2001

New Billboard Takes Aim at National Ignition Facility:
Urges Scientists and Engineers to Leave the Project

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' September 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Each day, more than twenty-four thousand drivers and passengers pass the corner of Murietta Blvd. and Portola Ave. in Livermore. Now they have something new to consider.

Tri-Valley CAREs has purchased space on the town's only full-sized commercial billboard to appeal to scientists and engineers at the nearby Livermore Laboratory, asking them to renounce work on the National Ignition Facility (NIF) mega-laser and other nuclear weapons projects.

The 11 x 24 foot, lighted billboard invites its viewers to reflect on NIF's relationship to advancing nuclear weapons science. The new display, featuring giant red letters and part of the NIF target chamber on an eye-popping yellow background, tells Livermore Lab staff: "Your mind is a terrible thing to waste."

The controversial mega-laser, currently under construction at Livermore Lab, is six years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, according to the U.S. General Accounting Office and independent experts. The NIF is part of the Department of Energy (DOE) Stockpile Stewardship program and is specifically intended to train the next generation of nuclear bomb designers, according to Livermore Lab and DOE statements. Tri-Valley CAREs has long opposed the NIF due to its nuclear proliferation risks and weapons design capabilities.

"Many Lab staff who live in town or commute home to other communities in the Tri-Valley and East Bay will come across the billboard each day," explained Tri-Valley CAREs' Marylia Kelley at the billboard's unveiling party on August 20. "We created the display so that workers and their families will see it and discuss the issues it raises."

"Livermore Lab is having difficulty hiring and retaining scientists and engineers to work on NIF and other elements of its nuclear weapons program," commented Issac Trotts, a computer scientist who left the Lab earlier this year. "I expect that, after reflecting on the NIF's role in weapons design, more workers will leave the program."

"Stockpile Stewardship is adding new capabilities to weapons, such as earth-penetrating abilities, that make it more likely a nuclear weapon will be used again," Trotts continued.

Trotts quit his position at the Lab after discovering that, contrary to what recruiters had told him, the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative - the program for which he was hired - was actively engaged in using so-called Stockpile Stewardship to design and "modify" new nuclear weapons.

"Each scientist must examine his or her conscience and act accordingly," said Dr. Andreas Toupadakis, a nuclear chemist who quit his position in the Stockpile Stewardship program at Livermore Lab last year. "There are many scientists working at the Lab who will be moved by this display's message," Toupadakis concluded. "I believe that efforts like this billboard will help lead us away from the nuclear abyss and toward a more peaceful and secure future."

The billboard is part of a broad-based campaign calling on scientists and engineers to stop work on nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Tri-Valley CAREs and several colleague organizations recently launched the international Scientists' and Engineers' Pledge to Renounce Weapons of Mass Destruction. (See our website and the March 2001 edition of Citizen's Watch for details.)

Tri-Valley CAREs has already been active in speaking on NIF and Stockpile Stewardship at Northern California colleges and Universities where Livermore Lab recruits. In the next few months, we will also send a letter to each of the Lab's 8,000 employees, offering them a copy of the Pledge and an invitation to join.

The billboard is owned by the industry giant, "Viacom Outdoor," and is rated at 24,100 viewers per day. The rental cost is $5,000/mo. Tri-Valley CAREs has a 3 year contract for one month per year. "If the NIF is canceled before our contract expires, we can place a new design at no additional charge," Kelley noted. "We are looking forward to that eventuality."

Tri-Valley CAREs will need volunteers in the coming months to assist with the mailing to Lab employees. Call our office for details.


Radioactive Waste Coming to Your Home

by Loulena Miles
from Tri-Valley CAREs' September 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

It may be coming into your automobile, your kitchen, even your bathroom. The Department of Energy (DOE) is holding "scoping" hearings in six locations throughout the U.S., including Oakland, California. These hearings are designed to determine not if, but how, radioactively contaminated metal should be released to recycling centers to be integrated into ordinary consumer goods such as pots, flatware, braces, and even intrauterine devices.

The public hearings have been virtually unpublicized and invisible to all but a handful of DOE watchers who read the federal register. More public hearings are needed, particularly in urban centers around the country. Further, the potentially-affected public must be invited to participate and the comment period extended beyond Sept. 10, 2001 -- its current end date.

Each of the DOE's proposed plans will allow the release of some radioactively contaminated metal into civilian commerce. The releases will not be labeled, monitored, or tracked, therefore making them virtually irretrievable.

Many who attended the Oakland hearing on Aug. 7, expressed alarm because the DOE's estimated current 982,699 tons of surface contaminated metals are just the tip of the iceberg. DOE estimates total surplus metals for the next 35 years at over one million tons.

More appalling is that metals make up only one quarter of the material that DOE is attempting to release for civilian use. The DOE is not soliciting comments on the other materials including concrete, soil, paper, wood, chemicals, equipment and even buildings. Moreover, these meetings only address the surface contaminated metal, other metals that are internally contaminated have not been included in the hearings.

Disposal of radioactively contaminated waste is an expensive and difficult process that DOE believes it can avoid by simply selling it to the public while simultaneously making a profit. We must reject this proposal.

These materials should not be labeled or characterized as "harmless" or "below regulatory concern." We must call them what they are, radioactive waste, and hence deal with them as radioactive waste, using trained operators.

A little known truth is that the DOE has been releasing some radioactively contaminated materials into public commerce for 50 years, using an internal guidance (without external oversight) known as DOE Order 5400.5.

However, previous Energy Secretary Bill Richardson placed a moratorium on the release of contaminated metals on Jan. 12, 2000, after some particularly egregious instances came to light involving contaminated materials which were released to local schools, ranches, and municipal waste dumps.

These hearings appear to be DOE's way of going through the motions of public participation before lifting its moratorium and releasing hundreds of thousands of tons of contaminated scrap left over from bomb-making activities.

Written comments on the "recycling" of radioactively contaminated metals into public commerce may be mailed to Kenneth Picha, Office of Technical Program Integration, EM-22, Attn: Metals Disposition PEIS, Office of Environmental Management, U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20585.

DOE's technical contacts for more information are: Andrew Wallo (202) 586-4996, Harold Peterson (202) 586-9640 and Steve Domotor (202) 586-0871.


Our SWOT Team Makes Annual Plans

by Ann Seitz
from Tri-Valley CAREs' September 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

It wasn't the Academy Awards, but we did pat ourselves on the back a little. For work and contributions toward the successes of Tri-Valley CAREs over this past year, all those in attendance at our annual August 11th Strategic Planning Retreat, held this year at the charming Holy Redeemer Center in Oakland, received Certificates of Appreciation. A personalized thank you from our Board President, Janis Kate, added to each mention.

Darts were flying as we all played the "NIF Busters" game. Tri-Valley CAREs finally won! Then we had a buffet banquet and lots of chocolate cake to drown our sorrow as we bid adieu to Loulena Miles, our legal intern who starts her second year of law school, and Issac Trotts, our college and university organizer who is moving to Colorado for lucrative employment.

After a "Looking Back, Looking Forward" summary presented by our Executive Director, Marylia Kelley, we got down to the planning business at hand. We called in our SWOT team, organized by our Webmaster and Board Secretary, Will Easton, and spent the rest of the day examining the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of the organization. Priorities, projects and new areas of concern for the upcoming year were agreed upon.

Tri-Valley CAREs will continue to focus its efforts on stopping the construction of the National Ignition Facility. Concern was voiced about "Star Wars 2" (AKA Missile Defense) -- particularly regarding its connection to Livermore Lab and planned experiments on NIF -- and so additional resources will be applied to this subject.

Building on our ongoing campaigns around the Scientists' and Engineers' Pledge to Renounce Work on Weapons of Mass Destruction and the "Nuclear Weapons Science?" billboard, along with our current work on the health effects of radiation and toxic chemicals, we will be developing new relationships with Lab workers over the coming year. The organizational development of Tri-Valley CAREs also emerged as an area to receive greater thought and action.

Participants were asked to write their ideas on post-it notes and attach them to relevant posters illuminating each of 12 possible focus areas. In big letters, "Break this story wide open-it's outrageous!" showed a volunteer's outrage over the plutonium shipments scheduled to be received in Livermore soon.

At day's end, long range planning gave way to our short range response. We said good-bye, and swung into action for another year.

A 10 page summary of "Looking Back, Looking Forward," an analysis of Tri-Valley CAREs' 2000-2001 goals and accomplishments, is available on request.


Lab Security

by Inga Olson
from Tri-Valley CAREs' September 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Tri-Valley CAREs learned that the Security Police Officers Association, a labor organization formed in 1996 to represent security officers at the Livermore Lab, believes that officers are not receiving equitable treatment. One of our members joined an informational picket line several months back to learn more about the dispute.

Most recently, we were informed about a "sick out" coinciding with our August 6 commemoration of the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. About 40 officers were reported to have participated in the "sick out."

One issue of key concern to Tri-Valley CAREs is the question of whether the security officers are receiving adequate safety training. Safety is important in any work environment, but at a nuclear weapons facility, it is of prime importance. There is a question about whether the officers receive adequate radiation training. We have been told that the security officers are asked to work along side other Lab employees who have had more extensive safety preparation.

Other issues that have been brought to our attention include inequitable treatment regarding participation in catastrophic leave programs, lab-wide surveys, probationary standards, pay deductions for loss of security clearance and canceling days off and vacation for non-emergency events.

Lab officers are responsible for policing the facility, guarding the gates and protecting the Lab from such things as the theft of nuclear materials. The security officers have been professional and courteous to us at our demonstrations.

Tri-Valley CAREs supports security officers being treated fairly and equitably. Further, we share their concerns regarding whether they receive incomplete or inadequate safety training or radiation protection.


Citizen's Alerts -- Calendar Section

from Tri-Valley CAREs' September 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Thursday, September 13

Straight Answers for Sick Workers
NOON, Livermore Lab's Visitors Center Auditorium, or
7 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs' offices
(925) 443-7148 for details

Join us for an informal seminar (day or evening session) to talk about the compensation program for atomic weapons workers, including Livermore Lab employees, who have suffered exposures to radiation or toxics and have become ill. Learn what is presently covered and what is not. Discuss how to expand the program in the future.

Friday, September 14
Nuclear Weapons and Democracy
6 PM, Sabina's Indian Cuisine
1628 Webster St., Downtown Oakland
(510) 839-5877 - RSVP required

We invite you to join Tom Carpenter of the Government Accountability Project for an informal discussion and dinner. Buffet with vegetarian and meat choices is $10.99, plus tip. RSVP by phone or wslf@earthlink.net.

Saturday, September 15
Abolition 2000
Northern CA quarterly meeting
10 AM - 4 PM, 65 Ninth St., SF
(415) 565-0201 x 24 for details

Want to help abolish nukes? The regional meeting of Abolition 2000 welcomes your participation. We meet quarterly to share info and support.

Thursday, September 20
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:15 PM, Livermore Library
1000 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

Your favorite local peace group needs you. Join us for snacks, lively conversation and a chance to help save the world. Learn what's going on at Livermore Lab-and what you can do about it. Hear about our strategic planning retreat-and see where you fit in. Meet Tara Dorabji, our new organizer who recently graduated from UCSC and completed an internship in Chiapas.

Saturday, September 22
Missile Defense - No Path to Security
7:15 PM, Sonoma State University
Cooperage B, near Lot J, corner West Redwood Dr. and So. Redwood Dr.
(707) 575-8902 for details

Join U.S. Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey and Marylia Kelley for this public forum on the militarization of space and positive alternatives. Peter Phillips of Project Censored will MC.

Thursday, October 4
Tri-Valley CAREs' mailing party
4 PM - 6 PM, afternoon session
7 PM - 9 PM, evening session
Tri-Valley CAREs offices
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

THE social event of the fall season. Volunteer to help us get the next edition of Citizen's Watch ready for the post office. Easy, fun and rewarding. We supply food and labels.

October 6 and 7
Nuclear Free Great Basin Gathering
Skull Valley Goshute Reservation
(801) 359-2614 for details

Support Ohngo Guadadeh Devia Awareness in the struggle to prevent nuclear waste dumps on the Goshute Reservation and other traditional Native American lands.

Saturday, October 13
No pollution. No space weapons.
1 PM, Milton Meyers Recreation Center
195 Kiska Rd., Bayview Hunters Point, SF
(925) 443-7148 for details

Come to a festival of art, music and education from 1-5 PM. Together, we will find joyful ways to overcome the violent effects of nuclear weapons work at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, and to resist the continuing militarization of our Bay Area and the nation.


Action Alerts

from Tri-Valley CAREs' September 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Nuclear Testing: Last month's Citizen's Watch told you of the President's initial moves to resume U.S. full-scale nuclear tests in Nevada. As this issue goes to the printer, we are learning that "W" plans to "discuss" this with China. His idea--China might not mind U.S. missile defense plans so much if it could test new nuclear weapons and build up its arsenal to overwhelm our proposed missile defenses. The U.S. would, of course, resume full-scale testing, too.

ACTION: Speak out. Organize in your community. Write to the White House, your legislators and the editor of your favorite newspaper. Call the Tri-Valley CAREs office if you need more information for your letters or other actions.

Yucca Mountain: The DOE is poised to recommend Yucca Mountain to the President as the site for a high-level nuclear waste dump. YM is on Western Shoshone ancestral land, next to the Nevada Test Site.

ACTION: Deadline for written comments is Sept. 20. Call Citizen Alert at (702) 796-5662 or Shundahai at (775) 537-6088 for info, actions.

Games and More

from Tri-Valley CAREs' September 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Thwartnuke 1.0: An Anti-Nuclear Video Game, created by Tri-Valley CAREs' Issac Trotts is available, downloadable & playable here!

In this fanciful game, Einstein defends the Earth against the latest productions of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. The action takes place in space, with the National Ignition Facility hurling B83 & B61-11 nuclear bombs at the Earth. As Einstein, you valiantly protect the planet by throwing an unlimited supply of paper cranes at the weapons, which turn into sunflowers if touched by cranes. When you pacify a sufficient number of nukes, peace prevails. Score bonus points by tagging a nuke advocate (such as George W., Dick Cheney, LLNL director Bruce Tarter, or NM Senator Pete Domenici) with a paper crane.

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