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Spring 2010 Citizen's Watch Newsletter

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A New START Today: Treaty is a Hopeful First Step, But Will Ratification Be Costly?

by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' Spring 2010 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

President Obama and Russian President Medvedev signed a bilateral treaty today agreeing "on measures for the further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms." This treaty, known as New START (short for Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) commits both counties to reductions in the numbers of deployed strategic nuclear weapons to 1550, and delivery vehicles to 700. While this is a modest step in the right direction, it still leaves the two countries with enough nuclear firepower to ensure mutual destruction many times over.

The New START is a milestone in cooperation and commitment between the two countries. It creates an impressive verification regime and sets a foundation for deeper reductions. In fact, both sides are reportedly pursuing discussions for deeper reductions in the near future.

Tri-Valley CAREs applauds the signing of this treaty and is hopeful that further reductions can be agreed upon. "Today is a good day for peace and security advocates," said Scott Yundt, Tri-Valley CAREs Staff Attorney. "New START is aptly named. It can mark a new beginning in both diplomacy and arms control. And, that makes all of us a little safer today than we were yesterday." Yundt continued, "Our concerns are not with the treaty, they are with the current atmosphere in our nation's capital and what that could mean for ratification, which should be swift and simple given the treaty's positive effect on global security, but may prove otherwise."

The challenges facing implementation of this treaty could be daunting. It still has to achieve ratification in the Russian legislature and in the US Senate. As the partisan political climate in Washington DC continues unabated, ratification of New START could prove to be extremely difficult.

Last December, 40 Republican Senators and Joe Lieberman, enough to defeat the 2/3rds needed to ratify the treaty, sent a letter to the President demanding large increases in nuclear weapons spending before they would support the New START agreement. Among the list of demands were (1) essentially replacing the whole arsenal with new modified nuclear weapons, and (2) a series of new warhead component production facilities.

Since the Republicans sent their letter, the Obama administration has proposed the largest-ever budget for nuclear weapons. It includes money for expanding nuclear weapons production capacity in the form of new weapons facilities and a study that explores significant modifications to B61 nuclear bombs. There is still no indication that Republican Senators will support the Administration's arms control agenda. Earlier this week, Senators Kyl and McCain released a statement saying that current funding levels for nuclear weapons were still "woefully inadequate." It appears that there is never "enough" funding for nuclear weapons in the eyes of these Republicans.

Providing increased nuclear weapons complex funding carries no assurance of garnering support for New START from Republican Senators. Additionally, this new "investment" in the US nuclear weapons complex signals to the international community the continued US reliance on the nuclear option. This undermines the stated intent of President Obama to show US leadership on achieving a "world without nuclear weapons."

Check back often for updates with more information as ratification hearings approach.

Tri-Valley CAREs at the NPT

by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' Spring 2010 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Tri-Valley CAREs has received accreditation to participate as a non-governmental organization (NGO) in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, to be held May 3-28 at the United Nations in New York. The group will be represented by its executive director, Marylia Kelley, and long-time member Joanne Dean-Freemire.

"Tri-Valley CAREs meets with the Lab and the state and federal regulatory agencies quarterly to discuss the Site 300 Superfund cleanup. In February, we received a briefing on seven of the most highly contaminated areas. While progress is being made in some locations, we are particularly alarmed by a Dept. of Energy proposal to weaken cleanup standards at the Building 812 "firing table." This is one of the open air detonation sites that has been contaminated with DU and U-235 (enriched uranium), among other pollutants.We are going to NY to stand with our colleagues in the international community against all nuclear bombs everywhere, to educate the diplomats about the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and arsenal, and to influence the outcome of the Review Conference so that it better holds the U.S. and other nuclear weapons states' feet to the fire to achieve genuine disarmament," explained Kelley. "In sum, we are lifting up our voices and using our particular expertise in order to help change the world." Studies show the uranium contamination has: (a) been driven straight into the ground by explosions on the outdoor firing table, (b) mixed with the gravels from the firing table that have been dumped into a nearby canyon, and (c) concentrated in the soils on nearby hillsides where the fallout landed.

The NPT is the "cornerstone" of the global nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament regime. Every five years, the states parties that are signatory to the treaty come together to evaluate its progress and obstacles, including toward disarmament.

This will be the first Review Conference since the election of Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency, and its outcome may determine how much pressure, or how little, the U.S. feels from the non-nuclear weapons states of the world to get on with the business of actual disarmament.

While the analysis of lessons learned at other sites is helpful in critiquing that particular remedy, it is the report's conclusion to which we object.

Will this conference end in disarray, as happened in 2005? Will half-measures be the lukewarm outcome? Or, will the states parties rise to the occasion and undertake substantive movement toward the promise (and legal obligation) of the NPT, that the "horrific prospect of nuclear war... be avoided" and that nuclear weapons be completely and irreversibly abolished? It is to the latter outcome that your Tri-Valley CAREs team will dedicate themselves.

We will carry the more than 1,000 nuclear abolition petitions that you, our members, signed and sent us. They will be delivered along with the 5 million petitions gathered from around the world, with the majority coming from Japan.

While in NY, we will participate in the huge NGO conference at the Riverside Church (where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous "Beyond Vietnam" speech) before the NPT review. Tri-Valley CAREs and colleagues will conduct a workshop on the paradox of the nuclear weapons states' obligations under the NPT to disarm and their current plans to "modernize" their nuclear weapons complexes. And we are pleased to learn that the Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon will address the NGO conference at its conclusion on Saturday night.

On Sunday, your Tri-Valley CAREs team will carry our banner in a major march to the UN and international peace rally. On Monday, bright and early, we will be at the UN to get our badges and begin a week of talking to foreign ministers and diplomats about nuclear weapons and the need for concrete steps toward abolition. And, on Tuesday, we will participate in a second panel for diplomats and NGOs, this one centered on the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and sponsored by the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability.

While the Review Conference continues through the month of May, your Tri-Valley CAREs hopes to accomplish its ambitious goals by focusing on key diplomats during the first week, and then following up by mail, email and phone. We will also bring our reports and literature, including our analysis of the U.S. nuclear weapons budget request and the Nuclear Posture Review.

The Review Conference is truly a golden opportunity to change the world by strengthening the nonproliferation and disarmament regime that undergirds the NPT commitments. It is useful to recall that the NPT is the most universal arms control treaty in history. Since opening for signatories in 1968, 190 states parties have joined, representing nearly every nation on earth. (The notable exceptions are Israel, India and Pakistan, with North Korea announcing its withdrawal in 2003.) The treaty entered into force in 1970.

There is still much to do. We are nowhere near the global nuclear disarmament promised by the NPT. But, if we look carefully, we can see it from here. And, if we act together, we will get there.

Nuclear Posture Review Released

by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' Spring 2010 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

A year has passed since President Obama invigorated peace and disarmament advocates around the world by declaring in Prague on April 5, 2009, "clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."

The administration chose the anniversary of the President's historic speech to release the long awaited Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which will serve as a guide for U.S. nuclear weapons policy for the coming decade.

Tri-Valley CAREs' members, many of whom live around two of the nation's nuclear weapons facilities, the Livermore Lab and the Sandia, Livermore Site, worked this past year to ensure that the "transformational" change enunciated by the President in Prague would become the centerpiece of his administration's NPR.

While we have made some progress, the "bottom line" is that there is a lot of work to be done in the coming year(s).

In the build up to the NPR, the administration had been debating over a number of key issues. One of paramount importance is the debate over just how far the Dept. of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) should be allowed to go in changing nuclear warheads in the existing stockpile.

TOP LINE: "First, some cheers," said Tri-Valley CAREs Executive Director, Marylia Kelley. "The Obama NPR is mostly unclassified, while the Bush NPR was inappropriately shrouded in secrecy. Further, it is notable that the new NPR opens with a quote from Obama's Prague speech."

Kelley added, "The NPR contains some welcome statements that move the nation toward that goal: It forswears new types of nuclear weapons, endorses further reductions in stockpile numbers, and limits the role of nuclear weapons in the U.S. security posture. In so doing, it moves away from some of the dangerous policies contained in the Bush NPR."

She continued, "We who live in the shadow of nuclear weapons facilities in California applaud these Obama policy initiatives." However, she cautioned, "We must hold Obama accountable and offer jeers for the NPR's endorsement of Bush administration initiatives to revitalize and rebuild the nuclear weapons complex, which we and others have dubbed the 'Bombplex'."

Scott Yundt, the group's Staff Attorney, explained, "The NPR tries to justify additional funding and 'flexibility' for the weapons labs, including Livermore, to research and develop what will be essentially new warheads. Regardless of how the Obama administration frames this policy, it will be clear to the world that the U.S. is planning to build up its nuclear weapons complex for decades to come. This will inhibit the ability of the U.S. to play a leadership role in moving the world toward the abolition of nuclear weapons."

Yundt continued, "I am deeply disappointed that the NPR does not do more to constrain the infrastructure to develop and build new and modified nuclear weapons. I fear that the facts on the ground in building new weapons plants, and not the words on paper, will ultimately determine how the world sees this NPR."

INFRASTRUCTURE & THE NPR: Dating back to the Bush era, the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has been pressing for a new, rebuilt nuclear weapons complex, which Tri-Valley CAREs and others have dubbed the "Bombplex." Two prominent features of the "Bombplex" are a new, oversized and wrongly missioned, plutonium complex at Los Alamos Lab in NM, called the CMRR, and a new, oversized, wrongly missioned uranium bomb plant at Y-12 in TN, called the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF).

According to NNSA, the CMRR will enable the production of 50 to 80 new-design plutonium pits per year. Such a capability is only "needed" if the U.S. redesigns its nuclear weapons, which the President says he will not do and the NPR does not sanction. (Note: Existing capability at Los Alamos Lab is able to produce up to 20 plutonium pits per year for an existing design already in the arsenal, which is more than sufficient for maintenance to the standards laid out in the new NPR). NNSA envisions that the UPF would produce 50 to 80 new "secondaries" (the H-bomb part of a modern bomb) each year. Again, this capacity is more than what is needed to maintain the existing nuclear weapons stockpile in line with the new NPR.

THE WEAPONS LABS & THE NPR: The weapons lab directors have expressed a desire to "replace" existing warheads with newly manufactured, untested nuclear components of new and modified design. This strategy would provide the weapons labs with little mission change and abundant weapons funding for the next 20 years or more.

However, the "replacement" option is presently unnecessary and could be scientifically risky, according to the prominent scientists called the JASON, called upon by Congress last year to answer the question of whether the country's existing methods are sufficient to maintain a safe and reliable nuclear stockpile into the future.

Moreover, the "replacement" option is politically undesirable because it would undermine U.S. efforts to discourage other countries from seeking nuclear weapons and hamper efforts to build support for the nation's wider nonproliferation goals. Finally, "replacement" options could mean more highly polluting R&D done at Livermore Lab and other sites.

The NPR permits the "replacement option," but does not embrace it. On page 39, it says, "The full range of LEP [Life Extension Program] approaches will be considered: refurbishment of existing warheads, reuse of components from different warheads, and replacement of nuclear components." The NPR report goes on to say, "In any decision to proceed to engineering development for warhead LEPs, the United States will give strong preference to options for refurbishment or reuse..." It is notable, however, that the lab directors issued a statement touting the NPR's allowance of "replacement" warheads and its support for new, "modern" facilities.

Our Bottom Line: Tri-Valley CAREs opposes Life Extension Programs that make changes to the nuclear weapons stockpile beyond what is required to maintain the existing safety and reliability of the weapons as they await dismantlement, pursuant to Article 6 of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We further oppose construction of the CMRR-Nuclear Facility at Los Alamos and the UPF at Y-12. We call on the Obama administration to instead make careful, surgical investments in infrastructure only where needed for actual warhead maintenance, for verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of weapons, and for responsible storage and disposition of nuclear materials.

Alerts 4 U

by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' Spring 2010 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Tuesday, May 18

Hiroshima Action planning meeting

12:30 PM, Peace Action West offices

2201 Broadway, Oakland

(925) 443-7148 for details

The annual Hiroshima/Nagasaki action at Livermore Lab will be held on August 6, 2010 at 8 AM at the corner of Vasco Rd. & Patterson Pass Road. The planning group is working on scenario, speakers, music, logistics and more. Volunteers are needed. Take a stand with the Hibakusha (survivors) for nuclear disarmament everywhere and against bombs anywhere. Contact marylia@trivalleycares.org.

Thursday, May 20

Tri-Valley CAREs meets

7:30 PM, Livermore main Library

1188 So. Livermore Ave.

(925) 443-7148 for details

Our May meeting will feature a special report from executive director Marylia Kelley, who will be freshly returning from the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in NY. The "week of action for nuclear disarmament, May 31 - June 5" will be on the agenda. We will also have updates for you on Livermore Lab and other nuclear weapons sites.

Tri-Valley CAREs meets the third Thursday of the month, except for December (when we have a party instead!). So, circle your calendar now for our June 17 meeting, too. Tri-Valley CAREs meetings are always open to "old-timers" and new members alike. Join us.

May 31 - June 5

Week of Action for Nuclear Abolition

- Nuclear weapons budget "call-in" week

- Bechtel HQ action in SF, June 4

Groups around the world have proclaimed June 5 as an "international day of nuclear disarmament." Here in the Bay Area, we have planned a week of events to abolish nukes. First, Tri-Valley CAREs and several dozen colleague organizations are conducting a NATIONAL "week of action" on the nuclear weapons budget from Monday, May 31 - Friday, June 4. You are invited to participate! This is a great opportunity to amplify your voice by calling on Congress to cut the nuclear weapons budget at the same time your friends and neighbors are urging the same message, in CA and across the country. Please see the insert in this newsletter for details, and check www.trivalleycares.orgfor our detailed analysis of the FY 2011 nuclear weapons budget request.

Then, on Friday, June 4 at Noon, plan to join us at Bechtel Headquarters, 50 Beale Street, in downtown SF near the Embarcadero BART station. We will have signs, banners and handouts for the workers on Bechtel's involvement in nuclear weapons, war profiteering and other human rights abuses. As you may know, Bechtel Corp., along with UC and others, manages the bomb at Livermore Lab in the Bay Area and the Los Alamos Lab in NM. Bechtel also holds contracts at other nuclear weapons sites across the country.

Saturday. June 12

Livermore Rodeo Parade

10 AM, parade starts

Tri-Valley CAREs' entry number and start location are TBD

VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED

Each year, Tri-Valley CAREs has a peace and environmental entry in the Livermore parade, which takes place in downtown Livermore prior to the afternoon rodeo event. The parade is a unique experience and a HUGE opportunity to get our message out "beyond the choir" as it is attended by thousands of area residents and parents of kids in school marching bands, etc.

Our 2010 entry will focus on the dangers of radiation. We will have a pick up truck for kids to ride in, and lots of balloons, signs and banners. Last year, our kids stole the show, and we won a second place trophy for our entry on a nuclear weapons free world. While our message is always serious, our parade "floats" are fun and appropriate for all ages. Please call Marylia for details. We will let you know our parade number, etc., as it becomes available. Join us!

July 3 - 5

Resistance for a Nuclear-Free Future Conference at Maryville College, TN

Action at Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Plant

The Nuclear Resister and Nukewatch are celebrating 3 decades of non-violent direct action for a nuclear-free future. Our friends at the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance are hosting the celebration in TN. The event will look back at the role that civil resistance has played in the peace movement and look forward to advance its role in the coming years. Carl Anderson, a veteran of the Livermore Lab actions from the early days to the present, will be participating. Check the websites if you are interested in joining him there. nukewatch.com, nuclear resister.org

July 30 - August 9

Think Outside The Bomb

Disarmament Summer in NM

This summer, Think Outside the Bomb, the largest youth-led nuclear abolition network in the US, is organizing a global convergence near the Los Alamos National Lab. TOTB is committed to collective liberation, a sustainable future, and an end to the cycle of nuclear violence. Disarmament summer is being conducted in partnership with diverse groups in NM whose members are affected by nuclear weapons, uranium mining and other violations to their health and environment. Check the TOTB website. And, if you are a youth (under 30), who is active with our group and would like to represent Tri-Valley CAREs at this event, contact marylia@trivalleycares.org.

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