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Winter 2010 Citizen's Watch Newsletter

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Biggest Nuclear Weapons Activities Budget Ever Proposed

by Robert Civiak from Tri-Valley CAREs' Winter 2010 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

For our full analysis of the fiscal year 2011 budget request for nuclear weapons activities, go to www.trivalleycares.org.

Here is an excerpt from Tri-Valley CAREs' report, written by Dr. Robert Civiak, a physicist and former budget examiner for DOE nuclear weapons programs at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

"On Feb. 1, 2010, President Obama sent to Congress the first comprehensive budget prepared by his Administration. On the same day, the Dept. of Energy (DOE) released details about its budget request, including the budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-independent agency within DOE... The Budget requests a whopping 13 percent increase for the NNSA. The largest increase, 26 percent, is designated for the non-proliferation programs within the NNSA, many of which directly support the vision of a world without nuclear weapons that the President enunciated in Prague last April."

"Surprisingly, the 2011 Budget also requests a 14 percent increase in comparable programs to 2010 for NNSA's [Nuclear] Weapons Activities. The total includes large increases for research and development in nuclear weapons science and technology and to build new infrastructure for the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium parts for nuclear weapons."

"Increasing funds for nuclear weapons appears to conflict with a vision of a world without them. The Administration claims that the upgrades are needed to preserve the safety and reliability of the U.S. stockpile until all nuclear weapons can be eliminated. However, many of the increases are inconsistent with expected reductions in the number of nuclear weapons and others support capabilities to modify and enhance nuclear weapons, which are not needed."

"It is now up to the Congress to review and make changes to the Budget as it passes appropriation bills for the next 2011 fiscal year, which begins on October 1, 2010..."

"The Budget requests $7.009 billion (B) for the [Nuclear] Weapons Activities of the NNSA. That is an increase of $624 million (M), or 9.8 percent, above the 2010 appropriation."

"The Budget requests an additional $273 M in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (NNP) Account for programs that were funded within Weapons Activities in 2010. NNSA is requesting $80 M in construction funds and $113 M in operating expenses for a Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility within NNP and another $80 M for preparation and transport of initial quantities of plutonium for disposition, including operation of the Advanced Recovery and Integrated Extraction System (ARIES) facility at Los Alamos. After correcting for those organizational shifts, the increase in weapons activities compared to comparable activities in 2010 is about $900 M or 14 percent."

"The... request is the largest ever for Weapons Activities. Even after accounting for inflation and ignoring the organizational shifts, the $7 B request for Weapons Activities is 40% larger than the $5 B/yr (in 2011 dollars) spent on similar activities at the height of the Cold War..."

Key topics in the full report include...

- Huge Increases for Weapons Upgrades

- Increases for New and Modified Plutonium Pits

- Cuts for Weapons Dismantlement and Disposition

- Campaigns Expand Weapons Science & Technology

- Tools to Certify Modified Nuclear Components

- National Ignition Facility Budget Growth

- Producing Tritium beyond a Reasonable Requirement

- Costly, Oversized, and Unnecessary Projects

- Chemistry & Metallurgy Research Facility Replacement

- Technical Area-55 Reinvestment Project Phase II

- Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12

- New Kansas City Plant Costs are not in the Budget

- Conclusions and Recommendations

Your team of experts and activists from Tri-Valley CAREs will take one hundred copies of the report with us to Washington, DC in mid-March. We will use the analysis and recommendations in meetings with Congress and the Administration. We aim to support the President's vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, but emphasize that increasing the budget for nuclear weapons activities, including the capability to produce new design warheads, is incompatible with that goal.

Moreover, we will seek to increase the funding for activities that are consistent with our objectives, such as the monies needed for the dismantlement of retired warheads and for full cleanup of the contamination that the nuclear weapons cycle has caused in our communities.

Ugly Proposal to Relax Uranium Cleanup

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

Site 300, Livermore Lab's high explosives testing range, is located in the hills near Tracy. Bomb tests there include open air detonations that wrap high explosives around Uranium-238, also called depleted uranium (DU), and other materials. Scores of radioactive and chemical pollutants have been released since 1955 into the air, water, soil and groundwater. In 1990, the EPA placed Site 300 on its "Superfund" list of most contaminated sites in the country.

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.

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 regulatory agencies, with community encouragement, have negotiated a stringent cleanup standard for the uranium contamination around Bldg. 812.

The current cleanup levels are based on the EPA "preliminary remediation goals" and "background" estimates. The cleanup alternative being considered at this location is "soil washing," although other cleanup options are still on the table. The DOE report points to problems with soil washing at other locations, notably Fernald, Mound, Ashtabula and Hanford.

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.

The report recommends that the community and the regulators accept a lesser cleanup standard that will allow more of the uranium contamination to be left in the dirt for humans and other species to encounter.

Whereas the current proposal is for Livermore Lab to clean up to a contaminant concentration of 3.1 picocuries of DU per gram of soil and 0.42 picocuries of U-235 per gram of soil, the report recommends a massive relaxation of standards to allow contaminant concentrations of 163 picocuries of DU per gram of soil and 55 picocuries of U-235 per gram of soil. This change, if adopted, would permit more than 50 times the concentration of DU in soil -- and more than 100 times the concentration of U-235 in soil -- to be left in place.

Can anyone say "over our dead bodies?" So far, no regulator has agreed to renegotiate the cleanup standard. We will keep you informed.

Livermore Lab Main Site Superfund: Mixed Waste and Funding Snags

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

The Livermore Lab main site is about 1 sq. mile, located on the eastern edge of town. It was founded in 1952 to speed the development of ever more sophisticated nuclear bombs. Most of its budget remains dedicated to this purpose.

Decades of nuclear weapons work has heavily contaminated the air, soil and groundwater on and around the site. In 1987, the Lab was placed on the EPA's "Superfund" list.

In mid-Feb., we met with Lab and regulatory agency officials to discuss progress on the main site cleanup. First the good news: Soil and groundwater treatment facilities that had been turned off in prior years have been restarted, thanks in part to our members' advocacy.

The exceptions involve four areas on-site where the mixing of toxic and radioactive pollutants in the aquifer has complicated the cleanup. For these locations, the Lab has put together a list of technologies it is considering. We offered a critique of several that we believe will spread rather than remediate pollution. Others are more promising, and we are continuing to evaluate them.

Another major issue involves the leading edge of the toxic plume extending off-site to the west of the Lab and contaminating the aquifer under homes, apartments, a city park and a community swimming pool. We are advocating for federal "stimulus" funds to accelerate cleanup of this area.

At the same time, we are pressing the Dept. of Energy to request "appropriations" funding from Congress to do the job. Following our Feb. meeting the EPA added its voice to ours, sending DOE a letter warning that failure to request adequate appropriations may put them out of compliance with the Law.

Another unresolved Superfund issue involves the Building 212 area, where mercury has been found recently in soils collocated with radioactive elements such as plutonium. Stay tuned!

Connecting the Dots: The NPR, Politics, New START and More

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

The London Observer recently reported that President Obama ordered a "rewrite" of the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), frustrated that the version sent to his desk was mired in "Cold War thinking" and the George W. Bush policies it was supposed to replace.

Perhaps one reason the draft NPR is a warmed over Bush NPR is because Obama kept in place Bush's Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, Bush's head of Strategic Command, General Chilton, and Bush's Head of the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration, Tom D'Agostino. All three are on record pushing for new and modified nuclear weapons and a continued reliance on them. Even the staff charged with writing the new NPR are part of the "old guard."

Obama had promised a "transformational" NPR, one that would give substance to his Prague speech and aspirations to move toward a world free of nuclear weapons. What we are likely to get is an NPR that offers incremental change on specific Bush policies but fails to provide either the bold leadership or the concrete initiatives that are needed to create a fundamental shift in U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

The Obama NPR is foundering on the rocks of treaty ratification politics, the desires of the weapons labs and their cronies to increase the bomb budget, and the above-mentioned White House inattention to who they have left in charge of policy "on the ground." If Obama wants a "transformational" NPR, he will need to make changes in these three interrelated areas. There is no current indication that he has the will to do so.

The raw politics of treaty ratification can be seen in the letter that Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) sent to Obama in mid-December. The letter is signed by the 40 Republican Senators and Joe Lieberman.

The Kyl letter reads like a ransom note, saying, in essence, that the price of getting New START ratified is the "modernization" of U.S. nuclear weapons and the complex to produce them.

The letter demands the Bush-inspired "Bombplex," including a new uranium facility at Y-12 and a new plutonium facility at Los Alamos. It demands a "modern warhead," and specifies "new approaches to [weapon] life extension involving replacement..." (read as the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, but without the RRW name).

Kyl sent this letter as his opening bid on New START, but had one eye also on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, for which Obama has pledged to seek ratification at a future date. Rather than come out strong and trump Kyl it looks like Obama has chosen to fold.

The 2011 nuclear weapons budget, released Feb. 1, reads like the Kyl playbook. The proposed budget for new bomb plants - up. For development of new and modified bombs - up. For life extension programs - up. In fact, this is the largest such budget request ever.

And, New START? As we go to press, this follow on agreement to the expired Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is not yet completed. Some reports indicate that the U.S. and Russia are within days or weeks of negotiating an agreement; other sources talk about snags over U.S. Missile Defense (the U.S. doesn't want to talk about it), and over verification protocols (Russia would like them changed from old START to allow it to modernize missiles more freely).

Assuming an agreement is worked out, New START will likely provide modest reductions in both counties' nuclear arsenals, to around 1600 deployed strategic weapons. New START is not slated to address either nation's tactical nukes or reserve arsenals, leaving many thousands of additional nuclear weapons in place.

Our path is clear, if difficult. We will neither condemn too harshly nor praise uncritically, but hold our elected officials fully accountable. We will seek not rhetoric, but rather the genuine change to which the words allude. And, working together, we will make real progress toward disarmament in the age of Obama.

Print Bites: All the News that Fits to Print

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

Bombs Away? Der Spiegel reports that German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, is stepping up the campaign to get U.S. nuclear weapons removed from German soil. In Feb., Westerwelle and his counterparts in five European nations drafted a letter to the NATO commander calling for a discussion of how to move closer to a nuclear weapons free world at the next NATO conference in April. The U.S. is thought to have about 20 nuclear bombs in Germany and about 200 in Europe.

NIF Scandal Update Late last year, Tri-Valley CAREs released an internal National Nuclear Security Administration review of the National Ignition Facility's overhead costs, which we had obtained from an anonymous source. The report revealed that Livermore Lab management was shifting overhead costs from NIF to other programs -- to the tune of $80 million annually and in violation of the law. We can now report that three investigations have been launched by federal oversight agencies.

Beryllium Accident A beryllium mishap in Feb. led to the exposure of yet another Livermore Lab worker. According to the summary report, a machinist was working on a part labeled "non-hazardous" that turned out to be beryllium, a hazardous metal used in nuclear bombs. Nasal swipes were taken, and the machinist tested positive for internal exposure. Beryllium exposure can lead to beryllium sensitivity and, ultimately, to beryllium disease, which is progressive and incurable. There have been five other beryllium incidents at Livermore Lab in recent years involving more than 200 workers.

Livermore Lab Budget The fiscal year 2011 Dept. of Energy budget request contains more than $1.2 billion for Livermore Lab. Of that, more than $1 billion is for nuclear weapons activities. The NIF funding is up (again). And, the Superfund cleanup gets the crumbs. The Livermore Lab Site 300 cleanup funding request is just under $10.7 million, or less than 1% of the total. And, the Livermore Lab main site is slated to receive $11.3 million, also about 1% of the Lab's total funding. Further, there are groundwater projects at Site 300 that were not even included in the budget request. And, as we note on page 3, the budget request also does not include needed funds to clean up the leading edge of the contaminated groundwater plume that has migrated from the main site into the community. Nor does it contain any of the monies that will be needed to address Bldg. 212 and other vital tasks.

Alerts 4 U

from Tri-Valley CAREs' Winter 2010 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Thursday, March 25

Tri-Valley CAREs meets- Special report back from Washington
7:30 PM - 9 PM
Livermore Library, 1188 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

Note: This special Tri-Valley CAREs membership meeting will be held on the 4th Thurs. (March 25) to welcome back your team of activists who went to Washington, DC in mid-March to meet with Congress and the Obama Administration.

The team's goals include cutting funds for nuclear bombs and promoting cleanup of weapons sites, irreversible dismantlement of nuclear bombs, and disarmament.

Come and hear the team's first-hand observations, and learn about the progress they made and the obstacles they encountered.

We will also discuss related nuclear policy issues, the Good Friday and Hiroshima actions being planned at Livermore Lab, and the May 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. New members and "old timers" alike are welcome. Call us for details.

Friday, April 2

Good Friday Witness and Action
Music at 6:45 AM, Program at 7 AM
Livermore Lab, corner of Vasco Rd. and Patterson Pass Rd.
(510) 655-1162, or (925) 443-7148 for details

Peace advocates will gather at the northwest corner of Livermore Lab to protest the ongoing development of nuclear weapons. The program includes prominent Haitian Americans and a reflection on the connections between nuclear weapons, poverty and Haiti.

There will then be a procession to the West Gate. Those who choose may risk arrest by standing, sitting or kneeling in the gate. At 10 AM, Tri-Valley CAREs will host the community gathering where breakfast foods will be served.

Thursday, April 8

Hiroshima Action Planning Meeting
7 PM
Peace Action West Offices, 2201 Broadway, Oakland
(925) 443-7148 for details

Act in solidarity with the Hibakusha (survivors) of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Take a stand for disarmament everywhere and against bombs anywhere. Join us in planning the August action at Livermore Lab. Volunteers are needed. Contact marylia@trivalleycares.org.

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