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May - June 2013 Citizen's Watch Newsletter

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Nuclear Weapons Funding News You Can Use Today

by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' May - June 2013 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The Fiscal Year 2014 budget request contains $7.87 billion for the nuclear weapons activities of the U.S. Dept. of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

This represents an increase of $1.145 billion (17%) from the comparable 2013 appropriation, after accounting for the sequester and for activities that NNSA shifted out of weapons activities into other accounts this year. For members of Congress and the public who are looking for federal budget savings, there are at least $2 billion dollars that can and should be cut from this request.

For comparison, NNSA nuclear weapons activities were allocated less than $4.6 billion in 2000; a funding level we pointed out was too high at the time. Adjusted for inflation, that's equal to around $6 billion today. Thus, a $2 billion cut now would impose only a modest reduction from the agency's 2000 funding level. Limiting FY 2014 weapons activities at NNSA to $5.87 billion is, in our opinion, the least Congress should do.

Here are some of the NNSA nuclear weapons programs we recommend for the budget ax.

LEPs: The agency's Life Extension Programs (LEPs) are continuing to escalate, resulting in more extreme modifications that add new military capabilities to the nuclear arsenal in increasing contradiction to the policy articulated by the President and the Nuclear Posture Review.

The FY 2014 budget request shows a nearly 80% rise in LEPs to more than $1 billion. Included in that is $537 million for the controversial overhaul of the B61 nuclear bomb deployed in Europe and $73 million to begin the LEP study at Livermore Lab for the so-called "interoperable" W78/88-1 warhead to be launched from either land based silos or submarines. The B61 LEP is estimated to cost $10.4 billion while the W78/88-1 is likely to end up in the $28 billion range, according to sources in Washington, DC. We recommend that Congress act to constrain the LEPs, saving more than half a billion dollars this year and tens of billions over the coming decade.

Campaigns: Additionally, the budget request contains more than $1.7 billion for nuclear weapon campaigns. Included is a 24% rise for Advanced Certification, along with other activities tied more to bomb design than actual maintenance of the existing arsenal. We recommend carving at least another half-billion or more out of the campaigns.

NIF: We note in particular that the budget request for the Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) campaign that funds the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Livermore Lab is down only slightly, although NIF failed to reach ignition (or even come close). The FY 2014 ask for ICF is $461 million, the lion's share of which will find its way to NIF.

Shockingly, Bay Area Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Eric Swalwell orchestrated a sign-on letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein soliciting her help to increase the NIF budget. Feinstein, who chairs the Senate subcommittee that appropriates funding for NNSA, wisely declined. We recommend instead that funding for NIF be further reduced, and that management of the mega-laser be taken away from NNSA and placed in a civilian science agency. NIF could then run as an unclassified facility for astrophysicists, geophysicists, material scientists and others to see what science the country can get for the more than $7.5 billion spent to date. This could shift up to $400 million out of NNSA, while cutting the NIF funding by half.

UPF: There are genuine infrastructure upgrades needed in the nuclear weapons complex, specifically for safer and more rapid dismantlement of nuclear weapons at the Pantex Plant in TX and for the disassembly of their secondaries (the H-bomb component) at the Y-12 facility in TN. However, the NNSA's FY 2014 budget request largely ignores these important activities and, instead, seeks to lavish funds on the so-called 'modernization" of new bomb production facilities in the nuclear weapons complex.

For example, the proposed Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at Y-12 is undergoing a design change that will eliminate the facility's disassembly capability while retaining the capacity to build up to 80 new nuclear weapons secondaries each year, a production quota that is "needed" only if new designs are included in the mix. The FY 2014 budget request for UPF is $325 million. Its overall cost is currently estimated at $11 billion. We recommend that Congress restrain the production capacity at UPF and fence or eliminate its 2014 funding until NNSA comes up with a design that makes sense.

And so it goes. The FY 2014 request for NNSA nuclear weapons activities contains too much money for Cold War-era bomb programs and too little for 21st century programs to draw down the arsenal and de-emphasize nuclear weapons in our national policy. No matter the rhetoric, if the money is appropriated by the U.S. Congress, the signal to the rest of the world will be: Nuclear weapons forever for us, but not for you. How do you think other countries will interpret the message?

In addition to our recommendations to Congress to rein in the excessive nuclear weapons budget, we have an urgent recommendation for members of the public, too. You have probably heard the saying, "all politics is local." Your Senators and Representative need to hear from their constituents; that is, the voters who live in their state or district, YOU.

You can contact them through the capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or email them through their websites or send postal mail. The method is not as important as the communication.

To get Dr. Robert Civiak's updated graph with the FY 2014 NNSA weapons activities budget request, click here.

Tri-Valley CAREs Shakes up DC!

by Scott Yundt from Tri-Valley CAREs' May - June 2013 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Your Tri-Valley CAREs team linked up with activists from more than a dozen states who live around U.S. nuclear weapons facilities and dump sites, and, together, we shook our nation's capital out of some of its usual complacency.

Over four long days in April, we conducted 100 meetings with members of Congress, key committee staff, and officials at the White House, Dept. of Energy, Pentagon, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and more.

Tri-Valley CAREs does "DC Days" each year with the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA). This spring marked ANA's 25th year of superb collaborative activism.

In meetings, we focused on exposing wasteful and dangerous projects including new bombs like the B61 and bomb plants like the UPF. We also advocated cuts for DOE boondoggles like MOX (mixed oxide plutonium fuel) and the National Ignition Facility.

In numerous meetings, your Tri-Valley CAREs team presented decision-makers with signed copies of our petition to stop the transport of plutonium bomb cores from Los Alamos to Livermore. "I really felt like I was being heard when I talked about the dangers posed by this plan," said team member Janis Turner.

We also discussed Livermore Lab's Fiscal Year 2014 budget request and handed out pie charts showing that nearly 84% of the money is for nuclear weapons activities with only 3% for science and even less for cleanup.

Your Tri-Valley CAREs team disseminated a new, updated graph by Dr. Robert Civiak that plots the increase in spending on nuclear weapons against the reductions to the arsenal to reveal the huge surge in per weapon expenses. This handout was very popular in meetings with members of Congress.

Copies of the Livermore Lab budget chart, nuclear weapons spending graph, and photos of your team in action are on our website at

Print Bites: All the News that Fits to Print

by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' May - June 2013 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Winning 3rd Place: Our entry in the annual Livermore Rodeo Parade included an atomic orange truck, "radioactive" balloons and banners to "Stop the Transport of Plutonium Bomb Cores to Livermore." Thanks go to all our volunteers who created the float and rode, walked, held banners, gave out balloons and leafleted alongside it in the parade.

San Onofre Shuttered: Southern California Edison announced it will permanently retire its beleaguered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Orange County. The utility said its decision is due to "continuing uncertainty" about when or if the nuclear power plant "might return to service." This is a testament to the power of activism. Kudos to all who struggled to prevent San Onofre from being re-opened in the face of serious, unresolved safety questions.

NIF Pu shots: We are suing the government in part for withholding information we requested on plans to use plutonium in experiments at the National Ignition Facility (see page 4). Last month a blog appeared on suggesting that the decision to use plutonium at NIF may be imminent. The blogger noted the dangers and wrote, "Tri-Valley CAREs needs be on this if they aren't already." We are! Further, we are glad to be considered by Lab employees as a "go to" on safety.

MOX news: Despite attempts by Senator Lindsey Graham and other SC politicians to rescue the Mixed Oxide, or MOX, plutonium fuel fabrication facility at the Savannah River Site, it appears that activists' efforts to stop the plant are paying off. The Fiscal Year 2014 budget request for it is more than 25% lower than last year's appropriation, and its "outyear" funding is in doubt. As we go to press, Senator Graham is pressing the Senate Armed Services Committee, on which he serves, to authorize additional money for the coming year. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail and none will be appropriated. We foresee the action moving to whether DOE will undertake an actual detailed, unbiased study of alternatives like immobilization or a pretend "study" of how to do MOX on the cheap. Stay tuned.

Nuclear (in)security: The three peace activists who undertook the "Transform Now Ploughshares" action in 2012 by walking into the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in TN were convicted last month. They face up to 20 years in prison on multiple charges including "sabotage" although their actions were nonviolent and involved symbolic acts like pouring blood. "Our actions were providing real security and exposing false security," said Greg Boertje-Obed (56). Also convicted were Sister Megan Rice (83) and Michael Walli (64). This month Beortje-Obed's words seem both prophetic and literal: On June 6, security officers at Y-12 waved through a 62-year old woman who was lost and did not belong on-site. According to news reports, she drove the length of the major thoroughfare spanning the nuclear weapons plant, passing within a stone's throw of buildings producing nuclear weapons and storing hundreds of tons of highly enriched uranium.

Community Sees Cleanup: Tri-Valley CAREs arranged a special tour last month of Superfund cleanup areas at Livermore Lab's main site. Participants were guided by Lab technical staff. First stop was the facility where the off-site contaminated groundwater is treated. Next, we visited areas where chemical and radioactive pollutants pose unique challenges to cleanup. The group also saw an area where the Lab is using "bio-treatment" to break down volatile organic contaminants. We then toured a location where pneumatic fracturing was used to break up the subsurface to optimize access to contaminants. That process remained controversial. Throughout the tour, questions were asked and difficult issues were discussed candidly. Huge thanks to the Lab folks who made our tour possible.

Alerts 4 U

from Tri-Valley CAREs' May - June 2013 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Wednesday, July 3

Letter to the Editor writing party
5:30 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs office
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Come and write a letter to the editor of your favorite newspaper in a friendly and supportive environment. Our suggested topic will be the Hiroshima commemoration on August 6, its meaning for today's world, and, more broadly, why nuclear disarmament is important to you. We will offer a short briefing and handouts to get you started. Or, you may choose to write on a different topic. Snacks and refreshments will be served.

Friday, July 12

Monthly Livermore Peace Vigil
7 AM - 8 AM, Livermore Lab West Gate, Located at Vasco Road & Westgate Drive
(925) 443-7148 for details

Vigil leaders are Chelsea Collonge and Marcus Page. The monthly vigils are a practice of peace. Lab workers are encouraged to stop and discuss nuclear weapons and their abolition. Additional vigil participants are welcome. Come one time, or return each month.

Saturday, July 13

Tri-Valley CAREs Strategic Planning
9:45 AM - 4 PM, UCC in Livermore
RSVP is required: (925) 443-7148

Tri-Valley CAREs' Board of Directors takes a leadership role in conducting the strategic planning retreat each year. To participate, you must RSVP.

Thursday, July 18

Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:30 PM - 9 PM, Livermore Library Community Room A
1188 South Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

Our monthly meetings are open to new and longtime members alike. Get the latest news on nuclear weapons and related topics, meet great people and help change the world. Snacks included.

Tuesday, August 6

Hiroshima Day Action
Gather at 7 AM, March at 8:15 AM, Livermore Lab, Corner of Vasco Road & Patterson Pass Road
(925) 443-7148 for details

This year's event will include a rally, march and nonviolent direct action. Click here for the August 6 event flier.

Litigating Your Right to Know

by Scott Yundt from Tri-Valley CAREs' May - June 2013 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Tri-Valley CAREs hauled the U.S. Dept. of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration into federal court this month for systematically violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), our country's most important open government law.

The charges stem from five separate incidents where the government willfully failed to respond to the group's information requests and illegally withheld documents the public has a right to see. The information withheld is of urgent importance to the local community and the broader public at large.

The five FOIA requests involve: proposed shipments of plutonium bomb cores back and forth between Los Alamos in New Mexico and Livermore; the Livermore Lab's plan to use plutonium in the National Ignition Facility; the Livermore Lab's security posture following the removal of special nuclear materials; the status of the High Explosives Application Facility at the Livermore main site; and recent Lab worker exposures to highly toxic beryllium.

Tri-Valley CAREs sumbitted the five FOIA requests in 2011 and 2012. Neither DOE nor NNSA has provided any responsive documents to date. The law gives agencies 20 days; in each of these instances a year or more has elapsed. On June 7, the group filed its lawsuit in the federal District Court in downtown Oakland.

"As a 'watchdog' organization, we rely on FOIA to obtain documents and inform the community," said Staff Attorney Scott Yundt. "By violating the law, DOE and NNSA are robbing people of information they could use to press for policy changes that would safeguard worker and public health and the environment."

The litigation further charges DOE and NNSA with exhibiting a "pattern and practice" of violating the law. The group's suit asks the judge to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate the pattern of abuse. The Special Counsel would then determine whether further disciplinary action is warranted and against whom.

"A positive ruling in this lawsuit could set a precedent with national implications," said Yundt. "It could force DOE and NNSA to speed up response times and provide appropriate documents to FOIA requestors across the country."

Click here to see the newsletter "insert" that includes an appeal letter and a flyer.