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April Update - April no-go for US nuke test

Dear nuclear abolitionists and other email recipients of our newsletter:

This is to add new information to my posting of "Subcritical News" from the April Citizen's Watch.

I spoke today with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board regarding the DOE's announced April "shot date" for the Livermore Lab-designed test, "Bagpipe." I'll skip the details and "cut to the chase:"

The DOE had said that 2 of "Bagpipe's" plutonium parts would be machined at Los Alamos Lab and 2 at Livermore Lab. The DNFSB said today that there was absolutely no way that Livermore Lab could machine the 2 plutonium parts on site this month in order to make an April "shot date." Moreover, the DNFSB staff said they would be making a trip to the Nevada Test Site in the last week in April to review NTS safety procedures for the still-to-be-upcoming "Bagpipe" test.

As you know, Livermore Lab's plutonium facility is in "stand down" due to a series of 25 criticality safety violations. While it is true that the DNFSB is contemplating a "restart schedule" that would allow the plutonium for "Bagpipe" to be machined there before permission is granted to resume full operations, the Board was adamant that such an event could not happen this month -- and the impression I got was that permission(s) would not be granted (if it is granted) until sometime in the summer. (Please note that technically-speaking the DNFSB cannot order DOE facilities to shut down, but, in reality, their "recommendations" under certain circumstances [like this one] amount to an order.)

Here in Livermore we at Tri-Valley CAREs have concerns ranging from the fact that we live and work here to the overall nuclear policy issues. We have requested various documents from the DNFSB and will share them and/or their contents as soon as we get them.

In short, we activists world-wide have at least a small slowdown in production and detonation of U.S. subcritical nuclear tests. After breathing a sigh of relief that there won't be such a U.S. test this month, let's redouble our efforts to get them ALL cancelled -- forever -- along with the rest of the so-called "Stockpile Stewardship" program.

Peace, Marylia

March News:

"Bagpipe," Livermore Lab's next underground "subcritical" nuclear test, is slated to be detonated at the Nevada Test Site this month. Some in DOE insist the "shot date" is firm, others suggest "Bagpipe" may not be ready until late summer.

The plutonium facility at Livermore, called Bldg. 332, is in stand down (read shut down), due to 15 nuclear criticality safety violations committed by the Lab while machining plutonium for "Holog," its subcritical test last year. Other operations in Bldg. 332 caused 10 more criticality safety violations, according to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (see Nov. 1997 & Jan. 1998 Citizen's Watches for details).

According to DOE, "Bagpipe" will involve 4 blasts, and the amounts of plutonium and high explosives to be used are still classified. Says DOE: two of the plutonium parts are being machined at Los Alamos Lab and two at Livermore. When asked about the shutdown at Bldg. 332, DOE replied that the plutonium would be machined as part of its "restart plan"-before the facility as a whole is allowed to reopen!!!

So, stay tuned. We will rally at NOON at the Bechtel Bldg. in San Francisco on the day of the test- whether that's in April or any other time. Last month a spirited crowd protested the "Stagecoach" nuke test, designed by the Los Alamos Lab. Bechtel manages the Nevada Test Site for DOE.

Note to email readers: Among other sources, I spoke to the DOE Nevada Operations Office folks and was told that Los Alamos did, indeed, at the pretty much the last moment change the amount of plutonium they had planned to use in their test, "Stagecoach" from 2 pounds 13 ounces to the 2 pounds 2 ounces that was listed in the DOE press release two days prior to the test. I don't have a specified reason from DOE to report, but it is interesting -- as is the plutonium fabrication situation with Livermore Lab's "Bagpipe" test above. Peace, Marylia

Marylia Kelley Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
Peace - Justice - Environment since 1983
5720 East Ave. #116, Livermore, CA USA 94550
(510) 443-7148 - phone
(510) 443-0177 - fax