Friday, January 18, 2013

NM Coalition Boosts LANL Programs

The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities held its monthly meeting today, Friday, from 9:00 to 11:00 AM, at the Ohkay Owingeh Conference Center, in Española, New Mexico. The meeting was chaired by Alice Lucero, RCLC vice-chairperson and mayor of Española. Attending were ~11 members of RCLC, as well as ~40 non-RCLC members. Mayor Lucero began the meeting by asking each attendee to introduce themself, "in order to see who are the interested parties here." The RCLC, of course, is made up entirely of members of local governments. Making up the audience were a few local anti-nuclear citizen activists, plus a majority of members of groups dependent on the support of state and federal government; e. g., LANL managers, DOE grant recipients, and NMED employees.

The meeting began, oddly, with a statement by an assistant to Juan Griego, the in-coming NNSA site manager at LANL. Mr. Griego thanked the RCLC for its support for his bid for the site manager's job, and expressed his concern for the well-being of each and every citizen of New Mexico. He continued by saying that, however, he would not be able to assume the responsibilities of the site manager's office since he had just accepted a job with the NM National Guard.

Next, RCLC Executive Director De Anza Sapien talked about the RCLC budget for 2013 and about a meeting of the Energy Communities Alliance which she recently attended, along with RCLC chair David Coss, vice-chair Alice Lucero, and RCLC member Fran Berting. Ms. sapiens emphazised that RCLC will try "to get everyone under the tent" when it comes to "supporting the stabilization of funding for LANL". She also announced that the NM State Legislature is issuing a Memorial in support of federal programs in NM. Also, she will ask the State Legislature to advise RCLC on how it may best support future federal funding for LANL.

A representative of Jemez Pueblo reported that she is encouraging more local Pueblos to become members of RCLC.

Alice Lucero said that RCLC should express strong support for all of the facility modernization programs at LANL, in view of the difficulties with funding being experienced recently. She alluded to a RCLC letter to DOE Secretary Steven Chu expressing support for planned LANL modernization programs. Included with this letter, she said, and at the behest of Joni Arends of CCNS, was a copy of a letter sent to Sec. Chu by DNFSB. However, she neglected to describe the substance of the DNFSB letter.

Joni Arends then pointed out that the DNFSB, in their recent letter, questioned the safety of the continued operation of  LANL's PF-4 plutonium facility, due to seismic hazards, and in no way could be construed as supporting new construction programs at LANL.

De Anza Sapien said that RCLC must support full funding for the clean up of legacy nuclear waste at LANL (now running at ~$188 million per year.)

LANL environmental managers Peter Maggiore and Jeff Mousseau presented the outline of a formal talk entitled "Fiscal Year 2013 Planning and Continuing the Governor's Priorities." Jeff M. pointed out that TRansUranic (TRU) waste from Area G is being transported to the WIPP site on an expedited scheduled, at the request of the Governor, and as stipulated to by NNSA, LANS and NMED in last year's Framework Agreement. He said that, within the last year, the inventory of above ground TRU waste at Area G has been reduced from 75,000 Plutonium Equivalent Curies (PECi) to 50,000 PECi. This decreases the danger of a dispersal of radioactive materials into the atmosphere in the event of a future wildfire that might pass over Area G. Therefore, at the present rate of removal, all of the above ground TRU waste might be removed within two years. However, he then went on to say that DOE and LANL plan to begin the removal of below ground nuclear waste from Area G; see LA-UR-12-26709.

Although, during his presentation, Jeff M. did not clearly describe the amount of nuclear waste currently held below ground at Area G, he told me later that this was as much as 110,750 PECi. Presumably, since below ground TRU waste must first be transported to an above ground area before it can be shipped off site to WIPP, it will be more than two years before the danger of an atmospheral dispersal of nuclear waste due to wildfire at Area G is eliminated; i.e., ~6 years, at the present rate of TRU waste removal.

[Should it be of concern to the general public that ~100,000 PECi  of nuclear waste remains vulnerable to wildfire at Area G? See my blogposts of Nov. 24, 2011, "Accidental Fall-Out from LANL" and Nov. 18, 2011, "DNFSB Criticizes LANL Risky Practices."]

De Anza Sapien pointed out that RCLC wants local young people to be able to work in the LANL clean up program and supports innovative educational efforts targeted toward this goal.

Carla Rachkowski, of Accelerate Technical Training and Job Placement described her group's efforts to improve the rate of graduation of local students working in two year certificate programs; see

Lastly, local citizens and citizen activists spoke:

  Ray Baca of the Constructions and Trades Union said that he supports the clean up and modernization programs at LANL, and that his union's apprentice program is among the best in the industry.

  Joni Arends talked about safety at PF-4 and the related seismic question, and pointed out that DNFSB considers this issue to be of the utmost importance. She also expressed concern about the above ground TRU waste remaining at Area G and about the danger that wildfire presents to this material.

  Jean Green of Taos said that since RCLC defines the most important part of its mission as support for the clean up of nuclear waste at LANL, the fact that it also supports facilities modernization programs at LANL is a clear contradiction; i.e., since such programs will lead to the production of new nuclear waste. She also claimed that LANL nuclear and chemical waste has poisoned the environment in northern NM, and has led to an elevated incidence of local cancers.

  Melissa .. of Taos asked about the $ cost of removing TRU waste from LANL.

  Scott Kovacs said that he supports the LANL clean up program.

  Thomas Gomez of NNMCAB announced that the CAB will host a forum at Buffalo Thunder resort, on Jan 30, in which the presence of cancer clusters in northern NM will be discussed.

  Holly Beaumont said that NM has the greatest income inequality of any of the 50 states, probably due to an over-dependence  on federal employment, with its over-generous compensation; i.e., since federal employees are just a small fraction of the total of NM workers. She then quoted from Samuel Johnson, 18th century essayist, Anglican, and Tory: "The consequence of poverty is dependency." She also warned about the machinations of Bechtel, the leader of the for-profit group, LANS, which manages LANL for the NNSA.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

NNSA: 1% of Budget Reduces US Nuke Number

As the new year begins, federal budgets for FY2013, passed by the previous Congress, are being signed into law by the President. Although a few federal programs will shrink, NNSA's budget for FY2013 will increase by 4.9% to approximately $11.5 billion. Quoting from NNSA's website (, these monies will be allocated as follows:

"The FY 2013 budget provides $7.58 billion to implement the President’s strategy for the stewardship of the nuclear weapons stockpile in coordination with our partners at the Department of Defense. It includes $2.24 billion for facility operation and maintenance, and construction projects, helping NNSA modernize Cold War-era facilities, with increases are requested for the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 National Security Complex and the TRU Waste Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)."

"$51.3 million is provided in FY 2013 to continue reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the United States’ stockpile. NNSA has committed to completing the dismantlement of all warheads retired as of FY 2009 by FY 2022. In FY 2011, NNSA completed the dismantlement of the last B53 nuclear bomb, one of the largest ever built, ahead of schedule and under budget. NNSA also eliminated the W70, the last warhead in the US Army’s arsenal."

"$2.46 billion is requested to help achieve the President’s nonproliferation objectives and NNSA works toward meeting his four-year goal to secure vulnerable nuclear material around the world. This funding will help complete the removal or disposal of 4,353 kilograms of highly enriched uranium and plutonium in foreign countries, and provide NNSA with the necessary support to equip approximately 229 total buildings containing weapons-usable material with state-of-the-art security upgrades by the President’s deadline."

"The President also continued to request funding for the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility and Waste Solidification Building at the Savannah River Site, critical nonproliferation construction projects. The $569.5 million requested for MOX and related activities this year will lead to the permanent elimination of enough plutonium for at least 8,500 nuclear weapons."

"The FY 2013 budget request gives NNSA the resources needed to maintain its one-of-a-kind emergency response capabilities, which allow NNSA to respond to a nuclear or radiological incident anywhere in the world. In FY 2011, NNSA was able to assist the U.S. military, military families, and the Japanese people by deploying its unique emergency response assets in the aftermath of devastating tsunami that affected the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant." 

"To power the nuclear navy, the budget request includes $1.1 billion for the Naval Reactors program, which will support the OHIO class submarine replacement and modernize key elements NNSA’s infrastructure."

(These separate allocations sum to $11.76 billion.)

It may be of interest to note that NNSA's FY2013 budget provides just $51.3 million "to continue reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the United States’ stockpile", but $7.58 billion to "implement the President’s strategy for the stewardship of the nuclear weapons stockpile in coordination with our partners at the Department of Defense"; i.e., the amount of money assigned to maintain and/or improve the current nuclear weapons stockpile is 148x greater than the amount of money assigned to reducing the size of the stockpile.

Meanwhile, $2.46 billion is assigned to the nuclear non-proliferation program and $569 million "for MOX  and related activities"; but, the MOX program, as advertised, is itself a non-proliferation activity.

No money is assigned by NNSA to the cleanup of legacy nuclear waste; i.e., nuclear wastes which are a legacy of the nuclear weapons program. Rather, this is included as a $5.65 billion line item in DOE's $27.45 billion budget for FY2013. The itemized DOE budget for FY2013 is compared with its budgets for the two preceding years at Money assigned to the cleanup of legacy nuclear waste will be 1.1% less than in FY2012. DOE's total (discretionary) budget will increase by 3.2% relative to FY2012.

It is curious that Sec. of Energy Steven Chu, in his public remarks, dated Dec 21, 2012, celebrating the career of retiring NNSA chief administrator Tom D'Agostino, said (see Press Release section of NNSA's website):

"Under his [D'Agostino's] watch, we have eliminated or secured hundreds of nuclear weapons worth of nuclear materials.  We have reduced the number of deployed warheads to the lowest level since the 1950s—an approximate reduction of 85% from the darkest days of the Cold War – while successfully maintaining the safety, security, and effectiveness of a shrinking stockpile.  Through Environmental Management, we have permanently cleaned up 690 square miles of contaminated land—an area more than 30 times the size of Manhattan—and completed the cleanup of 22 transuranic waste sites across the nation, permanently eliminating an environmental risk at these sites and reducing the cost of monitoring and storing this waste."

But, Sec. Chu chose here to mention only those NNSA operations that tend to "reduce nuclear dangers at home and abroad" by shrinking the size of the nuclear weapons stockpile, even though this is only 1% of NNSA's annual budget. Moreover, the cleanup of lands contaminated by the accumulated detritus of the nuclear weapons program, to which he referred, is a DOE, but not an NNSA, responsibility. Oddly, too, Chu referred only indirectly to the dominant part of NNSA's current mission which is to "maintain the safety, security, and effectiveness of the remaining weapons"; i.e., the Stockpile Stewardship Program, which eats up 2/3 of NNSA's annual budget.