Monday, December 29, 2014

End of Year 2014 Thoughts

Two recent Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board letters to Department of Energy officials describe failures of  Los Alamos National Laboratory  to: 1) follow prescribed safety procedures; 2) follow through on a previous safety commitment made to DNFSB.

1) 9 December, 2014 / The packaging of transuranic (TRU) waste at LANL's Technical Area-54 has proceeded without a proper safety basis. Although packaging of TRU waste at TA-54 is now suspended due to the inability of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant to accept any new waste, this situation will eventually be resolved. Before that time, existing safety problems at TA-54 must be fixed.

2) 17 December, 2014 / LANL has not pursued a promised study of the possible failure of containment at it's Plutonium Facility-4 installation, in the event of a worst case accident following earthquake beneath the Pajarito Plateau and/or wildfire in the surrounding Jemez mountains.

Needless to say, the nuclear weapons industry is dangerous, but no complex operation is without its hazards, and periodic lapses in safety and security at LANL are to be expected. Right? But, what about accidents in our own backyard, Española, NM?

 New York Times /December 28, 2014 / Marshall Islanders bring suit in World Court over failure of nuclear powers to rid themselves of nuclear weapons, as per their commitment made when they signed the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty. Is this commitment in any sense legally binding? The World Court may choose to decide. If the Court decides in the affirmative, will it's decision be enforceable? Would the nuclear powers ignore a decision by the World Court restricting access to nuclear weapons and/or limiting the development of new nuclear weapons technology?

In the past, haven't the nuclear weapons states behaved with impunity with regard to their nuclear weaponry?

29 December, 2014 / In a letter to LANL staff, Director Charles McMillan admits that a 90% reduction will be imposed by DOE to the annual bonus pay for LANL managers, for 2014, because of poor performance in the cleanup of hazardous TRU waste from LANL's nuclear weapons operations. However, McMillan insists that DOE continues to recognize LANL for its good performance in developing the nuclear weapons stockpile, thereby generating still more hazardous waste.

 The New Yorker's Talk of the Town /December 22&29, 2014 / Lack of any great public concern being generated by release of summary version of US Senate report on CIA torture of 9/11 prisoners worries New Yorker writer Jane Mayer, who says: "Nothing predicts future behavior as much as past impunity."

What does the American public, evidently unfazed by internal threats such as DOE's continued nuclear weapons development and CIA's torture regimen, currently fear most? Is it the external threat posed by renewed Al Qaeda attacks; or the menaces of North Korea; or the nightmare of another cold war, one which could turn hot?