Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety

Our mission is to protect all living beings and the environment from the effects of radioactive and other hazardous materials now and in the future.

P.O. Box 31147
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87594

Telephone: (505) 986-1973
Fax: (505) 986-0997
Email: ccns@nuclearactive.org

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Current Activities

UK-Flagged Ships Set to Transport Plutonium from Japan to U.S. Savannah River Site

210855_orig©Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE), special to SRS Watch.

On February 6, 2016, two armed U.K.-flagged transport vessels on a secret mission to retrieve weapons-grade plutonium in Japan and transport it to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Savannah River Site in South Carolina were located in the Panama Canal. According to the public interest group, Savannah River Site Watch, the spotting of the specialized nuclear transport ships confirms the route to Japan and their mission to transport 331 kilograms, or 730 pounds, of plutonium to the U.S. as part of international nuclear non-proliferation efforts. http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/srsw_news_on_plutonim_ships_in_canal_feb_6_2016.pdf and

The plutonium was taken to Japan primarily in the 1960s and 1970s to develop sodium-cooled plutonium “breeder” reactors. It was agreed that when Japan no longer needed the plutonium, it would be returned to the U.S. Japanese sources report, however, that approximately 93 kilograms, or 205 pounds, of the plutonium are of U.S. origin; but 236 kilograms, or 520 pounds, are of U.K. origin; and 2 kilograms, or 4.5 pounds, are of French origin.

Savannah River Site Watch, or SRS Watch, rejects amassing French and British plutonium in South Carolina because those countries have their own storage facilities.

Furthermore, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has called on DOE to remove one metric ton of plutonium from SRS by January 1, 2016, which has not been done.

Tom Clements, director of SRS Watch, said, “We strongly object to foreign-origin plutonium coming into South Carolina when DOE’s program to manage surplus weapons plutonium is in shambles. As DOE’s plutonium fuel project has totally failed, it’s time for DOE to live up to its commitment to remove plutonium from South Carolina and not bring in more with no viable disposition path out of the state.”

In 2010, DOE prepared an environmental assessment for the import of 100 kilograms of plutonium to SRS, which was never released for public review and comment. A December 2015 DOE environmental assessment revealed that up to 900 kilograms, or 1984 pounds, of “gap” plutonium should be reviewed for import to SRS. Gap plutonium is plutonium that does not have a return country, such as Sweden. http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/srs_watch_release_draft_ea_gap_plutonium_dec_29_2015.pdf

The ships, the Pacific Egret and Pacific Heron, that were recently located in the Panama Canal are based in Cumbria, UK and are operated by the private company, Pacific Nuclear Transport Limited, which brought plutonium to SRS before via Charleston, South Carolina, including Swedish plutonium in 2012, and Italian and Belgian plutonium in 2014.

For more information about the amount of plutonium already stored at SRS and the lack of a viable disposition plan, please visit the Savannah River Site Watch website at http://www.srswatch.org.


Whistleblowers Ask U.S. Attorney to Conclude LANL Fraud Investigation and Launch Investigation of Alleged Suicide of former Deputy Director


Given the recent Department of Energy (DOE) announcement that it will soon put the management contract out for bid at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Glenn Walp, Steve Doran, and Chuck Montaño renewed their request for U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez to investigate the alleged suicide of a former LANL deputy director and conclude the procurement fraud investigations begun in 2002 by Walp and Doran.

Scandals have been an integral part of LANL’s operations. At the end of the 1990’s, LANL was plagued with scandals, including false accusations that LANL scientist Wen Ho Lee gave nuclear weapons designs to China; missing hard drives containing nuclear weapons designs, which were later found behind a copy machine in a room that had been searched twice; and failing to prevent nuclear materials from being stolen during a mock terrorist attack. These and other scandals, along with the possibility of DOE competing the management contract, pushed LANL in early 2002 to hire former law enforcement officers, Walp and Doran, to investigate fraud and potential security breaches. Once Upon a Time in Los Alamos, Project on Government Oversight (POGO), January 12, 2016 at http://www.pogo.org/blog/2016/02/whistleblowers-call-for-inquiry-into-lanl-employee-death.html

Walp was the Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police. See Glenn Walp’s book, Implosion at Los Alamos, at http://www.implosionatlosalamos.com/ Doran was the police chief of Idaho City, Idaho.

Walp and Doran found many instances of corruption, including fraudulent purchases of hunting, camping and ranching gear and equipment that were stored in a remote Cold War bunker. They were then fired by LANL.

On January 24, 2003, former LANL Deputy Director for Operations, Richard Burick, was found dead in the parking lot of the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area, along with a revolver found about a yard past his feet. Within hours, the Los Alamos Police Department determined it was a suicide. Many questions remain unanswered, such as why an unspent round had been ejected from the revolver.

Soon it was discovered that Burick had owned a ranch in southwest New Mexico where he planned to ranch and provide hunting services. As the Walp and Doran investigation heated up, Burick sold the ranch for $1 and other valuable consideration.

Many unanswered questions linger about possible connections between the fraudulent purchases and the alleged suicide.

Chuck Montaño joined Walp and Doran. Montaño is a multi-credentialed auditor and investigator who was employed at LANL for 32 years. After reporting accounting malpractice and abuses Montaño had witnessed for years, he became a federally protected whistleblower. See Chuck Montaño’s recent book, Los Alamos: Secret Colony, Hidden Truths – A Whistleblower’s Diary, at http://losalamosdiary.com

The three wrote to U.S. Attorney Martinez, stating, “It is imperative that decision makers know the full extent of what transpired in order to know how best to proceed with the award of the new contract. Without a deeper understanding and accountability before the award is made, it is possible that the LANL management contract will end up in the hands of those largely responsible for the cover-up of past mismanagement at the Los Alamos Lab, or even worse, the possible obstruction of justice that occurred.” http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Letter-NM-US-Attorney-LANL-fraud.pdf


EPA Proposal Would Weaken Civil Rights Protection; Public Comment Period Ends March 11th

RonSmithPastor Ron Smith with his mother Ann Smith, retired teacher and community leader, in Ann’s office at her home near Tallassee, AL.

In July, community and environmental groups from five states sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Civil Rights over the agency’s failure to take action on civil rights complaints, including one submitted by the Albuquerque-based Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping (CARD) for the proposed Triassic Park hazardous waste facility. Several complaints that allege discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for the siting and permitting of polluting facilities have languished for over 20 years.   http://earthjustice.org/cases/2015/challenging-epa-s-failure-to-investigate-civil-rights-complaints

The groups are the Maurice and Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice (complaint filed July 1994 – Genesee Power Station); CAlifornians for Renewable Energy and its President, Michael Boyd (complaint filed April 2000 – Los Medanos Energy Center and Delta Energy Center power plants); Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter (complaint filed April 2000 – Beaumont Refinery); Citizens for Alternatives for Radioactive Dumping (complaint filed September 2002 – Triassic Park hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facility); and Ashurst/Bar Smith Community Organization (complaint filed September 2003 – Stone’s Throw Landfill).

Now the groups are calling on the EPA to significantly strengthen a proposed rule to revise the way the agency handles complaints.

In December, EPA began a public comment period about the proposed changes that, among other things, eliminate deadlines for agency action. EPA claims in its Federal Register notice that the proposed amendments, “recognize that the EPA’s current, self-imposed regulatory deadlines are impracticable given the inherent scientific complexity associated with determining which and how populations are impacted by environmental pollutants; the number of discrimination allegations and theories that may be asserted in any one complaint [ ]; and the volume of the complaints received.” Federal Register, Vol. 80, No. 239, Monday, December 14, 2015, Proposed Rules, p. 77285. http://www.epa.gov/ocr – under “External Compliance and Complaints Program – Title VI,” click on New Developments!

The proposed changes actually weaken existing protections by removing deadlines for the agency to respond and investigate complaints. Past performance indicates more accountability is needed, not less.

For example, in September 2002, CARD filed a complaint against the New Mexico Environment Department for permitting the construction of the proposed Triassic Park hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facility, located between Roswell and Tatum. The complaint alleges a pattern of discrimination against Spanish-speaking residents exhibited during the public hearing and throughout the permitting process. To view this article click HERE

Current EPA regulations require acknowledgement of receipt of the complaint within five days. EPA accepted the CARD complaint in 2005, nearly 1,100 days later.

Further, EPA is required to determine if an investigation is needed within 20 days, and if so, it must be completed in 180 days. Twelve years after the initial complaint was filed, EPA contacted Deborah Reade, former CARD Research Director, for additional information. EPA has yet to complete their investigation. Please see Environmental Justice, Denied: “Thirteen years and counting: anatomy of an EPA civil rights investigation: Complaint filed against the New Mexico Environment Department in 2002 remains open, to the exasperation of the complainant” at http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/08/07/17706/thirteen-years-and-counting-anatomy-epa-civil-rights-investigation and http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/thirteen-years-counting-anatomy-epa-civil-rights-investigation-n405201

Last summer, the Center for Public Integrity released the results of its in-depth investigation of the Office of Civil Rights. Now EPA has put forward a proposal to weaken the already flawed process. http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/08/20/17834/how-fix-epas-broken-civil-rights-office

Marianne Engelman Lado, an attorney with Earthjustice who filed suit on behalf of the groups, said, “It is shocking that the EPA would on the one hand acknowledge its failures to properly handle civil rights complaints, decide a revision is necessary and then turn around and remove the only clear basis for holding itself accountable for acting on complaints in a timely fashion.”

Public comments must be received on or before March 11, 2016. Please note: The website says that comments are due February 12, 2016. In response to community requests for additional time, EPA will announce soon the additional of 30 days to the comment period.

Deborah Reade is preparing sample public comments for you to use, which will be available next week on our website.

Please submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OA-2013-0031, to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.


DOE Gives Itself Permission to Increase Plutonium in CMRR Without Required NEPA Analysis


In a weekly report for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board revealed that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have given themselves permission to significantly increase the amount of plutonium allowed in the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project radiological laboratory from 8.4 grams to 400 grams, a 46-fold increase, without supplementing their environmental impact statements as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). http://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/Board%20Activities/Reports/Site%20Rep%20Weekly%20Reports/Los%20Alamos%20National%20Laboratory/2015/wr_20151218_65.pdf The increase is substantial and NEPA requires the federal nuclear weapons agencies supplement their environmental impact statement, with opportunity for public review and comment, as well public hearings. 40 CFR §1502.9(c).

The amount of plutonium is measured in weapons grade plutonium-239 equivalents. Eight grams is about one-third of an ounce, whereas 400 grams is equivalent to a little more than 14 ounces, or nearly a pound.

In 2003, the federal agencies proposed the $600 million CMRR Project with the release of a draft environmental impact statement.   Public hearings were held in Northern New Mexico, with the majority of commenters opposing the proposed project that would increase the manufacture of plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons from 20 per year to 50 to 80 per year. Despite public opposition, the federal agencies decided to proceed with construction and operation of two buildings, the Radiological Laboratory, Utility and Office Building (RLUOB) and the Nuclear Facility.

The RLUOB was designed and built as an office and utility building, with radiological labs in the basement for the limited use of 8.4 grams of plutonium. The Nuclear Facility was not built and eventually President Obama put it on a five-year hold when the cost escalated to $6 billion.

The federal agencies designated the RLUOB as a radiological facility. In 2011, DOE and NNSA confirmed this fact in their final environment impact statement. They wrote, “NNSA would not operate RLUOB as anything other than a radiological facility, which would significantly limit the total quantity of [plutonium and other] special nuclear material that could be handled in the building.” http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/EIS-0350-FSEIS_Summary-2011.pdf, at p. S-13.

Moreover, because the Nuclear Facility was not built, the federal agencies now want to raise the RLUOB radiological designation to a hazard category 3 nuclear facility in order to increase the amount of plutonium allowed. Such a designation would create more hazards and require structural modifications as well as additional safety, security and emergency preparedness measures. http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/EIS-0350-FSEIS_Summary-2011.pdf, at p. S-13.

In response, CCNS prepared a sample comment letter that you can use – and modify as you see fit – to demand that the federal agencies supplement their environmental impact statement as required by NEPA. Click HERE to download the PDF file.


National Evaluation about Community Participation in Health Impact Assessments


In a first of its kind study about the essential role of community participation in developing a health impact assessment, Human Impact Partners will release its report entitled, Community Participation in Health Impact Assessments: A National Evaluation later this month. It will also hold a public webinar to share the evaluation’s very exciting and insightful findings on Thursday, January 28th from noon to 1:30 pm Mountain Standard Time. To register for the webinar, please visit http://www.humanimpact.org.

The Human Impact Partners, based in Oakland, California, are leaders in the field of health impact assessments. Their national study describes the impact of community participation in civic decision-making, which is described as a community’s capacity to act in its own self-interest. The report also discusses the success of health impact assessments and how well the field of health impact assessments is doing at encouraging community participation.

A health impact assessment (HIA) is a useful way to ensure that health disparities are considered in decision-making using an objective and scientific approach that authentically engages community members in the process. Through a six-step process “that systematically judges the potential, and sometimes unintended effects of a proposed project, plan or policy on the health of a population and the distribution of those effects within a population,” impacted communities and technical experts can create an HIA. Recommendations are made, as well as suggestions about what measures should be included in the proposed project to mitigate the health effects on the community.

The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, working with the Human Impact Partners and the New Mexico Health Equity Partnership, began work on an HIA to look at the proposed amendments to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) for those exposed to the 1945 Trinity atomic bomb test in south central New Mexico. Working with community members and technical experts, the Trinity Team is gathering data and conducting interviews to inform the report’s findings and recommendations.

In 2000, Congress passed RECA to provide medical care and compensation to those exposed to the aboveground nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site who contracted cancers and other radiation related illnesses. Some uranium miners in New Mexico were included. But the first downwinders, those exposed to the Trinity test, have not been included.

The entire New Mexico congressional delegation supports the proposed RECA amendments.

Kathy Tyler, of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, said, “This is an exciting time for our organization. This HIA will enable us to accomplish our main goals with full engagement of the community.”

            For more information, please see the New Mexico Health Equity Partnership website at http://www.nmhealthequitypartnership.org and the website of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium at http://www.nmdownwinders.com.


Citizen Action New Mexico Details Similarities of Sandia’s Mixed Waste Landfill and Exploding Waste Dump in Beatty, Nevada


Urging the New Mexico Environment Department to declare that cleanup has not been completed at Sandia National Laboratories’ Mixed Waste Landfill and require the buried waste be excavated now, Citizen Action New Mexico detailed the similarities of the metallic sodium wastes buried in Sandia’s dump and the U.S. Ecology’s low-level radioactive waste dump in Beatty, Nevada. http://www.radfreenm.org/

On Sunday, October 18th, 2015, after receiving nearly two inches of rain that seeped into the Beatty dump, heavily corroded 55-gallon drums containing metallic sodium exploded, releasing hydrogen gas and sending buried drums into the air, which landed nearly 200 feet from crater that was created. Plumes of white smoke also were seen coming from the dump. The deflagration was so hot that other waste materials caught fire and burned for two days. http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/fire-rescue/video-shows-blasts-nuclear-waste-dump-site-shut-down-us-95

At the time, officials declared that there was no release of radioactive materials. On December 30th, 2015, the Nevada State Fire Marshall released its 309-page investigation report that concluded, “[T]he incident was caused by water that made contact with sodium metal in the trench area and formed an exothermic reaction with resulting fire.” Fire Marshal Report, Beatty Industrial Fire Incident Report 12/30/2015 and http://lasvegassun.com/news/2015/nov/27/fire-marshal-seeping-water-caused-radioactive-dump/

In a recent email to Environment Department Ryan Flynn, Citizen Action New Mexico detailed the similarities of the dumps and requested, for the protection of the Albuquerque community, that the Mixed Waste Landfill be excavated now.

Both dumps are located in desert environments. Waste disposal began in the early 1960s in unlined trenches. Radioactive and hazardous waste were buried in steel drums, wood crates and cardboard boxes. Both dumps are currently closed and have dirt covers. Over the decades, deterioration of the packaging materials created void spaces, causing collapses and cracking the dirt cover.

Because metallic sodium reacts to water, it is packed in oil. The Nevada State Fire Marshall found that over time, the steel drums corroded allowing the packing oil to leak out, exposing the metallic sodium to the dump’s environment. Further, the rain infiltrated into the dump through the “compromised earth cover … causing an exothermic reaction between the water and metallic sodium.”

Citizen Action New Mexico wrote that Sandia’s “metallic sodium was inseparably combined with high-level fission products from nuclear meltdown testing at Sandia’s [Annular Core Research Reactor (ACRR)] nuclear reactor…. The consequences of explosions and fires in Albuquerque could be much greater than at the US Ecology site, which is 11 miles distant from the small town of Beatty, Nevada. Evacuation of I-25, I-40, Isleta Pueblo, the Sunport, Mesa del Sol, the VA Hospital and Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia Labs could be necessary…. Ignoring the problem and denying there is a problem won’t fix the problem.”

Additional information is available in recent ABQ Free Press articles –

Sandia’s Nuke Dump Next Door,” Pgs. 12 & 14, at http://www.freeabq.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Vol-II-Issue-24-December-2-2015.pdf

“Could Sandia’s Nuclear Waste Landfill Blow Up,” pgs.9 & 10 at http://www.freeabq.com/2015/12/30/nuke-dump-explosion-risk/


Health Impact Assessment Grant Will Explore Potential Health Impacts of those Exposed to 1945 Trinity Atomic Bomb Test

On July 16, 1945, the U.S. government tested the first nuclear device, called “Gadget,” in what was designated the “Trinity Site” in south central New Mexico. The government described the area as “remote and uninhabited.” In reality there were more than 40,000 people living in the four counties surrounding the Trinity Site; which are Lincoln, Otero, Sierra and Socorro counties.   Some of the highest cancer rates in the U.S. are found in these counties. The people of New Mexico were the first victims of an atomic bomb and were unknowing, unwilling, uncompensated, innocent participants in the world’s largest science experiment.

The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, founded in 2005 by Tina Cordova and the late Fred Tyler, have been working to bring attention to the negative health effects from radioactive fallout resultant of the Trinity test. http://www.nmdownwinders.com/ For many years the Consortium has partnered with Joni Arends of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, http://nuclearactive.org/, Holly Beaumont of Interfaith Worker Justice-New Mexico, https://www.facebook.com/IWJNM, and Dr. Maureen Merritt of Physicians for Social Responsibility, http://www.psr.org/, in this endeavor.

No epidemiological study of the resultant illnesses has ever been done. The Consortium’s volunteers have developed and collected health surveys from people living in the communities closest to the Trinity Site.

In support of this effort, the Santa Fe Community Foundation recently provided a $35,000 grant to the Consortium to conduct a formal health impact assessment. The grant will provide the much-needed resources to expand and fully formalize the collection and interpretation of the health surveys. https://www.nmhealthequitypartnership.org/home

In 1990, the U.S. set up a fund called the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to compensate people who were made sick living downwind of the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. The fund has been available for people in parts of Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Colorado, and uranium miners in some parts of New Mexico, who have been affected by the radiation exposure. New Mexico downwinders have never been included in the RECA fund, even though the people of New Mexico were the very first downwinders. The fund has paid out over $2 billion in claims and provided invaluable health care coverage to the downwinders of the Nevada test site. http://www.justice.gov/civil/common/reca

For five years, Senator Tom Udall and others have introduced amendments to RECA to include New Mexico downwinders and continues to gain co-sponsors. http://www.tomudall.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=1719 Even so, key congressional committees have not yet scheduled a hearing.

Tina Cordova, of the Consortium, said, “It is our goal to utilize the data collected through the health impact assessment process to build our case for why New Mexicans should be included in the RECA ‘downwinders’ program.”


State Board Supports Existing LANL Air Emissions Permit; Denies Requests for Verification Monitoring

On Friday, December 18th, the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board unanimously denied the petition of Tewa Women United, Dr. Maureen Merritt and CCNS for verification monitoring for what the New Mexico Environment Department had determined were “insignificant” emission sources at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Once the Environment Department determines the releases are “insignificant,” LANL does not have to monitor or report the emissions. https://www.env.nm.gov/eib/documents/PetitionforHearingonTitleVAirQuality.pdf.

The insignificant sources are formerly permitted beryllium facilities; the mechanical evaporative system for waste water from the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility; the proposed use of the two solar evaporative tanks, holding more than 360,000 gallons each, from that facility; and the soil vapor extraction system at the liquid disposal site at Area L, adjacent to Area G.

During the public comment period, the Petitioners questioned the soil vapor extraction system emissions. After receiving additional information from the Petitioners about the volatile organic compounds releases from a pilot test in 2005, the Environment Department required LANL to verify emissions for a period of one year. Based on that precedent, Petitioners asked for verification monitoring of other sources, including previously permitted beryllium facilities and the solar and mechanical evaporative systems.

The petitioners also asked that LANL be required to post all submittals to the Environment Department to its electronic public reading room.

Elder Kathy Sanchez, of Tewa Women United, said, “Many moments pass in solar time as does the unregulated LANL toxic pollutants which directly effects our life affirming air quality here in Northern New Mexico. We are exposed via multiple pathways of travel down to us citizens from the ‘sorcery’ experimental approach with 2,000 chemicals, manipulations by man to birth new weapons of mass destruction as they named the A-bomb over Hiroshima – ‘It’s a (Little) Boy!’”

Sanchez continued, “Here is a link to an Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry listing of chemicals to find a myriad of chemicals from A to Z, including their toxic effects on humans.   http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/. In layman’s terms, we were asking for reassurance that the ‘insignificant’ findings of those toxins used by LANL is verified as that. And to reassure us, the public, that monitors the appropriateness be used. We do not want our future children’s children to perish.

“We all deserve clean air, pure water and healthy soil in the mountains and valleys surrounding Los Alamos National Laboratory. Our spirit rooted visions for our breath of life should be as it once was, before the scientists were ordered to create the nuclear stage, for yet another power domination holding the threat of forced annihilation. We will not let this be without continued vigilance.” http://tewawomenunited.org/


Senator Markey Leads Call to Cut Wasteful Nuclear Expenditures, Urging Cancelation of Proposed Nuclear Warhead and Air-launched Missile


Runs 12/18/15 through 12/25/15

(THEME UP AND UNDER) This is the CCNS News Update, an overview of the latest nuclear safety issues, brought to you every week by Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety. Here is this week’s top headline:

  • Senator Markey Leads Call to Cut Wasteful Nuclear Expenditures, Urging Cancelation of Proposed Nuclear Warhead and Air-launched Missile

Senator Edward J. Markey, of Massachusetts, led a group of eight U.S. Senators in a letter urging President Obama to cancel the proposed long range stand off (LRSO) nuclear capable warhead and the proposed nuclear air-launched cruise missile on which the warhead would be launched. The Pentagon requested that the proposed missile be developed to replace an existing air-launched cruise missile.

Recent reports reveal administration plans to build and buy 1,000 to 1,100 new nuclear cruise missiles estimated to cost between $20 and $30 billion. The development of the proposed long range stand off warhead would increase U.S. nuclear air-launched cruise missile capacity by nearly 200 percent.

In the letter, the Senators explained that this new nuclear weapon does not reflect current U.S. national security needs, is redundant with existing nuclear and conventional options, and could lead to dramatic escalation and potentially devastating miscalculations with other nuclear-armed states because a nuclear-armed cruise missile is indistinguishable from a conventional cruise missile.

They added, “Outdated and unnecessary nuclear weapons are relics of the past. We should not revive and waste money on the security tools of the past and rob future generations who will have to bear the burden of this useless spending.…Your administration should instead focus on capabilities that keep our economy and defense strong while reducing the role of nuclear weapons.”

The Senators referenced the early days of the Presidency in 2009 when Obama spoke in Prague. In that speech, President Obama conveyed his commitment to “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in [U.S.] national security strategy.” They reminded the President of the Administration’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, which stated that programs to maintain nuclear weapons “will not support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities.”

Nevertheless, it is estimated that the U.S. will spend over $1 trillion in the next 30 years on nuclear weapon modernization.

Those signing the letter include California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer; Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley; Vermont Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernard Sanders; and Minnesota Senator Al Franken.

CCNS reached out to our New Mexico Senators to learn their position on the proposed warhead and missile. A staffer for Senator Tom Udall responded in an email, stating, “The Senator supports the nuclear modernization efforts of the [National Nuclear Security Administration] and the [Department of Defense]. These programs are an important part of the nuclear security enterprise.”

CCNS did not receive a response from Senator Martin Heinrich’s office.

Joni Arends, of CCNS, encouraged New Mexicans to contact our Senators and encourage them to support cancelation of the proposed nuclear warhead and air-launched cruise missile.


Former Defense Chief, NonProliferation Experts Warn: Stop the New Nuclear Capable Long Range Stand Off Weapon


Runs 12/11/15 through 12/18/15

(THEME UP AND UNDER) This is the CCNS News Update, an overview of the latest nuclear safety issues, brought to you every week by Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety. Here is this week’s top headline:

  • Former Defense Chief, NonProliferation Experts Warn: Stop the New Nuclear Capable Long Range Stand Off Weapon

Two former Defense Department leaders, William J. Perry and Andy Weber, recently wrote a piece in the Washington Post requesting that President Obama stop the development of the proposed long range stand off (LRSO) nuclear capable weapon. The Pentagon requested that this weapon be developed to replace an existing air-launched cruise missile.

Perry and Weber wrote that cruise missiles are “inherently destabilizing” because “they can be launched without warning and come in both nuclear and conventional variants.” Cruise missiles increase the risk of accident nuclear war. Canceling this dangerous weapon could be a significant first step towards a worldwide ban on all cruise missiles.

The Air Force plans to purchase over 1,000 of the LRSOs. It currently has a stockpile of about 575 nuclear capable air-launched cruise missiles. The development of the LRSO would increase U.S. nuclear air-launched cruise missile capacity by nearly 200 percent.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, has been charged with refurbishing the nuclear explosive package and developing detonators for the new weapon. Sandia Laboratory, also in Livermore, is responsible for the construction of some nonnuclear parts and for systems integration. Sandia says this program “will develop the next generation of weapon scientists and engineers and give them hands on experience in a system development and integration program.”

The nuclear warhead, called the W80-4, will be a modified version of an older warhead, the W80. The W80-4 budget for fiscal year 2015 is $9 million. The 2016 request is $195 million. Future funding requests are expected to increase to $312 million in 2017 and $407 million in 2018.

The Federation of American Scientists estimates the full development of this nuclear cruise missile, including the W80-4 warhead, to be as high as $20 billion.

It is still possible that Congress will pass a budget, but, at least for now, the W80-4 warhead development has been slowed down.

Under the New START treaty, which reduces Russian and U.S. forward deployed strategic nuclear arsenal to 1,550 nuclear warheads by 2018, each bomber plane counts as only one warhead, despite the fact that bombers can carry multiple nuclear weapons.

Marylia Kelley, Executive Director of Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, based in Livermore, said, “Now is the critical time when the President is still finalizing his Fiscal Year 2017 budget. Please call your senators and ask them to send a letter directly to the President asking him to cancel any funding request for a Long Range Stand Off warhead and cruise missile. Then call Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Ranking Member on the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, with the same message.”