• * Hanford nuclear reactor may be restarted, despite Hanford's major safety and cleanup problems.

  • * Citizens' organizations join to target environmentally-harmful projects that waste tax dollars.

  • * The Marshall Islands seek compensation to treat nuclear victims.

  • * Activists forbidden to block transport of nuclear waste in the Netherlands.

  • * CCNS will host a talk on an imprisoned Israeli nuclear technician on January 28.

    * The Department of Energy may restart the retired Fast Flux Test Facility, or FFTF, at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State despite Hanford's status as the worst nuclear cleanup site in the western world. A panel appointed by Secretary of Energy Federico Peľa to review operations at Hanford has determined that out of 177 underground tanks of high-level waste, sixty-eight are already leaking. Recently, the Department of Energy acknowledged that radioactive leaks have reached the groundwater, and threaten the Columbia River. The panel reports that employees who raise safety concerns fear retaliation against their jobs, and that the site has no system to analyze safety problems and deal with them. The panel also said that "external credibility issues continue" concerning government statements on tank leakage and that previously identified management problems persist.

    Despite all this, the Department of Energy is considering investing $430 million dollars to restart the reactor and produce tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen used to boost the power of nuclear warheads, even though the government is short of money to clean up the potentially disastrous leakage already taking place. Groups that have worked for years to see the waste contained and the Columbia River protected say that the government should not restart a facility that will add two metric tons of nuclear waste to the old reactor fuel rods already decaying in open pools only 1,000 feet from the river. "It's a blast from the past that threatens the future of Hanford cleanup and the river and the millions who live downstream, " said U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, a democrat from Oregon.

    The government claims that the facility could also be used for the production of medical isotopes, but a number of doctors and experts have written Secretary Peľa to say that the need for radioactive isotopes is overstated. An Energy Department spokesman admitted that the DOE's interest in restarting the FFTP is primarily for the production of tritium for the nuclear weapons program.

    * Organizations representing over 8.5 million environmentalists, taxpayers and deficit hawks have joined to recommend the cutting of 71 programs that waste taxpayer dollars and threaten the environment. The Green Scissors campaign has already successfully recommended cuts of over 20 billion dollars in wasteful and environmentally harmful federal programs. Among the 1998 Green Scissors proposals is the termination of funding for the DOE's plutonium manufacturing project, which the Green Scissors Report calls "Rocky Flats ll." This project would increase Los Alamos Nation Laboratory's (LANL's) plutonium pit production capacity. Pits are the cores of nuclear weapons and act as triggers for their detonation. Current pit production capacity at LANL is 20 pits per year, and the project would increase this to 50 to 80 pits annually by the year 2005. These pits would be in addition to the 10,000 pits in storage, and an estimated 12,000 already in the current nuclear weapons stockpile. A DOE report to Congress estimates total costs of updates to LANL's pit production facilities at $1.1 billion over the next decade.

    Opponents of the project maintain that new pit production is unnecessary to maintain all the weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Many of the 10,000 spare pits in bunkers near Amarillo, Texas, could be substituted in currently deployed weapons, if needed. There are also several thousand pits in nuclear weapons that are being held in reserve.

    The Green Scissors report also pointed to the inherent dangers of processing and manufacturing plutonium, and the fact that the nuclear dump for contaminated waste at LANL is already near full capacity. Expansion of that nuclear waste dump could destroy valuable nearby Native American ruins.

    * The U. S. Congress has been asked by the Marshall Islands for additional funds to cover the cost of treatment for victims of fallout from early U.S. nuclear weapons testing. Recently declassified studies have revealed that many more islands were affected by fallout than was previously admitted .

    * And in Europe, Greenpeace activists in Amsterdam, the Netherlands have been forbidden by a Dutch judge to block nuclear waste transports from the Dodewaard power station to a processing plant in England. The judge threatened the organization with a $50,000 dollar fine for each day the station is blocked.

    * The story of Mordechai Vanunu, a whistle-blowing nuclear technician now in an Israeli prison, will be told on Wednesday, January 28, at 7:00 P.M., at Cloud Cliff Cafe, 1805 2nd St., Santa Fe. The featured speaker will be Sam Day, writer, editor, peace activist, and coordinator of the U.S. Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu.

    Vanunu, a nuclear technician employed by Israel's secret nuclear weapons program, is serving an 18-year sentence for telling British newspapers about the program. Israeli agents lured him to Rome and kidnapped him; he is now in his tenth year of solitary confinement, in a cell measuring six by nine feet. Vanunu is the subject of an international campaign calling for his release, and for Israel's acknowledgment of its never- declared nuclear arsenal. Amnesty International, the Jewish Peace Fellowship, Terry Anderson and other former Middle East hostages, and Joseph Rotblat, winner of the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize, are among those calling for his release.

    Sam Day has himself served state and federal prison terms for non-violent civil disobedience at U.S. military and nuclear installations. In 1992 he received the Martin Luther King Peace Award of the U.S. Fellowship of Reconciliation. The lecture is sponsored by Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety and The Los Alamos Study Group.

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