Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty pushed by Clinton administration

DOE report cites LANL as potential site for most bomb work

* President Clinton has strongly urged representatives from 38 nations to reach an agreement by June on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTB). This treaty will permanently ban nuclear weapons tests with detectable nuclear yields. The President said the CTB would help end the nuclear arms race and "move towards our ultimate goal of a world free of nuclear arms." John Holum, director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, brought the President's message to the United Nations. Holum warned that "any slippage from this demanding schedule could be fatal to the treaty" because UN members need several months fir review before UN meetings end in the fall. The CTB has been a national goal of a number of presidents since Eisenhower, but has been opposed by the nuclear weapons laboratories until now.

One of the major stumbling blocks to finalizing the CTB is the proposed exemption by China for so-called "peaceful" nuclear tests. The other four nuclear weapons powers argue that any "peaceful" nuclear tests can have direct military applications. In addition, the idea that these tests can have socially useful purposes (such as canal excavations) has been strongly undermined by the obvious radioactive contamination that these tests cause.

Another major dispute is a proposal initially put forward by India that links CTB implementation with a timetable for global disarmament. Many third world nations view the current provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (or NPT) as highly discriminatory in perpetuating a permanent schism of have and have-not nuclear weapons states. The NPT obliges all nations to enter into serious negotiations towards total nuclear disarmament, but offers no timetable. Speaking for the U.S., Holum said that, "the idea of a time-based framework for further nuclear disarmament is something we have said we cannot accept." In contrast, the Australian government has recently empaneled a commission to devise "practical steps towards a nuclear free world."

DOE report cites LANL as potential site for most bomb work

DOE has released an Implementation Plan for the future nuclear weapons complex. The plan identifies Los Alamos National Laboratory (or LANL) as one of two potential sites for annual fabrication of approximately 50 plutonium pits. LANL now has the only currently operating plutonium processing facility in the country. LANL is also one of three candidates sites for the manufacture of uranium components for nuclear weapons secondaries. In a nuclear weapon, the secondary is ignited by the pit, which is a process which them produces a thermonuclear explosion. Finally, LANL and Sandia National Laboratory are two candidates sites for the manufacture of nonnuclear components of nuclear weapons.

The Implementation Plan rejectes other alternatives to management of the 21st Century nuclear arsenal, such as dismantling it altogether, returning to Cold War levels or simply performing piecemeal maintenance work as bomb parts age. The Implementation Plan is the predecessor to the draft Stockpile Stewardship and Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, whose release is expected this month. The pending draft will provide further details into the role that LANL will play in the future nuclear weapons complex.

Following the controversy surrounding layoffs to hundreds of full-time LANL employees, Senator Bingaman and Congressman Richardson wrote to DOE urging it to open up the management contract to competitive bid. Richardson has since backed off from that position, in part because he says that UC has begun to meet come of his concerns over fair employment practices.

Numerous laid-off employees have claimed that the reduction-in-force process was capricious and discriminatory. Other critics argue that "UC has historically shown little concern for economic development in Northern New Mexico. Another potential issue in the contract debate it the quality of UC management in the environmental area. For exmaple, LANL has never been in compliance with the regulatory criteria of the Clean Air Act and is behind schedule in completing the 1992 findings of the environmental audit team.

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