Current Activities

Annual Sackcloth and Ashes Hiroshima Day Peace Vigil at Los Alamos, NM – Saturday, August 5, 2017 2:00 pm

On Saturday, August 5th, people will gather at 2:00 p.m. at Ashley Pond Park in Los Alamos, NM for the annual sackcloth and ashes peace vigil to commemorate Hiroshima Day.

There will be a quiet walk, then sitting in sackcloth and ashes for 30 minutes, then returning to the park, where we will reflect together on the experience as well as the current United Nations movement to outlaw nuclear weapons.  On July 7th, 122 countries voted for the United Nations to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  Countries can sign the Treaty when the United Nations General Assembly meets at its Annual Meeting, beginning on September 20, 2017.  

Rev. John Dear, and Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, will be speaking at the Peace Vigil.

Please bring water, an umbrella and a peace sign.  Sackcloths and ashes will be provided.

For info, contact Bud Ryan at bud@siochainworld.org

Please help spread this announcement!

 

Congressman Ben Ray Luján is a RECA Champion for All New Mexicans

After nearly 600 luminarias were lit on the Tularosa Little League field, U.S. Congressman Ben Ray Luján expressed his apologies to those who are suffering from or have died of illnesses caused by exposure to the first atomic bomb test on July 16, 1945, at the Trinity Site.  The bomb contained 13 pounds of plutonium, but only three pounds fissioned.  The remaining plutonium and toxic ash fell out over fields, gardens, houses, and mountains, eventually flowing into cisterns and waterways.  The people, now called “Trinity Downwinders,” were not notified of the danger, nor were they evacuated.

At the Eighth Annual Candlelight Vigil on Saturday, July 15th , Congressman Luján said, “Back in 1945 when that bomb was set off here, it set off a chain of events and that wrong has never been made right.  Families were impacted in a negative way, from those that had windows broken on their homes to those who saw the light (from the bomb) go off, to those who had to deal with the dust and ash that collected through the area.”  https://lujan.house.gov/

Unlike downwinders in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah, the Trinity Downwinders have never been included in the federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).  It provides medical care and compensation to those exposed to atmospheric nuclear tests and uranium industry workers, some of which worked in New Mexico.  Since 1990, over $2 billion has been awarded to claimants.  https://www.justice.gov/civil/common/reca

Congressman Luján is leading to amend RECA to include the Trinity Downwinders, the Post ‘71 uranium workers, and New Mexicans exposed to radioactive contaminants living downwind and downstream of the national laboratories.  https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2049/all-info

Last week Congressman Luján introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act stating the U.S. should compensate and recognize uranium workers, downwinders, and others.  It passed the House.  http://amendments-rules.house.gov/amendments/RECASense_xml7717090419419.pdf and https://lujan.house.gov/press-releases/lujan-amendment-to-protect-those-exposed-to-radiation-passes-house/

The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium organized the vigil.  They have been working diligently for 12 years to ensure that the Trinity Downwinders are included in the proposed amendments.  https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/

Tina Cordova, a co-founder of the Consortium, said, “This community cannot thank Congressman Luján enough for his dedication to our efforts.”

She added, “It is heartbreaking every year when we add names to the list of people we’ve lost as we light luminarias and call out names. We look forward to the occasion when we can announce that the amendments to RECA have passed and people can finally receive much needed help.  The hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee are a big first step.”

Recently they learned the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled an oversight hearing about RECA for the last week of July.  The hearing has been postponed to September.  To contribute to sending Consortium representatives to the hearing in Washington, DC, please visit https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/donate

Disclosure:  CCNS serves as the Consortium’s fiscal agent and Joni Arends, CCNS Executive Director, serves on the Steering Committee.

 

UN Adopts Treaty for a World Without Nuclear Weapons

Our world is different today as a result of a historic vote on Friday, July 7th at the United Nations when 122 State Parties, or countries, voted yes to adopt the 10-page Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  It comprehensively prohibits nuclear weapons, leading towards their eventual elimination.  It stigmatizes nuclear weapons in a fashion similar to the international treaties that prohibit chemical weapons, biological weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions.  http://www.undocs.org/en/a/conf.229/2017/L.3/Rev.1

The Treaty is based on international humanitarian law.  It prohibits State Parties from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons.  It also prohibits State Parties from assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone to engage in any of those activities.  Further, States must not allow nuclear weapons to be stationed or deployed within their borders.  For more information, please visit the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons at http://www.icanw.org/ and Reaching Critical Will, a project of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), at http://reachingcriticalwill.org/

Non-governmental organizations and individuals around the world have been working since the summer of 1945 to ban nuclear weapons when the United States first tested an atomic plutonium bomb at the Trinity Site in New Mexico, and used atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.  The entire nuclear cycle, from uranium mining and milling; to research, development and testing; to the mountains of pollution and waste created with no place to go, results in catastrophic consequences.

In April, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement met in Nagasaki to reaffirm their long opposition to nuclear weapons and work for their elimination.  They wrote, “Achieving a world without nuclear weapons is an obligation to future generations and imperative to preserve our common humanity.  Weapons that risk catastrophic humanitarian consequences cannot possibly be viewed as providing peoples’ security.  Protecting humanity requires courage, commitment and concerted action:  it is time to put humanity first by prohibiting and completely eliminating nuclear weapons.”  https://www.icrc.org/en/document/never-again-nagasaki-must-be-last-atomic-bombing

Their appeal came true despite the 69 State Parties, including the United States, who did not participate in the negotiations or the vote.  In the end, The Netherlands, a NATO member, voted no and Singapore abstained.

On September 20, 2017, the State Parties, including the United States, will have their first opportunity to sign the Treaty during the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York City.  http://thebulletin.org/nuclear-ban-treaty-missed-us-opportunity-can-be-redeemed-september10939  The Treaty is not yet in force.  It will become international law ninety days after fifty State Parties sign and ratify it.

Now that the Treaty has been adopted, CCNS believes it is time for New Mexicans to discuss a collective future that is not dependent upon the nuclear weapons industry.  How do we use the Treaty to create a sustainable, renewable, contamination-free future that supports life, well-being and community? Send us your comments and join the discussion on Facebook.

 

Friday, July 7th Deadline for Comments to DNFSB about LANL Plutonium Operations

Public comments about the safety of the Plutonium Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) are due to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board on Friday, July 7th.  CCNS prepared sample public comments you can use to craft your comments.  Word Doc: SampleDNFSBpubliccomments07072017 PDF: SampleDNFSBpubliccomments07072017 Please submit them to hearing@dnfsb.gov.

The Board held a public hearing in Santa Fe on June 7th about reducing the risk of current and future plutonium inventories at LANL’s Plutonium Facility.  It is the only place in the United States where plutonium triggers, or pits, for nuclear warheads are manufactured.  It is located in wildfire and seismic zones, above regional surface and ground water drinking water supplies.  Operations began in 1978, but have been down for almost three years due to radiation criticality issues.  Nevertheless, the President proposed a $180 million budget increase to ramp up manufacturing.

The frequency of accidents and incidents at LANL is increasing.  In April, a fire involving plutonium occurred in the Plutonium Facility.  A worker was burned.  In May, hazardous waste was shipped to Colorado for treatment with an inaccurate description of its acidic characteristics.  And last month, plutonium was shipped by commercial air cargo in improper containers, which are not designed to withstand pressure changes, to two Department of Energy (DOE) sites, one in South Carolina and the other, in California.  Such shipments must be shipped by ground transport.  The potential harm could have been much greater than what occurred.  Nevertheless, these events are not “normal,” and public should not become comfortable with them.

These events and others are documented in the excellent five-part “Nuclear Negligence” series by The Center for Public Integrity.  https://apps.publicintegrity.org/nuclear-negligence/  The series documents a “litany of mishaps” that have harmed workers, while the contractors who manage and operate the DOE nuclear weapons facilities annually reap millions of dollars in performance bonuses.  Journalists Patrick Malone and R. Jeffrey Smith describe the cycle of abuse that has been created by the lack of proper DOE oversight of the contractors that manage the 10 sites across the country.  Bonuses are awarded based on contractor performance, which in many cases places worker health and safety at risk in order to accelerate work in order to gain the bonus.  And if whistleblowers come forward to complain, DOE will reimburse the contractors for trying to silence the brave workers.  The cycle perpetuates itself to the detriment of downwind and downstream communities of these facilities and the American taxpayer who is paying once, twice and sometimes three times for the mishaps of DOE and its contractors.

To learn more, please check out the five-part “Nuclear Negligence” series at The Center for Public Integrity website:

Part One:  A near-disaster at a federal nuclear weapons laboratory takes a hidden toll on America’s arsenal – Repeated safety lapses hobble Los Alamos National Laboratory’s work on the cores of U.S. nuclear warheads.  https://apps.publicintegrity.org/nuclear-negligence/near-disaster/

Part Two:  Safety problems at a Los Alamos laboratory delay U.S. nuclear warhead testing and production – A facility that handles the cores of U.S. nuclear weapons has been mostly closed since 2013 over its inability to control worker safety risks.  https://apps.publicintegrity.org/nuclear-negligence/delayed-warheads/

Part Three:  Light penalties and lax oversight encourage weak safety culture at nuclear weapons labs – Explosions, fires, and radioactive exposures are among the workplace hazards that fail to make a serious dent in private contractor profits.  https://apps.publicintegrity.org/nuclear-negligence/light-penalties/

Part Four:  More than 30 nuclear experts inhale uranium after radiation alarms at a weapons site are switched off – Most were not told about it until months later, and other mishaps at the Nevada nuclear test site followed. https://apps.publicintegrity.org/nuclear-negligence/inhaled-uranium/

Part Five:  Repeated radiation warnings go unheeded at sensitive Idaho nuclear plant – The inhalation of plutonium by 16 workers is preceded and followed by other contamination incidents but the private contractor in charge suffers only a light penalty.  https://apps.publicintegrity.org/nuclear-negligence/repeated-warnings/ 

To view the testimony of the DOE and LANL officials at the Board’s public hearing, please visit https://www.dnfsb.gov/public-hearings-meetings/record-open-understanding-safety-posture-plutonium-facility-los-alamos   A key document to review is the Board’s September 2015 Technical Report,  entitled, “Opportunities for Risk Reduction at the Los Alamos National Laboratory Plutonium Facility Through the Minimization of Material-at-Risk,” DNFSB/TECH-39.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/meeting/Opportunities%20for%20Risk%20Reduction%20at%20the%20Los%20Alamos%20National%20Laboratory%20Plutonium%20Facility%20through%20the%20%20Minimization%20of%20Material-at-Risk_0.pdf

 

Saturday, July 15th Commemorations of 1945 Trinity Atomic Bomb Test and 1979 Church Rock Uranium Tailings Spill

On Saturday, July 15th the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium and the Red Water Pond Road Community Association will share a moment of silence, offer healing prayers, and provide community education about the first atomic bomb test at the Trinity Test Site in 1945 and the largest liquid uranium tailings spill in U.S. history that flowed into the Rio Puerco in 1979.  Both tragedies occurred on July 16th.  Everyone is invited to participate.

The commemorations are part of the first Cross-Border Anti-Nuclear Action, a project of the Intermountain West Uranium Summit.  Member groups are holding events across the U.S. and Canada to raise awareness that the entire nuclear industry is one deadly chain involving the extraction and milling of uranium, transportation on public routes, operation of nuclear power plants and weapons manufacture, waste disposal, all of which releases lethal radiation to air, land and water.  The Summit states that the nuclear industry “is fraught with accidents, illness and threats to life on earth.  It must stop before it kills more humans and other living things.”  https://swuraniumimpacts.org/first-cross-border-anti-nuclear-action-july-15-16/  See also Center for Public Integrity’s recent Nuclear Negligence five-part series at https://apps.publicintegrity.org/nuclear-negligence/ 

In the early morning of July 16, 1945, the U.S. detonated the first atomic bomb atop a 100-foot metal structure in the south central New Mexico.  In the massive explosion, the radiation and toxic materials rose an estimated 70,000 feet and began to fall back to earth in what many thought was snow.  Exposures were at least 10,000 times higher than what is considered safe today.

To memorialize those who have died and to honor those who are living with or who have survived cancer, the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, in cooperation with the Village of Tularosa, will host the Eighth Annual Candlelight Vigil on Saturday, July 15th from 8 to 10 pm at the Tularosa Little League Field, west of the Tularosa High School.

For more information, please contact Tina Cordova at 505 897-6787 and visit https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/

On July 16th, 1979, an earthen uranium tailings dam at the United Nuclear Corporation Church Rock Uranium Mill failed and released 1,000 tons of solid radioactive uranium mill waste and more than 90 million gallons of acidic and radioactive liquids into the Rio Puerco.  It contributed to the long-term contamination already present in the watershed from the release of untreated or poorly treated uranium mine water.

On Saturday, July 15th, the Red Water Pond Road Community Association will host the 38th Annual Commemoration of the North East Church Rock Uranium Tailings Spill from 7 am to 3 pm, 12 miles north of Red Rock State Park on State Highway 566.  https://swuraniumimpacts.org/press-release-july-15-2017-uranium-tailings-spill-commemoration/

For more information, please contact Edith Hood at 505-905-8051 and visit https://swuraniumimpacts.org/

 

Judge Rules Against WCS Merger with EnergySolutions

On Wednesday, federal District Judge Sue L. Robinson entered her sealed opinion in favor of the U.S. Department of Justice and prohibited Waste Control Specialists (WCS) and EnergySolutions from moving forward with the proposed $367 million merger of the two-nuclear waste storage and disposal companies.  The judge’s decision was based on anti-trust law.

In a written statement, Andrew Finch, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, said, “Substantial evidence showed that head-to-head competition between EnergySolutions and Waste Control Specialists led to better disposal services at lower prices.”  He continued, “Today’s decision protects competition in an industry that is incredibly difficult to enter. While EnergySolutions’ preference was to buy its main rival rather than continue to compete to win business, today’s decision ensures that customers will benefit from the competitive process.”

In anticipation of the antitrust trial and the growing expenses involved in expanding WCS’s business to include the storage of plutonium fuel from U.S. nuclear power plants, in April, WCS asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to temporarily suspend review of its application.  WCS applied for a 40-year license to build and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for 44,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste.  WCS planned to build the de facto parking lot dump on its 14,900 acres located on the New Mexico-Texas border, five miles east of Eunice, New Mexico.  http://nuclearactive.org/wcs-asks-nrc-to-pause-license-application-review-for-high-level-irradiated-waste-storage/

In response to Judge Robinson’s ruling and citing WCS’s financial woes, Karen Hadden, of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition, also known as the SEED Coalition, stated, “WCS’ high-level radioactive waste dump could be halted by the Department of Justice decision since the company has said they don’t have enough money to complete the application.  However, WCS is likely to seek a bailout from their lapdog, Energy Secretary “Radioactive Rick” Perry.  Taxpayers could be left footing the bill.”

People along the transportation routes are concerned about shipment of high-level waste from the eastern U.S. to west Texas through Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio.  The consequences of an accident or attack could be catastrophic.  For these reasons and others, Bexar and Dallas County Commissioners approved resolutions opposing transportation of nuclear waste through their communities.  http://nuclearactive.org/new-mexico-and-texas-targeted-for-consolidated-storage-of-all-the-plutonium-fuel-from-nuclear-power-plants/

Hadden commented about the safety of the WCS site.  She described the WCS site as “not a safe place to store deadly high-level radioactive waste. Texans and those along transport routes shouldn’t have to suffer the health, safety, security, financial and environmental risks that transport and storage of the nation’s most dangerous radioactive waste would bring.”  She continued, “People in Texas and New Mexico do not want our land to become the nation’s radioactive waste dumping ground.”

In the meantime, another application is moving forward in the NRC licensing process.  In May, Holtec, a privately held limited liability corporation, and the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance submitted its consolidated interim storage application for the storage and disposal of 120,000 metric tons of plutonium fuel from all of the commercial power plants in the U.S.  http://nuclearactive.org/new-mexico-and-texas-targeted-for-consolidated-storage-of-all-the-plutonium-fuel-from-nuclear-power-plants/

For more information about the SEED Coalition and their work to oppose WCS and its plans to expand, please see www.NoNuclearWasteAqui.org and www.NukeFreeTexas.org   The SEED Coalition works with national organizations and allies in Texas and New Mexico to fight radioactive waste dumping in the Texas-New Mexico Region.

 

Ban Treaty Must Strengthen Victim Assistance and Environmental Remediation Provisions

Recognizing the enduring harms to those exposed to nuclear weapon testing and use and the consequent long-term environmental damage and destruction, many are urging that those provisions be strengthened in the draft Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty.  New papers by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom http://wilpf.org/, Reaching Critical Will http://reachingcriticalwill.org/, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons http://www.icanw.org/; and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School and Article 36 http://www.article36.org/nuclear-weapons/va-er-harvard-papers/ document the harm and urge the more than 130 countries, or states parties, negotiating the treaty to broaden the assistance to those exposed to radiation and to reduce the harm from contaminated areas by providing guidelines for environmental remediation.  The second session of United Nations treaty negotiations began on Thursday, June 15th and is expected to conclude on Friday, July 7th in New York City.

The suggestions are based on provisions found in existing weapon ban treaties, including the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  Further, the 1996 International Court of Justice advisory opinion concluded the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is generally contrary to international law.

While the treaty will not eliminate nuclear weapons, it will “normalize” a nuclear weapon free world.  As stated by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the treaty will  “stigmatize these remaining weapons of mass destruction, codify their illegality and illegitimacy into international law, and help set standards and rules to facilitate their elimination.”  http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Publications/bnw-prohibitions.pdf

Unfortunately, the draft treaty does not specifically mention the harm done to New Mexicans and the beautiful Land of Enchantment.  Both have been damaged by the research and development of the first atomic bomb at Los Alamos National Laboratory; the test of that nuclear weapon at the Trinity Site on July 16, 1945; the mining and milling of uranium; the pollution emitted from the national laboratories at Los Alamos and Sandia; the transportation of nuclear and hazardous materials throughout the state; and the disposal of nuclear bomb waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.  Bringing the treaty into force would put pressure on the U.S. to provide assistance to those harmed by these activities and prioritize cleanup of contaminated water and land.

Joni Arends, of CCNS, said, “The victim assistance provisions in the draft Ban Treaty must be based on international human rights law.  Detailed language must be provided to address the victims’ needs, especially their long-term medical and mental health, and outline the responsibilities of the affected states parties, including the U.S.  Environmental remediation can mitigate the continuing harm from exposure to radiation and toxic chemicals.  Clarifying the states parties’ obligations with cleanup guidelines would strengthen the treaty.”

For more information and to receive the Nuclear Ban Daily, “ a source for news and analysis from the UN conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination. It is produced by the Reaching Critical Will programme of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF),” go to http://mailchi.mp/e5f564940efa/reaching-critical-will-e-news-april-1090737?e=35769975f7 and http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/disarmament-fora/nuclear-weapon-ban/reports

 

UN Treaty Negotiations to Ban Nuclear Weapons Begins Again on June 15th

Following the first session of negotiations for a United Nations treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, the first draft of the treaty was released in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 22nd.  Elayne Whyte Gómez, the Costa Rican ambassador presiding over the negotiations, presented the text to diplomats and members of civil society.  Negotiations resume at UN headquarters in New York City on Thursday, June 15th and continue until Friday, July 7th.   https://www.un.org/disarmament/ptnw/index.html, http://www.icanw.org/campaign-news/draft-un-nuclear-weapon-ban-released/    A Women’s March and Rally to Ban the Bomb will take place there on Saturday, June 17th at noon.  Solidarity events are planned around the world.  https://www.womenbanthebomb.org/

Over 132 countries, or States Parties, participated in the first negotiation session in March.  The United States, and countries hosting its nuclear weapons, boycotted the negotiations.  It is unknown if these countries will participate in the second session.

The draft treaty provides a solid basis for a strong, categorical prohibition of nuclear weapons.  The draft begins with the following language,

“The States Parties to this Convention,

Deeply concerned about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons and the consequent need to make every effort to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again under any circumstances,

Cognizant that the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons transcend national borders, pose grave implications for human survival, the environment, socioeconomic development, the global economy, food security and for the health of future generations, and of the disproportionate impact of ionizing radiation on maternal health and on girls.”

The draft treaty reaffirms the obligations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone treaties that strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime.  It prohibits the development, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession or stockpiling of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.  Thirty days after the treaty enters into force, it requires States Parties to submit a declaration to the UN Secretary-General about their manufacture, possession or acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Assistance under international humanitarian and human rights law would be available to those affected by the use or testing of nuclear weapons.  Services include medical and psychological care and support, as well as social and economic support.  Assistance would be available for environmental remediation of contaminated areas. http://www.article36.org/nuclear-weapons/va-er-harvard-papers/

Beatrice Fihn, a leader in these efforts and the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said, “We are particularly happy that the text is rooted in humanitarian principles and builds on existing prohibitions of unacceptable weapons, such as the conventions banning biological and chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions.”  http://www.icanw.org/

After 40 States Parties ratify, accept, approve or accede to the treaty, it would enter into force.

 

DNFSB 6/7/17 Hearing Will Be Livestreamed at dnfsb.gov

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) public hearing in Santa Fe will be live streamed and recorded. Both will be available at www.dnfsb.gov.
The record will be held open for 30 days so public comments can be submitted after the hearing.
For more information about the hearing about current and future plutonium operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), please see Update below.

 

 

DNFSB Public Hearing about LANL Plutonium Operations on Wednesday, June 7th in Santa Fe

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board will hold a public hearing about reducing the risk of current and future plutonium inventories at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Plutonium Facility on Wednesday, June 7th at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, beginning at 5 pm.  A public comment period begins at 8:30 pm.  To pre-register to speak during the public comment period, please email your request to hearing@dnfsb.gov or contact the Office of the General Counsel at (202) 694–7062 or (800) 788-4016.  Individuals may also submit written comments both prior to and at the hearing.

The Plutonium Facility is the only place in the United States where plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads are manufactured.  Operations have been down for almost three years due to criticality issues, but are expected to ramp up again.  http://www.lanl.gov/about/operational-excellence/facilities/ta-55-plutonium-processing-facilities.php

Operations began at the Plutonium Facility in 1978.  It is located in wildfire and seismic zones, above surface and ground water drinking water supplies.   For decades, the independent federal Board raised issues about amount of plutonium that could be released into the environment by an earthquake and resulting fire.  Because of the Board’s attention and the seismic analyses by Robert H. Gilkeson, an independent registered geologist, limits on the amount of weapons grade plutonium that could be located on the first floor of the facility were reduced from 5 metric tons in 2008 to 1.8 metric tones in 2012.  See Gilkeson Seismic Documents at http://nuclearactive.org/gilkeson/, specifically the August 20, 2013 report to the Board.

Nevertheless, further efforts to reduce the amount of plutonium have not been a priority.  Work has been stifled by the lack of funding and decades’ long timelines to complete the work.  A 2015 Board report documents plutonium that could be stored in existing robust vaults is found in uncertified containers on the floor, of which 20 percent has been there for five or more years.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/meeting/TECH-39.pdf

The hearing is timely because last week the Trump Administration proposed a $210 million increase to expand plutonium trigger manufacturing at LANL in fiscal year 2018, which begins October 1, 2017.

Further, on Wednesday, April 19th a fire broke out in the Plutonium Facility when three workers placed the contents of unlabeled waste containers into a plastic bag.  The mixture contained pyrophoric materials that spontaneously ignited when exposed to air.  A fire ensued.  One worker received second-degree burns to both hands after placing the bag into a metal container located on a metal cart.  He pushed the cart toward the front of the room, away from the glove boxes where plutonium is handled, and snuffed out the fire with a handheld fire extinguisher.  Board April 21, 2017 Weekly Report about “Plutonium Facility – Fire Event,” at   https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/document/11556/Los%20Alamos%20Week%20Ending%20April%2021%2C%202017.pdf and May 25, 2017 LANL letter to New Mexico Environment Department regarding “Transmittal of Additional Information Regarding Emergency Treatment at TA-55” at http://permalink.lanl.gov/object/tr?what=info:lanl-repo/eprr/ESHID-602410

The Board’s goal is to gather information from experts and the public about the risks of current plutonium inventory levels, and actions taken to reduce current and long-term operational risks.

For more information, please see https://www.dnfsb.gov/public-hearings-meetings/understanding-safety-posture-plutonium-facility-los-alamos-national  See “Documentation” that is relevant to the hearing, including the September 2015 DNFSB Technical Report, “Opportunities for Risk Reduction at the Los Alamos National Laboratory Plutonium Facility Through the Minimization of Material-at-Risk,” DNFSB/TECH-39.