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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, Reaching Critical Will, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons; and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School and Article 36 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.”

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 and


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.,    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.

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.

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.”

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

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) public hearing in Santa Fe will be live streamed and recorded. Both will be available at
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 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.

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, 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.

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 and May 25, 2017 LANL letter to New Mexico Environment Department regarding “Transmittal of Additional Information Regarding Emergency Treatment at TA-55” at

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  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.


Proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Released During ANA DC Days

For the first time in 29 years, the proposed budget for the next fiscal year was released during the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s DC Days.  With the proposed budget in hand, ANA members reviewed the budgets for Department of Energy (DOE), the semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration, and applicable regulatory agencies.  With a focus on the nuclear weapons, waste and cleanup budgets, the national grassroots network was in Washington, DC educating and lobbying Congress, federal agencies and the administration about their concerns.

ANA is a network of organizations and leaders seeking a nuclear-free future that safeguards communities and environment.  Over 75 activists from around the country participated in 106 meetings over the three days of DC Days.

For DOE sites in New Mexico, the Trump administration proposed an 11 percent increase in the nuclear weapons budget, including a $210 million increase to expand plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Further, DOE canceled the proposed Deep Borehole Field Test project for the Nara Visa area of Quay County and the Otero Mesa in Otero County.  Residents in both communities actively opposed the drilling of a three-mile deep borehole into the crystalline formation for DOE scientists to determine if it would be suitable for the disposal of nuclear waste.

Nevertheless, the proposed budget includes $120 million for the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada to dispose of high-level commercial nuclear waste.  It was mothballed by the Obama administration, with support from the former U.S. Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada.

Each year, ANA honors elected leaders and activists during an Awards Reception.  This year, Tina Cordova, of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, was honored for her work to bring attention to the negative health effects experienced by the people living adjacent to the Trinity test site subsequent to their overexposure to high levels of ionizing radiation that occurred on July 16, 1945.  The U.S. test was a first use of a plutonium atomic weapon on a civilian population.  A similar atomic weapon was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9th, 1945.

Cordova said, “It was an honor to have been nominated for this most amazing award.  When I accepted the award, I did so on behalf of the thousands of Downwinders of New Mexico who were innocently enlisted into service as the first victims of an atomic blast.”

Cordova and Joni Arends, of CCNS, lobbied Congress to expand the federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to include the Trinity Downwinders in the $2 billion program that provides compensation and health care to those overexposed to radiation.  See Senate Bill 197 at and the companion House Bill 2049 at

Describing her first experience of ANA’s DC Days as “enlightening,” Cordova said, “I highly recommend this event to anyone who is interested in knowing more about and advocating for a reduction in the U.S. nuclear arsenal and cleanup of sites where it is so badly needed.”


Latest SEC Filing – WCS Could Close

In its first quarter filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the parent company of Waste Control Specialists, Inc., Valhi, Inc., reported that without a win in the U.S. Department of Justice antitrust litigation, and a change in federal law allowing the Department of Energy to retain title to its high-level plutonium fuel and allow for storage and disposal on their privately held facility, the Waste Control Specialists’ dump may have to close.  The statement did not disclose what would happen to the existing radioactive and hazardous waste that is stored or disposed on the 14,900 acre-site leased from Andrews, Texas, located on the Texas – New Mexico border.

WCS has not made a profit for many quarters, except the first quarter in 2017 due to non-recurring income.  Hopes are high for a $367 million merger with EnergySolutions, a competitor of WCS.  The merger would include $270 million in cash, plus assumption of all financial assurance obligations and third-party indebtedness.  Such indebtedness includes the financing capital lease with Andrews County, Texas, with a $63.6 million carrying amount, at an effective interest rate of seven percent, with monthly payments through August 2035., p. 42.

In mid-November, the Department of Justice filed an antitrust suit against the sale.  The trial in the U.S. District Court for Delaware ended on May 5, 2017.  Senior Judge Sue Thompson is expected to rule before her retirement in June.

The federal Securities and Exchange Commission has requirements for corporations to report circumstances for possible failure.  Valhi reported a worst-case scenario that residents in the area, as well as elected local, state and federal officials should be aware of – that closure of the site is possible.  How to ensure a safe and secure closure was not discussed. 

On April 18th, WCS submitted a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requesting a hold be put on its 2016 application for a consolidated interim storage facility, commonly known as a de facto parking lot dump, for 40,000 Metric tons of plutonium fuel generated by commercial nuclear power plants in the U.S.  Citing concerns about the $3.3 million in expenses involved in the review, including the need to conduct more public outreach, WCS thought the NRC application review could resume later this summer, after a decision in the anti-trust case.

In the meantime, the Holtec – Eddy Lea Energy Alliance consolidated interim storage application for storage and disposal of 120,000 metric tons of plutonium fuel from all of the commercial power plants in the U.S is moving through the NRC process.  Holtec is also a privately held corporation.


Activists Sue to Block Plans to Bury 3.6 Million Pounds of Nuclear Waste Near California Beach

Environmental activists in California are fighting plans to store 3.6 million pounds of highly radioactive nuclear waste on a popular beach in San Diego County. In 2012, a radioactive leak at the San Onofre nuclear power plant forced an emergency shutdown. The plant was fully closed by June 2013. Now residents are fighting the permit issued by the California Coastal Commission to store the millions of pounds of nuclear waste in thin, stainless steel canisters, within 100 feet of the ocean. We speak to Ray Lutz, founder of Citizens’ Oversight, which has filed a lawsuit challenging the expansion of the nuclear waste storage facility.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re ending the show here in San Diego, where environmental activists are fighting plans to store 3.6 million pounds of highly radioactive nuclear waste on a popular beach in San Diego County, just about an hour north of here.

In 2012, a radioactive leak at the San Onofre nuclear power plant forced an emergency shutdown. The plant was fully closed in June of 2013. Now residents are fighting the permit issued by the California Coastal Commission to store the millions of pounds of nuclear waste in thin, stainless steel canisters within a hundred feet of the beach. The facility began the decommissioning.

We are joined now by Ray Lutz, founder of Citizens’ Oversight, which has filed a lawsuit challenging the expansion of the nuclear waste storage facility.

We just have a few minutes, Ray. Explain what’s happening.

RAY LUTZ: Well, this is a ridiculous move by this for-profit corporation to avoid public scrutiny—the 3.6 million pounds, only a hundred feet from the ocean, only inches above the salt water line at high tide. And, you know, now they have authority to leave this here forever, according to the Department of Energy, because there is no alternative, they say. Our lawsuit, though, we’re saying, you know, they didn’t investigate any alternatives, and there are other places, better places, to put this than right here, right next to the beach.

You know, this is just a government-regulators-plus-corporate-profiteers-equals-insanity sort of math equation that you get out of this—these for-profit corporations. You know, it all comes back down to the military-industrial complex is forcing these—you know, the mindset, sort of Trump mindset, of we want to be first in the nuclear world, as these plants are very uneconomic. They shouldn’t be used at all. Plus we’ve got all this waste that’s piling up at a hundred places around the county, which are virtually terrorist targets now.

So we need, as a community, to really look at and make sense of what these decisions are. And if you leave it to the for-profit corporations like Edison to decide these things that may be here for decades, if not centuries, based on their next quarterly report, you’re going to get really bad decision-making. That’s what it comes down to in this case.

You know, meanwhile, we have the $3.3 billion price tag they want the community to pay for this closed plant, due to Southern California Edison’s own mistakes in their design process for the steam generators. Shutdown in 2012, a radioactive leak, and now we know that it’s because they were trying to uprate this plant to try to get more out of it through the design, pushing the design more than it should have been with these new steam generators. And we’re glad that it shut down. You know, this is a great thing to have this plant, this waste-generating plant, shut down. But now they want the customers to pay for the plant for 10 years, as if it’s still operating, and for them to even make a profit on it after their failure. So that’s also in a mediation mode.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ray Lutz, we have 10 seconds. What is the larger message you feel is important to send regarding the decommissioning of nuclear plants around the country, dealing with their nuclear waste? Ten seconds.

RAY LUTZ: This is the biggest human blunder of all time. These nuclear plants are uneconomic. They should be all shut down. We’ve got to really push hard to get this industry to stop. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Ray Lutz, I want to thank you for being with us, founder of Citizens’ Oversight.

As we continue our tour around the country, tonight I’ll be in Los Angeles at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church at 3300 Wilshire Boulevard speaking, then Thursday at noon in Los Angeles at Skylight Books. And at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday night, I’ll be in Santa Barbara at La Casa de la Raza; Friday in Santa Fe, New Mexico; and on Saturday in Arizona and Houston.


CCNS Heads to Washington to Press Congress, Trump Administration for Cleanup, Dismantlement, and “Accountability Audit” of DOE and its Contractors

Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety will visit Washington, DC from May 21st to 24th to encourage policymakers to “shift attention from wining a nuclear arms race to winning for the human race” by reassessing the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons projects, including increasing the number of plutonium triggers manufactured at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  CCNS will meet with leading members of Congress, congressional staffers on key committees, and top administration officials with responsibility for U. S. nuclear policies.  The goal is to promote health and wellness of communities impacted by over 70 years of detrimental nuclear weapons programs and policies, as recently demonstrated by the delay in cleaning up a railroad tunnel storing rail cars packed with radioactive and hazardous waste at the Hanford site, which collapsed.,, and  A shift must take place to prioritize and fund comprehensive environmental cleanup, and restoration of communities harmed by the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

The New Mexico delegation includes Joni Arends of CCNS, Tina Cordova of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, Don Hancock of Southwest Research and Information Center, and Jay Coghlan and Scott Kovac of Nuclear Watch New Mexico  They will collaborate with colleagues and youth from a dozen other states participating in the 29th annual Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) “DC Days.”  The advocates will meet with Senators and Representatives from New Mexico, leaders of congressional committees that oversee nuclear issues, and key federal agency staffers.  They will share copies of ANA’s new report, “Accountability Audit,” a 20-page plan and recommendations for reducing risks by cleaning up the mess and saving billions of dollars across the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.  It is available at

Joni Arends, of CCNS, said, “Effective accountability and public oversight – rarely exhibited by DOE – can result in cleanup of the radioactive and toxic mess.  At the same time, these initiatives will increase protections for workers and downwind and downstream communities.  Ultimately, cleanup would enhance U.S. national security far more than building new bomb plants or modernizing nuclear weapons.”

ANA is a network of three-dozen local, regional and national organizations, which represent concerns of communities downwind and downstream of U.S. nuclear weapons sites.  As part of DC Days 2017, ANA will sponsor an Awards Reception honoring leaders of the movement for accountable nuclear policies and protection of their communities on Tuesday evening, May 23rd.  CCNS nominated Cordova for her work on behalf of the Trinity Downwinders, and will present the award to her during the reception in Room 562 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building from 5:30pm to 7:30pm.


Otero County Fights Nuclear Borehole Project

Press Release
6 A.M. MT, May 8, 2017

(Weed, NM, May 8, 2017) On Friday, May 12, 2017, starting at 8:45 am protesters will picket the Otero County building located at 1101 New York Avenue in Alamogordo, NM. The Otero County Commissioners will be in session discussing the Deep Borehole project. Opposition to the project is wide spread and bound to clash with the Department of Energy contractor.

The $35 million dollar, tax payer funded, project calls for a 3.1 mile deep hole with perhaps more holes to follow. The contract requires that DOE contractor, TerranearPMC, obtain public

Opponents to the project point to the long history of broken promises in Otero County by various federal agencies. Many do not trust DOE and believe that the “test” will become a nuclear waste disposal site.

The Deep Borehole(s) will be drilled in the controversial Otero Mesa and will penetrate the largest fresh water aquifer in New Mexico. Opponents point to DOE’s poor public safety performance (recent WIPP accident and Los Alamos pollution mismanagement are often mentioned). They argue that the possible damage to this water resource in New Mexico and Texas is not worth any claimed project benefits to nuclear waste disposal.

For more information, visit, email: call: Walt Coffman: 575-687-2634


Unanimous Tucumcari City Commission Passes Resolution Opposing DOE’s Deep Borehole Test

Citing overwhelming public opposition, risks to area resources, and distrust of the Department of Energy (DOE) contractors, on April 25th, 2017, the Tucumcari City Commission unanimously passed a resolution opposing DOE’s proposed Deep Borehole Field Test in Quay County.  Neighboring government bodies also passed resolutions opposing the proposal, including the Quay County Commission, Harding County Commission, and the Union County Commission.

DOE proposed drilling a borehole three miles deep in order to study the crystalline formation at a privately-held site near Nara Visa.  Although the borehole is part of a geologic study, people are very concerned that it could be a precursor for siting a nuclear waste dump there.

The idea grew out of President Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, which met and held public meetings across the country from March 2010 and January 2012.  Its mission was to “conduct a comprehensive review of policies for managing the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle and recommend a new strategy.”  One of its goals was for communities to volunteer or “consent” as a place for America’s growing nuclear waste disposal needs.

Currently, DOE is exploring four sites – one in South Dakota, one in Texas, and two in New Mexico.  The other New Mexico site is located on the Otero Mesa in rural southeastern Otero County.  DOE hired four contractors to gain consent.  The contractors are required to establish community support during Phase I of the project, which ends May 31st.  ENERCON is the contractor in Quay County.  TerranearPMC is the contractor in Otero County.

In Otero County, the Public Land Use Advisory Committee is recommending the Otero County Commission oppose the project during its regular meeting on May 12th   To support the people opposing the project and sign their petition, please go to

Taking matters into their own hands, the Say NO to the Borehole! group in Quay County held five public meetings in New Mexico and Texas.  ENERCON promised to attend at least two of the group’s public meetings, but only attended the first meeting, claiming hurt feelings over attendees calling them liars.  ENERCON representatives refused to attend any further public meetings held in Quay County.

ENERCON held a meeting last week in Clovis, more than 100 miles from the proposed Nara Visa test site.  At the close of the meeting, the facilitator took an audience poll which revealed approximately three were in favor of the borehole, eight “learned something new,” and the remaining fifty opposed the project.

After the Clovis meeting, Ed Hughs, a Nara Visa native, said, “Even 100 miles away, in a different county, and in a meeting controlled by ENERCON, they still can’t get support.”