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Compromise Bill Could Make Nuclear Warhead Cost Study ‘Less Painful’

December 23, 2013
Global Security Newswire - Douglas P. Guarino

A legislative compromise should make it "less painful" for Washington to study the cost of modernizing its nuclear arsenal, one congressional source says.

At issue is an Energy Department plan to create interoperable nuclear warheads capable of multiple tasks. The first such weapon that Energy contractors would develop would be called the IW-1, envisioned as having the ability to replace both the Air Force W-78 warhead -- currently fitted on ground-based ballistic missiles -- and the Navy W-88 warhead, used on submarine-based missiles.

In Congress, the plan has prompted concerns from both sides of the aisle, with lawmakers suggesting that the Obama administration should first compare its cost to that of an alternative plan under which it would simply refurbish the existing two warheads.

The Navy has also raised objections to the plan based on cost and timing concerns. Meantime, congressional sources have suggested that the administration might put off the project for approximately five years due to increasing budget constraints.

In light of these issues, both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees proposed earlier this year to require a cost comparison as part of the defense authorization bill for fiscal 2014. The White House has protested both proposals, claiming the studies themselves would cause new problems.

A "Statement of Administration Policy" that the White House released in November said it "strongly objects" to the study initially proposed by the original Senate bill, arguing it would "significantly delay completion" of an ongoing modernization-feasibility assessment and increase its costs.

Lawmakers nonetheless included a cost-comparison requirement in compromise legislation brokered between House Republicans and Senate Democrats. However, the language in the conference bill is different and requires a less rigorous cost analysis than either House Republicans or Senate Democrats initially proposed, the congressional source said.

The Capitol Hill aide lacked permission to speak publicly about the matter and requested anonymity for this article.

The intent of the new language "was to make it less painful" for the administration to conduct the studies, while at the same time demanding analyses detailed enough to show which option is the most cost effective, according to the source.

Under the House-Senate conference report, the Nuclear Weapons Council -- a joint panel of the Energy and Defense departments -- must perform a "comparative analysis" that looks at the cost of refurbishing both the W-78 and W-88 warheads separately, versus replacing them both with the IW-1.

The original Senate version of the legislation would have required a more detailed comparison by the Defense Department's director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation. The original House measure would have required an even more rigorous analysis of feasibility, design definition and cost estimation to be conducted by the Energy and Defense Department's through the Nuclear Weapons Council.

"The House provision would have given 100 percent, the [Senate] provision would have given 80 percent," the congressional source said. "This gives 70 percent -- which is enough. If you're in this business you can usually get a pretty quick read early on -- at 60 or 70 percent -- which way things are going."

The legislative compromise has prompted a mixed reaction from arms control advocates.

Marylia Kelley, executive director of the Livermore, Calif.-based watchdog group Tri-Valley CAREs, said she was disappointed that language expressly involving the Defense Department's director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, nicknamed the “CAPE,” did not make it into the final bill.

However, Kelley said she was "cautiously optimistic" that the analysis required by the compromise bill would provide enough information to show which modernization plan is the most cost effective.

"The potentially fatal loophole I see in the final language is not in whether the Nuclear Weapons Council conducts the analysis versus the CAPE, it is rather the key question of what features are to be considered as part of the refurbishment of the W-78 and W-88," Kelley said.

Kelley referred to a December 2012 memo by the Nuclear Weapons Council suggesting that "surety enhancements" would be included in a study on how much it would cost to refurbish the W-88 warhead, rather than replacing it with the IW-1.

"The danger is that the analysis will incorporate a false choice between a redesigned or substantially new-design individual warheads and the interoperable warhead, with neither being a more simple and straightforward refurbishment of the existing weapons in order to maintain their existing safety and reliability," according to Kelley.

Stephen Young, a senior analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the legislation showed "that Congress will rightly insist on fairly detailed cost estimates for more straightforward approaches to these programs.

"If this one isn't good enough, I'm sure they will push back again," Young said.

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30th Anniversary

December 19, 2013
The Independent - Beverly King

An important local nonprofit organization, Tri-Valley CAREs, is celebrating thirty years of service to Livermore this year. Their work specifically helps to protect and improve the environment and health of the community by monitoring the work of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In that time they have worked for the reduction of nuclear weapons, promoted environmental clean-up at the Lab and brought to public awareness important scientific and legislative information about what goes on at the Lab.

To honor these achievements Tri-Valley CAREs hosted a celebration on December 10th at the Livermore Public Library.

A new, short documentary film was introduced showing the groups' accomplishments. The meeting included music, food and drink, and speakers. The celebration not only showcased their work, but was an opportunity for people to meet the group and share thoughts and dreams in an informal and congenial way.

Uranium Citizen's Watch Tri-Valley CAREs

December 5, 2013
Blog Talk Radio - Scott Yundt

Discover Education Internet Radio with HUmanity Uniting on BlogTalkRadio

Scott Yundt, Staff Attorney for TriValley CAREs is our special guest this week. He will be informing us on recent news about plans to move Plutonium Bomb Cores to and from Los Alamos Lab in New Mexico to Livermore Lab in Northern California through the Navajo Nation along the I-40 corridor.

We will also learn much more about the policies and actions undertaken by TriValley CAREs to avert environmental callamidies and human exposure posed by the Nuclear (Uranium) chain industry.

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High Explosives

November 21, 2013
The Independent - Alison Forrest

The Department of Energy Inspector General received a tip from a Livermore Lab employee expressing concerns about inadequate safety procedures at the Lab. A report was recently published, which found that the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was, in-fact, not being safe and secure with their high explosives.

The High Explosives Application Facility had become lax with access to the building in order to accommodate construction in the area. Anyone with a high security badge, but no training with high explosives, could freely enter and exit the building.

There are few doors in this facility, so the high explosives were easily accessible. The system for tracking explosives was a white board and makers. Any removal of high explosives from the facility could go unnoticed.

People could walk away with taking high explosives used to detonate nuclear weapons and no one could possibly track it. This makes me feel uncomfortable and worried for this community. How could the lab be so negligent? It makes me wonder what other features at the Lab I should be worried about.

Cost Concerns Could Prompt New Look at Warhead Modernization Plan

Friday, October 25, 2013
Douglas P. Guarino:
Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration might reconsider a potentially costly plan to upgrade certain nuclear warheads because of increasing budget constraints and skepticism from lawmakers and some military officials, congressional aides and other observers say.

As part of its fiscal 2014 budget proposal, the Energy Department earlier this year introduced a 25-year plan which it said could ultimately reduce the overall number of warheads in the U.S. arsenal by creating interoperable warheads capable of multiple tasks. The first such warhead, to be called the "IW-1," would replace both the existing W78 warhead -- fitted on intercontinental-ballistic missiles launched from the ground -- and the W88 warhead, used on submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

The proposal prompted concerns from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Report language accompanying appropriations and authorization bills approved earlier this year in both the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-run Senate -- which are not yet signed into law -- encourages the administration to first study the cost of refurbishing the existing W78 and W88 warheads before committing to the development of an interoperable replacement for both.

The Navy also expressed reservations about the plan, even before the administration formally introduced it this year. In a September 2012 memo to the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Council -- an interagency organization of the Energy and Defense Departments -- the Navy said it did not support entering into the next phase of study related to developing a combined W78/W88 life extension program "at this time." It suggests "delaying this study effort until the mid 2020s."

The memo, obtained by the Livermore, Calif.-based watchdog group Tri-Valley CAREs and Nuclear Watch New Mexico, noted the Navy is not even scheduled to start planning for the W88 refurbishment until fiscal 2020, and therefore has not budgeted to spend funds related to such an effort before that time. It also raised concerns that the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration already is missing budgetary and scheduling targets for its existing weapons work. Such work includes refurbishment of the Navy's W76 warhead, which is already ongoing, and which the Navy considers a higher priority.

According to the Navy, "the uncertainty of the National Nuclear Security Administration's ability to execute its current programmed work … raises questions as to the feasibility of effectively accomplishing this new emergent work."

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said in a report to Congress last month that the Navy's reluctance to contribute funds for the interoperable warhead project, along with budget constraints that limit its ability to do so, could ultimately make it "poorly positioned to undertake the more-detailed analyses needed validate the interoperable warhead on Navy systems, resulting in further program delays and potentially costly modifications."

According to one congressional aide with knowledge of the issue, the administration might put off much of the work related to the interoperable warhead project for about five years.

"They'll do some studies, and they need to do some studies, to figure out if this whole thing makes sense, but actually guns blazing, 'Let's go do this thing,' I think may be pushed out," said the congressional staffer, who was not authorized to discuss the issue publically and asked not to be named.

The aide expected increasing budget constraints -- among them so-called sequestration funding cuts and limits caused by Congress approving only continuing budget resolutions rather than annual appropriations bills -- would be the main drivers causing the administration to potentially revisit the plan it issued only months ago.

"When you have one year when you're cut $35 billion and another year where you're being cut $55 billion, things become very crystal clear," the staffer said. "I think everyone's jaw dropped when they came out with that 25-year stockpile stewardship management plan where they show … that this IW-1 would be something like $14 billion over 10 years."

In contrast, refurbishment of the W76 warhead is costing "only about $3 or $4 billion," the aide said.

A second congressional staffer noted that the interoperable warheads are among several other projects included in the 25-year plan. Others include the controversial refurbishment of the B61 gravity bomb, the development of a new intercontinental-ballistic missile and a new bomber for the Air Force. Lawmakers are also looking into why the plan accelerates the development of a new cruise missile, according to the aid.

"There's a lot in the mix," the aide said, noting the proposal calls for several of these projects to occur simultaneously. This contrasts with the present time, when the only warhead refurbishment project in the production phase is the W76, which already is running into issues with cost overruns and scheduling.

"I think there's concern about whether or not they can deliver," the aide said. "Are they biting off more than they can chew?"

The administration is "still trying to pull together a lot of those answers," according to a third congressional aide. "I wouldn't be surprised if there was a push to reevaluate their ideas for the interoperable warhead."

Some watchdog groups, meanwhile, argue that developing the interoperable warheads is tantamount to the United States developing new nuclear weapons.

"Creating new weapon types -- even if they only use weapon components of existing designs -- would be viewed by many as violating the administration's pledge not to develop new nuclear weapons, and could generate concerns about weapon reliability," the Union of Concerned Scientists says in a report it released last week.

Activists, along with some lawmakers, have also raised cost and reliability concerns regarding the B61 gravity bomb life extension.

The Senate Appropriations Committee in June approved legislation that would cut the Obama administration's fiscal 2014 request for the project by $168 million. Accompanying report language said the committee is concerned the NNSA refurbishment plan "is not the lowest cost, lowest risk option," and that its cost estimate "has doubled in the past two years as work scope has increased."

The B61 issue is expected to be in the spotlight again on Tuesday, when the House Armed Services Committee is planning to hold a hearing on nuclear weapons modernization programs.

However, while revisiting the plan to replace the W78 and W88 warheads with an interoperable device is likely, it may be more difficult to prod the administration into stepping back from its B61 plans, the first congressional aide suggested.

"They're so far along in the B61 program that it's hard for them to divest themselves from that from a budgetary standpoint and as a result I think they're looking at programs that haven't necessarily started up and that they're still doing studies on," the aide said.

As far as the W88 warhead goes, a December 2012 memo by the Nuclear Weapons Council suggests that, in addition to looking at the possibility of a replacement interoperable with the W78, it will develop a life extension option "based on the current design." However, language in the memo stating that "surety enhancements will be considered objective requirements for this option," is causing concern among activists that the study will not truly consider a simple refurbishment of the existing weapon.

The surety enhancements "may lead to two designs of which neither is the narrowly-scoped refurbishment necessary for maintenance of the stockpile," said Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley CAREs. "That said, new budget realities are just beginning to impact NNSA planning, and I do expect that some internal pressure will come to bear."

Asked to comment, NNSA spokesman Josh McConaha said only that the agency works closely with its "partners at the Department of Defense to execute the president's priorities."

Defense Department officials could not be reached for comment.

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Public's input needed on lab site cleanup

October 15, 2013
Tri-Valley Times - Alison Forrest

Lawrence Livermore Lab's high explosives testing facility, Site 300, is located in the hills between Livermore and Tracy. This site has experimented with open-air blasts with high explosives and multiple toxic and radioactive materials used in nuclear weapons.

It is no wonder that Site 300 got added to the Superfund list of the most contaminated sites in the country. The groundwater, soil, and some springs there have become polluted with a mixture of solvents, metals, radionuclides and other hazardous substances.

The cleanup includes many of Site 300's open-air firing tables. At one of them, Building 812, soil samples revealed uranium contamination at a concentration of 22,700 picocuries per gram, which is huge.

More soil surveys are scheduled at Building 812 later this year. However, many cleanup activities have been postponed and the legally-mandated public hearing may be delayed until 2015. Public input is necessary sooner to ensure that the cleanup goals that Livermore Lab wants are acceptable to people who live nearby. The lab should hold a public workshop this year to get our input.

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Let's rethink our policies on nuke weapons

October 15, 2013
Tri-Valley Times - Stephanie Ericson

What you didn't know could have killed you.

The Cold War is long gone, yet today's world faces even greater risk of a nuclear weapons disaster. In fact, the brinkmanship of ideological enemies that are geographically separated may pale compared with the enmities of nuclear-armed neighbors such as India and Pakistan.

Moreover, historically the greatest risk came not from intentional policy, but from inadvertent detonation. Eric Schlosser's newly released "Command and Control" carefully catalogs hundreds of near-misses through accident, miscommunication, error, malfunction and fire.

Most were hidden from the American public. Who knew that a wrench falling on a Titan II missile in Arkansas nearly caused the destruction of that state in 1980? Or that three of four H-bomb safety switches failed when a B-52 exploded over North Carolina in 1962?

As Schlosser put it, "Every one of [thousands of missiles] is an accident waiting to happen, a potential act of mass murder."

We should revisit our nuclear weapons policies. If the likes of Henry Kissinger, George Shultz and Colin Powell are pushing to eliminate nuclear weapons, shouldn't the rest of us?

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KPFA Radio Interview on Livermore Lab Shutdown

October 14, 2013
KPFA/The Pacifica Evening News, Weekdays

At 8 minutes and 57 seconds, The Pacifica Evening News begins the segment of Lawrence Livermore closure because of Federal Government Shutdown. TVC comments start at 10 minutes and 50 seconds.

Click here to listen to the interview...

At the Weapons Labs/DOE Sites at Livermore - Recent NIF Experiments Leads to Milestones

October 11, 2013
Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility has set a new record for neutron yield in a recent experiment touted in internal emails as a “new milestone on the road to ignition.” During a Sept. 28 shot, NIF’s 192 lasers delivered 1.82 megajoules of energy and 395 trillion watts of power to a tiny target filled with cryogenic-layered deuterium-tritium, releasing 15 quadrillion neutrons or approximately 14,000 joules of neutron energy. That represented a neutron yield 75 percent higher than the facility’s previous record, and the output exceeded the energy delivered to the imploding capsule—surpassing the break-even mark for the first time, according to some calculations.

Of particular interest was the fact that half of the total yield was a result of self-heating, an essential ingredient in ignition. In self-heating, helium nuclei known as alphas that are a byproduct of fusion dump energy back into the burning deuterium-tritium core of the imploding capsule, which increases the rate of fusion. “This feedback process—more alphas result in more [deuterium-tritium] reactions, producing more alphas—is the mechanism that leads to ignition,” the lab said in internal emails describing the experiment. “This experiment has clearly demonstrated the beginning of this process.”

NIF failed to achieve ignition last year as planned, and the NNSA has directed the laboratory to rebalance shots on the massive laser in favor of shots designed to improve knowledge for the Stockpile Stewardship Program while opening up the facility to outside users as well. It also has taken a more measured approach to understanding the physics of ignition, which led to the current series of shots, known as “high foot” shots because of the design of the capsule. The lab said those shots, designed to test the limitations of the lab’s knowledge about ignition, have shown a steady increase in self-heating of the capsule as the energy of the implosion is increased, matching computer simulations and predictions.

‘A Pivotal Time for This Field’

While the lab has not publicly commented on the recent experiment, Ed Moses, the former NIF director who is being shifted to a two-year effort to explore ignition applications, hinted at the self-heating milestone in a statement last week. “This is a pivotal time for this field,” he said. “Experimental results obtained at NIF have given us confidence that our inertial confinement fusion program is making great progress. We have demonstrated self-heating of an ignition target. I am looking forward to working with others to bring to fruition the 50-year goal of fusion energy.”

NIF skeptics, while acknowledging that the experiment was a success because it mirrored predictions, have argued that the lab is still a long way away from achieving ignition. “They are still short of their original alpha heating milestone let alone a short step from ignition and gain,” said Marylia Kelley, the executive director of Tri-Valley CAREs, a Livermore-based watchdog group. “… The recent experiments appear to have been successful in meeting their limited goals. And that’s a good thing. But any suggestion that these recent experiments mean that ignition is just around the next corner is hyperbole, not fact.”

Ill former lab employees deserve help

October 10, 2013
Tri-Valley Times - Beverly King

Since 2000, more than 1,750 former Livermore Lab employees (and their survivors) have applied for compensation and benefits from a federal program because they believe that their illnesses are the result of on-the-job exposure to radiation and/or toxic chemicals. The federal program is the Energy Employee Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA).

Unfortunately, many lab claimants have difficulty getting legitimate claims approved. Tri-Valley CAREs has created a program called Sick Workers Support Group to help claimants work through the labyrinth of paperwork and bureaucracy involved.

There will be a meeting on Tuesday from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Livermore Library to help workers with their difficulties. Survivors who are eligible are also welcome. For further information contact Tri-Valley CAREs at 925-443-71[4]8. Please help get the word out to all who are affected. They deserve our help.

Click here to read the whole story...

Safety Inspections

October 10, 2013
The Independent - Jo Ann Frisch

An underreported consequence of the government shutdown is the suspension of routine safety inspections at the bio-warfare facility operated by the Livermore National Laboratory, which conducts research with anthrax, plague and other deadly bio-agents.

Because of the dangers to human health these pathogens pose, Centers for Disease Control officials are supposed to inspect the facility’s safety and security. Regular inspections are important to uncover deficiencies that might lead to a theft or accidental release of pathogens. The House GOP shut down the government because it didn’t want to fund the Affordable Care Act. So, as the few lash out against the many, truly hazardous outcomes - like halting inspections of bio-labs handling deadly biological agents - threaten us all.

What to do? We can call our representatives and insist they end this dangerous shutdown without trying to undo a law that already passed and the Supreme Court declared constitutional. We can also tell our representatives to act in the interest of all Americans and take a fresh look at what constitutes a “critical” government service.

Topsy-Turvy Priorities

October 10, 2013
The Independent - Douglas King

In spite of government shutdown, nuclear weapons funding is up for consideration. It is important for each of us to watch the budget.

The B61 Life Extension Program will cost $11 billion for just one bomb type. What could $11 billion do to solve community needs?

Earlier this year, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s budget appropriations committee cut 30% from the B61. That certainly is a start. Any more money spent on this bomb is a detriment to the budget. We also have to consider the horror of the nuclear bomb itself.

Crucial budget decisions will be made in the coming weeks Let Senator Feinstein know the necessity of cutting the B61 further. Non-funding is the best way to ensure that a new bomb is not manufactured.

It is amazing that Congress is willing to shut down the government over healthcare while still funding destructive nuclear bombs. Our priorities are topsy-turvy.

Report Finds Security Lacking At Lawrence Livermore Lab

October 4, 2013
CBS Bay Area KPIX - Kiet Do

A new report from the Inspector General found Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory does not have the security to deal with some dangerous explosives. Kiet Do reports.

click here to watch the report online...

DOE Eyes New Plutonium Strategy Amid Changes at Livemore Lab

September 19, 2013
IHS The Energy Daily - George Lobsenz

With the Energy Department planning to outline a new plutonium strategy in its fiscal year 2015 budget, the operator of DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is moving to restore or preserve operational capabilities needed for new warhead refurbishment and special nuclear material missions, according to recently released documents and a congressional audit released last week.

The potential use of the California lab for plutonium-related operations has prompted protests by a Livermore watchdog group, which says DOE is planning to bring nuclear warhead cores to the facility even though the department recently removed special nuclear material from the lab due to security concerns.

The changes at Livermore come as the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), DOE’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, is considering options for maintaining critical plutonium capabilities following the planned shutdown of the aging Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2019 due to earthquake safety risks.

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New warhead plans just bad idea all around

September 5, 2013
San Ramon Valley Times - Kara Alyssa A. Bautista

The U.S. Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration is continuing to expand its warhead Life Extension Programs (LEPs), which is resulting in more extreme modifications to the nuclear weapons' original designs.

One of these proposed LEPs will add a novel military capability to the nuclear arsenal by creating a so-called "interoperable" warhead to be launched interchangeably by nuclear-tipped missiles in land-based silos and submarines.

In designing this new warhead, the Livermore Laboratory is increasingly contradicting the nation's nuclear policy articulated by the president and the Nuclear Posture Review. Further, the warhead will undermine America's nonproliferation objectives globally.

Another danger is to the U.S. economy. The "interoperable" W78/88-1 is likely to cost around $28 billion -- or higher. I ask Congress to constrain the LEPs and save tens of billions over the coming decade. I ask my neighbors to contact Rep. Eric Swalwell and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to let them know you are concerned about the escalating costs associated with designing new nuclear weapons.

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Lab's Shaker apparatus has no good use

September 5, 2013
San Ramon Valley Times - Beverly King

According to the Nuclear Facilities Safety Board the Livermore Lab’s contracted personnel has begun to refurbish the Shaker apparatus.

This equipment tests plutonium bomb pits to be sure they are perfectly safe. This facility was used for years when the Lab researched bomb pits. The question is why is the Lab considering now to refurbish? The Lab says it is for “potential future operations.” Does this “future” mean the potential shipping of plutonium bomb pits from Los Alamos over 1,100 miles of highway for testing here and then returning the bombs the same way to Los Alamos?

This operation is a danger to our highways and the cities and towns along the way, not to mention that the Lab no longer has the security nor the authority to receive these bombs. Also, the amount of plutonium in these bombs is no longer allowed at the Lab. Just the idea of refurbishing the Shaker is dangerous and illegal, and idea that must be dropped immediately.

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Swalwell Forum Covers Immigration, Cell Snooping

August 29, 2013
The Independent

Congressman Eric Swalwell spoke at a constituent forum about current issues before the House, including immigration, the federal government’s cell-phone snooping, and the Affordable Care Act.

Swalwell’s forum held on Aug. 21 at Las Positas College drew about 75 people.

Swalwell spent much of his time talking about the Immigration Act. He said that as an Alameda County prosecutor, he was frustrated about what he called the inconsistency in current immigration regulations.

A felon would be released from prison after serving time, but instead of being sent to his native country, he would be back on the streets in this state. On the other hand, a mother of two children would be deported. “It’s a broken system,” said Swalwell.

Swalwell supports the Immigration bill that received 68 votes in the Senate, in a show of bipartisan support. The measure would result in a tighter border by doubling the number of agents there from 20,000 to 40,000.

The congressman said he thought that that number would be too high, saying 40,000 agents could be deployed 1000 feet apart, along critical border areas. “I’d rather put the money into education and seniors,” he said.

The 13-year path to citizenship in the Senate bill ensures a long system (of naturalization). “Thirteen years ago, I was in college, so 13 years is a long time,” said Swalwell.

Swalwell also quoted a statistic from the Partnership for a New American Economy, which said that 40 percent of U.S. companies are formed by immigrants or their children. Undocumented individuals receive an education here, and are an asset to the United States. “If we can keep them here, they are keys to the economy, and to creating jobs,” said Swalwell.

On the federal government’s tracking on everyone’s cell phone numbers, Swalwell said, “We need security, but that doesn’t mean that cell phone records should be downloaded daily, my mom’s and yours. Don’t compromise privacy for security,” said Swalwell. The line drew applause.

Members of Tri-Valley CAREs were in the audience, asking questions about the trucking of plutonium bomb cores to LLNL. Swalwell said he would be setting up a meeting with the Department of Energy to learn more. “I share your concerns. We should know all about it,” he said.

A questioner asked Swalwell if there were anything that he would change about the Affordable Care Act. He said that he medical device section of the law includes a tax that could drive manufacturers of devices overseas to nations where there is no such tax. He would like to see that changed.

Weapons Designs

August 29, 2013
The Independent - Kara Alyssa Bautista

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration is continuing to expand its warhead Life Extension Programs (LEPs), which is resulting in more extreme modifications to the nuclear weapons’ original designs.

One of these proposed LEPs will add a novel military capability to the nuclear arsenal by creating a so-called “interoperable” warhead to be launched interchangeably by nuclear tipped missiles in land based silos and submarines.

In designing this new warhead, the Livermore Laboratory is increasingly contradicting the nation’s nuclear policy articulated by the President and the Nuclear Posture Review. Further, the warhead will undermine America’s non-proliferation objectives globally.

Another danger is to the U.S. economy. The Fiscal Year 2014 budget request shows a nearly 80% rise in LEPs to more than $1 billion. Included in that is $537 million for the controversial overhaul of the B61 nuclear bomb, which is deployed in Europe, and $73 million to begin the LEP study at Livermore Lab for the “interoperable” W78/88-1 warhead. The B61-12 LEP is estimated to cost nearly $14 billion, while the W78/88-1 is likely to end up in the $28 billion range – or higher.

I ask Congress to act to constrain the LEPs, which will save more than half a billion dollars this year and tens of billions over the coming decade.

I ask my neighbors to contact Rep. Eric Swalwell and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to let them know you are concerned about the escalating costs associated with designing new nuclear weapons.

Lab not serious enough about worker safety

August 29, 2013
Tri-Valley Valley Times - Jo Ann Frisch

On June 25 three workers in the plutonium facility at Livermore Lab were exposed to a significant quantity of plutonium-238, a highly toxic radioactive isotope that accumulates in the bones, on a table used to receive bag-out bottles of waste solution from a glovebox. One worker also detected contamination on his coveralls.

The continuous air monitors in the room did not alarm to alert the workers of the contamination. The level of contamination was categorized as a "Large Event" per the Facility Safety Plan. It has come to light that the lab's program and facility management have not yet incorporated many of the recommendations from a plutionium-238 best practices benchmarking effort. When health and safety protocol at the lab are not a priority, these kinds of accidents happen. I fear for what will happen to the exposed workers down the line. I also fear for the community's safety given the lab's plan to bring new plutonium bomb cores for testing from Los Alamos when they cannot safely handle the small quantities that currently remain.

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Nuclear budget a great place to look for cuts

August 15, 2013
San Ramon Valley Times - Alison Forrest

The development of nuclear warheads at Livermore Lab does not necessarily make me feel safer. In fact, Livermore is subject to many dangers associated with nuclear weapons, such as radiation, health issues, and environmental contamination.

I also feel nuclear weapons programs are very outdated. This year marks 68 years since the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and it’s been nearly a quarter-century since the Berlin Wall came down, and the Cold War is long over.

Therefore, I call on Congress to trim the fat from the nuclear weapons budget. In this regard, I thank the Senate, especially my Senator Dianne Feinstein, as the Senate Appropriations bill cut 30% of the $537 million requested for Fiscal Year 2014 to upgrade the B61 nuclear bomb.

The U.S. should not massively change the design of this bomb, which is deployed in Europe. Nor can taxpayers afford the project’s overall $11 billion price tag for the Energy Department and the Pentagon to do so.

Instead of billions more for new bombs, I ask Congress to work for a world free of nuclear weapons.

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On the Front Lines Against Nuclear Testing

August 14, 2013
Ploughshares Blog - Teresa Chan

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT), Ploughshares Fund is dedicating a series of blogs on how the treaty influences nuclear disarmament today. The LTBT was the first concrete step toward the elimination of nuclear testing. Under the LTBT, U.S. research and development on nuclear weapons is still permitted in the national laboratories. One of the groups working to convert this weapons development actvity into socially beneficial research is our grantee, Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment). We asked Tri-Valley CAREs Executive Director Marylia Kelley for her insights on how the LTBT impacts her work and what more can be done to stop nuclear testing.

Ploughshares Fund: The LTBT banning atmospheric, oceanic and outer space testing of nuclear weapons turned fifty this year but it is a treaty that we don’t often hear about. How important is the LTBT to your work at Tri-Valley CAREs?

Marylia Kelley: Tri-Valley CAREs “watchdogs” the Livermore nuclear weapons laboratory and the Nuclear Weapons Complex of which Livermore Lab is a part. Every nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal is designed at the Livermore Lab in California or the Los Alamos Lab in New Mexico. Preventing the further development of nuclear weapons has been integral to Tri-Valley CAREs' mission since the group’s founding in 1983. The LTBT of 1963 is both preparatory and vital to our work today because it did stop atmospheric nuclear testing. Radioisotopes from U.S. and global atmospheric nuclear tests were turning up in mothers’ milk and babies’ teeth. Popular outcry in the early 1960s was instrumental in achieving the LTBT and its passage was a clear victory for human health. However, it is also important to note that passage of the LTBT did not halt the development of nuclear weapons in the U.S. or globally. Rather, it drove nuclear weapons development underground (literally and metaphorically). Thus, the goal of stopping the further enhancement of nuclear weapons, which is an essential step toward their abolition, remains to be achieved - in the U.S. and globally.

PF: What do you think is most surprising to the public when you talk to them about issues related to nuclear testing?

MK: As Tri-Valley CAREs’ executive director I am called on to speak to diverse audiences, from high school and college classrooms to senior centers and business clubs. I find that many of us who underwent “duck and cover” drills viscerally understand the importance of completing the job of achieving nuclear disarmament. Still, the seniors to whom I speak are shocked to find out that the U.S. is spending more money this year on nuclear weapons development than was spent annually during the Cold War. When I speak with students and other younger people for whom the Cold War is ancient history, they are often surprised to learn that the U.S. possesses more than 7,500 nuclear weapons (with Russia having similar numbers) and that nuclear annihilation in this day and age could still come by accident, miscalculation, madness or malevolent intent. One piece of good news is that the general public regardless of age, background or political affiliation seems able to find common ground in disapproving the exploding costs of nuclear development. And, many young people in particular are able to connect the dots between nuclear weapons and issues with which they are more familiar, like globalization and economic and climate justice.

PF: How do Tri-Valley CAREs efforts today relate to the testing of nuclear weapons?

MK: As the watchdog over the Livermore laboratory, Tri-Valley CAREs activities relate directly to nuclear weapons testing. It has always been the nation’s two nuclear weapons design labs, Livermore and Los Alamos, along with engineers at Sandia Lab, who have prepared the weapons tests and have conducted them, be it in the atmosphere, underground or in the labs, albeit not full scale nowadays. Moreover, if you go to the nuclear test site in Nevada today and you tour the BEEF (Big Explosives Experimental Facility) you may notice that everyone is wearing Livermore Lab badges. In sum, nuclear testing is the basis for the continued development of nuclear weapons – whether it is done by yesteryears’ full-scale blasts or by today’s “proxy testing” with sophisticated equipment in the labs. Tri-Valley CAREs believes that all current testing activities that lead to new and militarily “modified” nuclear weapons must be stopped. The U.S. should instead adopt a “Curatorship” program that would maintain but not “improve” the arsenal as it awaits dismantlement.

PF: The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is a follow-on to the LTBT that bans all explosive nuclear weapons testing, but the U.S. has yet to ratify the CTBT. How important do you think it is for the U.S. to ratify CTBT? How would its ratification affect your work at Tri-Valley CAREs?

MK: Tri-Valley CAREs has sought a CTBT since the group’s inception in 1983. Our members have slept at “peace camp” in the Nevada desert for it prior to the testing moratorium in 1992; and we have regularly done educational work for the CTBT in the U.S. Congress and at the U.N. during the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conferences and preparatory meetings. There is no question the U.S. should ratify the treaty and help propel its international entry into force. Tri-Valley CAREs believes that delegitimizing nuclear weapons is key to achieving disarmament and global entry into force of the CTBT is a positive step in that necessary direction. Yet, technically, the treaty bans the “bang” and not the “bomb.” The weaponeers at Livermore and Los Alamos have been busily constructing huge facilities, from an underground subcritical nuclear test complex to a dual axis radiographic hydrodynamic test facility to supercomputers and beyond to allow them to further modify and develop U.S. nuclear weapons in the absence of full-scale nuclear testing. This has been going on in the labs and throughout the Nuclear Weapons Complex since the last full-scale underground test in 1992. Therefore, following our huge celebration with cake and ice cream to welcome U.S. ratification of the CTBT, our work at Tri-Valley CAREs would continue onward to the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide.

PF: Having started Tri-Valley CAREs as a concerned citizen, what advice would you give individuals who care about reducing the threat of nuclear weapons but may not feel like they have a pathway to engage on the issue and effect change?

MK: One of the most exciting aspects of working for nuclear disarmament is that its achievement requires all of us to bring our talents, skills, energy, good will and motivation to the issue. So, the first thing a person can do is “show up.” Be counted. We can all do that. I also tell people that if there is a peace and disarmament group in your area, join it. And, if there isn’t, start one. Working collaboratively means you are becoming part of the solution. Nuclear weapons are inherently undemocratic, violent and unjust. The path to their abolition involves creating the outcome we seek – a more peaceful, just and sustainable world – as part of the process we use to get there. Each person’s pathway begins where they are today. Take the first step, and then the second. Watch and be amazed at what will open up in front of you. Thirty years ago, Tri-Valley CAREs began with a handful of people who wanted to make a change. We stopped a radioactive waste incinerator, won improvements to the cleanup program for toxic wastes oozing into the community, prevented the development of two new nuclear weapons, and, in the process, grew from eight to more than 5,000 members strong, including some physicists from Livermore Lab.

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Hiroshima shows need for disarmament

August 8, 2013
San Ramon Valley Times - Scott Yundt

Every year as the furor of Independence Day dies down and the beginning of August approaches, my attention is drawn to an anniversary many Americans might prefer to forget or ignore. August 6th is the anniversary of the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and August 9th is atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan.

With over 225,000 deaths between them (and countless more with the years that followed from the radiation related illnesses), these events stand out as important reminders of the great destructive powers of nuclear weapons.

We continue to develop new and modified nuclear weapons right here in Livermore, California. That is why peace-love people who hope and pray for nuclear disarmament will gather at the gates of Livermore Lab on Tuesday, August 6th at 7am for a rally, march, and non-violent direct action. Check for more info.

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Daniel Ellsberg among 31 arrested at Livermore lab during Hiroshima Day protests

August 6, 2013
Mercury News - Jeremy Thomas

LIVERMORE -- Famed "Pentagon Papers" whistle-blower and anti-nuclear activist Daniel Ellsberg was one of 31 protesters arrested at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on Tuesday as part of a rally commemorating the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Lying down in front of the lab's west gate, where they were outlined in chalk to symbolize the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the protesters were ordered to disperse by Alameda County sheriff's deputies. After a second warning for participating in an unlawful assembly, Ellsberg and others were pulled away by lab security. Those arrested were cited by the deputies for blocking the gate -- essentially trespassing -- and released.

"It's hard for me to believe that the crime (Hiroshima) will not be repeated," Ellsberg said prior to his arrest. "We shouldn't be letting it go on without our protests. This won't happen without it being over our bodies."

The mass "die-in," part of an annual Hiroshima Day protest organized by the Livermore Conversion Project and Tri-Valley CAREs (Citizens Against a Radioactive Environment), was preceded by a 7 a.m. rally at the corner of Vasco and Patterson Pass roads and a procession that drew nearly 250 people. Tri-Valley CAREs Executive Director Marylia Kelley said the purpose of the event was to call not just for the abolition of nuclear weapons, but to support civilian science at the lab.

During the hour-long program, the Rev. Nobuaki Hanaoka, a Nagasaki bombing survivor, told of his exposure to nuclear fallout as an infant, and of losing his mother, sister and brother to radiation poisoning.

"Those who survived owe it to the dead," Hanaoka told the crowd. "You are all survivors; it is the responsibility of you and I to make sure we leave the world safe, peaceful and nuclear-free."

Ellsberg gave the morning's keynote speech, warning of the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons to humanity and asking attendees to close their eyes for 43 seconds, the time it took for the bomb to land on Hiroshima after being dropped.

"There was a cut in history at that point," Ellsberg said. "We have had this much time to do better, and we have not made use of it."

The speakers elicited some support from passing motorists, as well as a few yells from detractors. At 8:15 a.m., a siren wailed and the somber gathering observed a moment of silence for the bombing victims. Then, the march commenced down Vasco Road to the lab's west gate.

Berkeley protester Chizu Hamada, originally from Tokyo, made the quarter-mile walk holding a banner commemorating the Fukushima nuclear accident of 2011.

"We have to erase nuclear weapons and plants," Hamada said. "This bomb was totally inhuman. It never should have happened."

While an Okinawan band played a mournful tune, Stella Roemers, of Union City, joined with the protesters being outlined with chalk outside the gate.

"The idea is when you are down on the floor, you are putting your body in their place," Roemers said.

Despite the arrests, Livermore lab spokewoman Lynda Seaver said the protest was peaceful, and similar to previous Hiroshima Day rallies over the past two decades.

"They've been doing this a number of years," Seaver said. "It's fairly routine, and their numbers are diminishing."

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Hiroshima Survivor, Anti Nuclear Weapons Activists Mark Anniversary Atomic Bombings

Rally at Livermore Labs Draws 200

August 6, 2013
San Ramon Express - Bay City News Service

A coalition of several local groups commemorated the 68th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings in 1945 with an event meant for reflection and a focus on the dangers of nuclear weapons.

Approximately 200 people attended a 7 a.m. rally and vigil at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Tuesday morning.

Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley CAREs, which helped organize the rally, said participants drew outlines of their bodies on the ground with chalk at four entrances to the facility to symbolize those who died in the bombings.

Lab spokeswoman Lynda Seaver said the Alameda County Sheriff's Office cited 31 people for blocking the facility's west entrance.

"It's important for the workers of Livermore Labs to know that there are people out there opposing what they do," said Tri-Valley CAREs Staff Attorney Scott Yundt. "The fact that nuns and priests are getting arrested out there makes them pause and think about what they do."

The event included remarks by the Rev. Nobu Hanaoka, a survivor of the Nagasaki bombing.

"I don't have a personal recollection of the bombing but I lived through the tragedy that followed," Hanaoka said.

He was only eight months old during the bombing, which killed his mother, brother and sister. His father returned to Nagasaki from World War II when he was two years old and eventually moved the family to Tokyo.

"God spared my life for a reason, to make sure this won't happen again anywhere," he said.

Hanaoka is a retired minister who continues to spread the message against the development of nuclear weapons.

"I just hope the American public will recognize that nuclear weapons are still threatening our future. We don't talk about it as much as we used to but it doesn't mean that the nuclear threat is over," he said.

Yundt added that he had the unusual experience of hearing from a Livermore Lab employee during the protest.

"One bicycled up hoping to enter gate we were protesting at and he paused because he wanted to enter and could not. Then turned around and said ''this is certainly a sight to see,'" Yundt said. "He was clearly moved and slightly annoyed that he couldn't enter."

The United States dropped the "Little Boy" bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and three days later the "Fat Man" bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

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A grim remembrance at Livermore Lab

August 5, 2013
The Contra Costa Times - Don King

On Tuesday, we commemorate the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945.

The city in Japan was leveled, and some 90,000 people perished. President Harry S. Truman exulted, "This is the greatest thing in history."

Three days later another bomb, a more powerful plutonium version, was dropped on Nagasaki. Some 40,000 people were killed immediately. By the end of the year, some 145,000 people died in Hiroshima; some 75,000 had died in Nagasaki.

One of the best accounts of this whole unhappy episode is contained in a book by Robert J. Lifton and Greg Mitchell, "Hiroshima in America." Those who read it may become convinced, as I have, that America committed a terrible atrocity, and has yet to apologize for it.

Please join us in a day of remembrance set for 7 a.m. tomorrow at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, at the intersection of Vasco and Patterson Pass roads. Daniel Ellsberg will be the keynote speaker.

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Livermore Lab: Hiroshima Day protest Tuesday to feature Nagasaki survivor, Ellsberg

August 4, 2013
Mercury News - Jeremy Thomas

LIVERMORE -- Retired Daly City minister Nobuaki Hanaoka was only a baby in 1945 when the sky lit up like a new sun near his family's home in Nagasaki, Japan.

Though he was too young to remember the blast of the second atomic bomb dropped during wartime, he endured its aftermath. Hanaoka's mother and sister died from illnesses linked to radiation poisoning when he was a child, but Hanaoka, 68, didn't realize he'd been exposed until later in life.

"My family didn't like to talk about the bombing; I think it has something to do with the stigma of being a survivor," Hanaoka said. "I survived. I was still alive, but whenever I got sick, even with the common cold, I was worried and thought it was the end of my life."

Hanaoka's brother passed away at 39 from premature aging, one of thousands who perished from the subsequent fallout. Hanaoka moved on to study theology and found anti-nuclear activism through the "nuclear freeze" movement and the "Friends of Hibakusha" in San Francisco. Hibakusha refers to the surviving victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"I didn't want another Nagasaki tragedy to happen anywhere else in the world," Hanaoka said.

On Tuesday, Hanaoka will speak at the annual Hiroshima Day protest outside Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where anti-nuclear activists will gather to mark the 68th anniversary of the bombings. The keynote speaker for the event will be Daniel Ellsberg, best known as the whistle-blower who leaked the "Pentagon Papers" in 1971. Ellsberg will talk about a book he's writing on U.S. nuclear weapons policy, as well as government secrecy and whistle-blowers.

Hiroshima Day protesters have held ceremonies at Livermore lab for the past 20 years, said Marylia Kelley, TriValley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment) executive director, who added that the annual event is a time to reflect and engage.

"We are commemorating the use of nuclear weapons at a location where weapons designers are creating the next nuclear material," Kelley said. "We'll be there to say, 'Never again.'"

During the morning's program, author Cecile Pineda will discuss the connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and attorney Loulena Miles will speak on nuclear weapons activities at the lab. At 8:15 a.m., signifying the moment the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, there will be a moment of silence, followed by a procession to the lab's West Gate, where some protesters will have their bodies outlined in chalk, referring to the shadows of victims burned into the ground by the bomb's flash. Those protesters who choose to do so, Kelley said, can then risk arrest by blocking the gate.

Livermore Lab spokeswoman Lynda Seaver said the lab plans on having an additional security personnel at the gate for the demonstration and responded to claims by protest organizers.

"The lab does not design new nuclear weapons," Seaver said in an email. "It is the lab's mission, set by Congress and the administration, to maintain the safety and security of the nuclear weapons stockpile. This includes work in extending the life of aging weapons in the stockpile in keeping with the nation's nuclear posture."

Hundreds of protesters have been arrested during Hiroshima Day protests at the lab over the past two decades. Kelley said the intent of the annual event is to show the threat of nuclear annihilation didn't end with the Cold War and to illustrate the importance of disarmament in 2013. For Hanaoka, who experienced atomic warfare's disastrous effects firsthand, the protest symbolizes a march toward a different future.

"It's important to know that Livermore Lab is still involved in the weaponization of nuclear energy," Hanaoka said. "Even though we all want peace in the world, we are still making new bombs."

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A Look Ahead

August 2, 2013
Global Security Newswire

What’s next on nonproliferation and international security, in Washington and around the globe.

August 6: On the 68th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, Vietnam-era whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and others will speak in Livermore, Calif., on the topic: “Unfinished Business and Our Most Urgent Responsibility: Banning the Bomb at the Livermore Lab and Globally.” The event will be sponsored by nearly three dozen peace organizations, including Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Fremont chapter of Pax Christi.

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Funds For Warheads

July 4, 2013
The Independent - Beverly King

In accordance with the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia, both countries have agreed to modest reductions in the number of nuclear warheads in the strategically deployed arsenal. This is very encouraging, except in the year 2000 we spent less than $5B on these warheads and this year that amount has risen to almost $8B. Thus, the costs of each warhead in our warhead has skyrocketed in the past 13 years and projections show that the cost will continue to rise exponentially over the next decade.

What message does it send to other countries for the US to spend increasing sums on nuclear weapons systems when we are bound by treaty (the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and humanity to decrease our reliance on these weapons? In this age of austerity, when other governmental programs that make our nation more secure are getting cut, does it make sense to increase nuclear weapons funding when their utility to our national security is minimal at best?

For sanity and economy the obvious answer is “no” and I urge Senator Feinstein to use her position on the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee to cut wasteful and dangerous nuclear weapons programs.

Nuclear bill should either be fixed or vetoed

June 20, 2013
The Contra Costa Times - Jo Ann Frisch

House Republicans added key provisions this week to increase nuclear dangers and block sensible arms control in the fiscal-year 2014 defense authorization bill.

The Republican-dominated House Armed Services Committee wants to increase nuclear weapons funding by about $200 million above the president's request of $7.87 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration's weapons activities. That's an increase of $654 million from two years ago.

On the other hand, these same Republicans want to hold back $75 million for arms reduction required under the New START treaty with Russia. Also, their bill seeks to limit the president's ability to negotiate agreements with Russia to further reduce our arsenals, even though the U.S. and Russia hold 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons.

The next step in the process will be to bring the committee's bill to the floor, where it can be amended and improved by the whole House before a final vote. Then, the action will move to the Senate. I hope this bad bill gets fixed. If that doesn't happen, I urge President Obama to veto it.

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Wasteful Spending

June 20, 2013
The Independent - Pamela Richard

I’m a resident of Danville, formerly represented by Congressman John Garamendi who now represents California’s 2nd district. I would like to thank him and his colleague, Representative Loretta Sanchez.

Those two Californians serve on the House Armed Services Committee and are seeking to remove nearly half a billion dollars in wasteful spending from the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.

In a joint statement Garamendi and Sanchez noted that, “Requiring the Dep. Of Defense to waste large amounts of money on outdated programs it doesn’t want or need, risks hollowing out the military and makes us less safe.”

In addition to trimming Defense Dept. overspending, both Representatives cited opposition to a $220 million increase for unnecessary programs within the National Nuclear Security Administration. I agree.

There should be absolutely no increase in spending on nuclear weapons. We should continue decommissioning nuclear warheads, not modernizing them or adding unnecessary features.

These funds could go to more important priorities.

Your Voice: Cleanup crew at lab does good work

June 14, 2013
Tracy Press - Alison Forrest

Last month, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory gave a special tour for Tri-Valley CAREs members, which focused on the environmental contamination at their main site, as well as the efforts the lab is undertaking to clean up their mess.

One of the many consequences of nuclear weapons development is pollution of the surrounding environment. The Livermore lab is listed as one of the most toxic sites in the United States and has been on the National Priorities List since 1987 under the Superfund Law. The topic of concern on this tour was the groundwater contamination.

Throughout most of the site, the groundwater had become contaminated over the years with some nasty chemicals, such as VOCs (such as TCE and PCE) and radioactive tritium. Underground plumes were forming around the site and heading west. More recently, the plumes have been contained and are being treated as part of the Superfund cleanup.

The groundwater restoration team at Livermore lab has been doing a great job with enormous task of cleanup. I want to thank them for taking time out of their work day to show us around the site and talk about the Superfund cleanup program.

Keep going with this important task; you are Livermore lab’s real superheroes!

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Livermore anti-nuclear group sues federal agencies for documents on Livermore lab

June 12, 2013
The Contra Costa Times - Jeremy Thomas

OAKLAND -- A Livermore nuclear watchdog group has sued the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), accusing the agencies of repeatedly violating the Freedom of Information Act.

According to the complaint, filed Friday at the U.S. District Court in Oakland, Tri-Valley CARES (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment) alleges the agencies withheld unclassified documents regarding operations at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on five occasions in 2011 and 2012. The requested records included documents related to the National Ignition Facility, the status of special nuclear materials at the lab, worker exposure to hazardous materials and the NNSA's Revised Plutonium Strategy.

The Freedom of Information Act gives federal agencies 20 days to respond to public requests; in each of the group's requests, according to the suit, the information is overdue by between one and two years.

"It's a pattern," said Tri-Valley CARES' staff attorney Scott Yundt. "Most of the documents we've asked for are time critical ... It means the community doesn't get to have the information necessary to make informed public comments."

Tri-Valley CARES has filed five similar lawsuits since 1998 -- all have been successful to some degree, Yundt said. The latest suit seeks a court injunction requiring release of the information, attorney fees and a special counsel to investigate whether there is an "unlawful pattern and practice" by the DOE and NNSA of withholding information from Tri-Valley CAREs.

National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman Al Stotts said the agency would have no comment on the lawsuit. The NNSA's parent agency, the U.S. Department of Energy, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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KPFA Radio Interview about Plutonium Pits coming to Livermore Lab

May 25, 2013
KPFA Evening News (Weekend) at 6pm

At 23 minutes and 45 seconds, KPFA talks about Tri-Valley CAREs and gives an interview with Executive Director, Marylia Kelley, focusing on DC Days and also TVC's work to stop nuclear weapons and the impacts of their budgets.

Click here to listen to the interview...

Beam Us Up: Why did Star Trek get to film at a secret government laser facility?

May 22, 2013
Foreign Policy Magazine Blog - Stephen I. Schwartz

NOTE: This article cites Tri-Valley CAREs' estimate of the overall cost of the National Ignition Facility…

If scientists and officials at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California seem a little starstruck these days, there's a good reason: The lab's massive National Ignition Facility, or NIF, has something of a starring role in Star Trek Into Darkness, which opened nationwide last Thursday. "For many years, we've been waiting for ‘Star Trek' to realize that they should be here," NIF principal associate director Ed Moses told Live Science. "This is a very futuristic facility... and I think we've all been influenced by Star Trek's vision of the future."

The film's director, J.J. Abrams, and its stars have been similarly enthusiastic about the opportunity to film at the classified facility. "We were there just trying to shoot a movie, but all around us, these innovative scientists are working on technologies that will likely help the whole world," said Abrams. "The idea that one day the research at NIF could create clean, limitless energy is so exciting.... These people are doing research that could alter the destiny of the planet the way the wheel or the light bulb did."

Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays a villain and is evidently something of a science nerd, told a reporter that NIF "is trying to create hydrogen fusion by using lasers fired at extraordinary speeds through various lenses. If they can hit this target of hydrogen -- which is half the breadth of a human hair in this huge cell -- they will create this alternate energy supply which could power San Francisco for a year with one burst."

And John Cho, who plays helmsman Hikaru Sulu, has told reporters somewhat sheepishly how he and co-star Karl Urban (who plays Dr. Leonard McCoy) were pranked by their cast mates and the crew into smearing white "neutron cream" on their noses and cheeks to neutralize the radiation emitted by NIF, and to jump up and down frequently while shaking their hands "to shake the neutrons out." (Cumberbatch tells a similar story.)

But all the glowing praise and tales of Hollywood hijinks are misleading the public about NIF's true purpose while also masking a very troubling reality, one that lab officials -- and their federal overseers at the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Department of Energy (DOE) -- would clearly prefer not to discuss: NIF is not designed to produce "clean, limitless energy," it is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, it has thus far failed to ignite the fusion reaction for which it was built, and there is a growing acceptance that it probably will never be able to generate a fusion reaction that produces more energy than was required to initiate it.

NIF is essentially an extremely large, very powerful laser. It was designed to produce a 500-trillion-watt pulse focused on a single, small cylindrical gold-plated target (called a hohlraum), heating it very rapidly and causing it to radiate intense X-rays. Those X-rays, in turn, trigger ignition of a two-millimeter capsule of frozen deuterium-tritium fuel that surrounds a tiny amount of deuterium-tritium gas, producing a self-sustaining fusion reaction more energetic than the pulse that initiated the process. (Each firing of the laser requires 1,000-times more energy than the United States consumes at any given moment.)

All the components are housed in a building large enough to contain three football fields. The NIF's 287,000-pound, 10-meter-diameter spherical target chamber -- into which 192 laser beamlines converge -- stands in for the warp core of the USS Enterprise in the film. (Although it looks nothing like the warp cores previously featured in any of the television or film incarnations of Star Trek, it is convincing, perhaps because it is real. And as NIF officials have pointed out, the Enterprise's faster-than-light warp engines also run on deuterium fuel.)

NIF is a successor to Livermore's earlier Nova laser (which also failed to achieve ignition). Conceived in the early 1990s and funded out of DOE's weapons activities account -- not the science or energy account -- as the centerpiece of the department's new Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program, NIF was supposed to simulate the temperatures and densities at the very earliest stages of the ignition of a thermonuclear bomb. This, in turn, would verify and improve complex computer simulations, facilitate a better understanding of how modified or aging weapons materials would behave, and allow the United States to test the reliability of nuclear weapons without actually blowing them up. (Congress halted underground nuclear explosions in September 1992.)

The program began in 1994 with an estimated budget of about $1.1 billion (with another $1 billion for research and development) and a projected completion date in 2002. However, a variety of significant construction and engineering challenges delayed completion and rapidly drove up the costs (facts that the NIF managers withheld from Congress and the secretary of energy for years). A DOE review in 2000 increased the budget estimate to $3.3 billion and pushed back completion to 2006. A 2000 General Accounting Office (GAO) assessment pegged the cost at $3.9 billion and was not optimistic about the anticipated completion date. In a report the following year, the GAO estimated the cost to completion at $4.2 billion, and a completion date of 2008. Construction was formally finished in 2009, and initial experiments began the following year.

While NIF has conducted more than 1,000 laser "shots" and set multiple records for laser power -- including a 500-terawatt shot on July 5, 2012 -- the latest goal of achieving ignition by October 1, 2012 (set in 2009) came and went. For reasons unknown, the laser's energy is only generating pressures in the target of 150 billion times the Earth's atmosphere -- about half of what is required for ignition. Moses told the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this month that he cannot predict when -- or if -- ignition will ever be achieved. "Our goal is of course ignition," he said. "The goal is to get there or understand why you don't." Moses estimates that total costs have reached $5 billion, although a local grassroots watchdog organization asserts costs are closer to $7.5 billion, because the laboratory has been allowed to charge some of NIF's costs to other programs. NIF's current annual costs are at least $400 million. (By comparison, the estimated budget for Star Trek Into Darkness was $190 million.)

It's worth noting that this is not the first time that Star Trek has repurposed actual nuclear hardware. The 1996 film Star Trek: First Contact shot some scenes at the Titan Missile Museum near Tucson, Arizona, where a fiberglass shell covering a decommissioned Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile stood in for the Phoenix, Earth's first warp-capable spaceship.

Although NIF's weapons-related role may be fading, thanks to growing congressional frustration with slipping deadlines, a failure to achieve its primary objective, and the budgetary effects of sequestration, Star Trek has given some NIF personnel a brief bit of glory, albeit in a way that foreshadows a less than rosy future. As Simon Pegg, who plays Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott ("Scotty"), explained to, "All of those guys with red shirts in the warp core [are] all just guys from NIF who just wanted to be in Star Trek. Bruno [Van Wonterghem], the project leader there, who is the guy who will discover fusion and will go down as the next Edison" is in the background. If Moses, Van Wonterghem, and their colleagues are true Trek aficionados, the irony won't be lost on them. In Star Trek lore, anonymous crewmembers wearing red shirts are usually the first to die.

On the other hand, the film's probable box office success makes it likely there will be future installments. Which means NIF, whose slogan is "Bringing star power to Earth," could live on as possibly the world's most expensive movie set -- and its employees could continue to work as extras, trading one kind of star power for another.

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Lab's Ambition

May 9, 2013
The Independent- Chelsea Collonge

Livermore Lab weaponeers have a new ambition: the Frankenbomb! This freaky nuclear weapon would be a mash-up of three separate bomb designs, under the guise of “life extending” the W-88 submarine-launched warhead. This new warhead design would stitch together parts from the W-78, which sits in land-based silos, with parts from the W-88, plus the plutonium core from a third nuclear weapon, the W87. The result would be a novel new nuke that could launch Armageddon from either a silo or a submarine.

The Navy itself has recoiled from this grotesque innovation, but the Lab still claims its “preferred option” and the Department of Energy has tapped Congress for more funds. This mutated design will create a bomb that will have a ghoulish new lease on life, yet it will have no full-scale testing for safety. This monster bomb stands ready to devour our national budget, if the $10 billion B-61 “life extension” is any warning. Most Americans think we pulled the plug on the arms race long ago. It’s time we mustered the courage to look at what the scientists are doing down there in their secret laboratories and tell them “NO.”

Can't We Take Break From The Weapons?

May 9, 2013
Oakland Tribune - Matt Vinciguerra

Looking at the breakdown of funds requested by the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory for 2014, I noticed a few interesting facts:

Energy efficiency and renewable energy combined constitute less than 1 percent of the budget. Defense environmental cleanup is a minuscule 0.1 percent. On the other hand, nuclear weapons activities constitute a whopping 84 percent of the requested budget.

Are these priorities truly in line with most Americans' feelings? The lab is a national facility that could be using science to bring about a better future. After six decades of poisoning the environment, can we take a break and spend some time cleaning it up?

Read the full story...

Nuclear Energy Project Changes Aim After Years of Failure

May 1, 2013
San Francisco Chronicle - David Perlman

Officials at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have signaled that because their multibillion-dollar experiment to create a self-sustaining source of thermonuclear energy has been unsuccessful so far, they are shifting the focus of the project in major ways.

Scientists at the lab's huge National Ignition Facility, where attempts to mimic the immense energy of the sun and the blasts of hydrogen bombs have been futile, will move toward international high-energy research and bring in new leadership, the officials announced Monday.

Beset for more than 14 years by delays, controversies and cost overruns, scientists at the huge facility on the Livermore lab's campus had predicted they would succeed in creating a pulse of thermonuclear energy, called "ignition," before the end of last year.

They have not. As a result, their official slogan of "Creating Star Power on Earth," remains elusive.

The NIF, as it is called, will continue its attempts, but will now "transition to a user facility," said Parney Albright, director of the Livermore Laboratory.

The huge facility "has entered a new era," and will be supporting an international community of scientists, who will conduct experiments at extremely high energies and compress matter to extremely high densities, Albright said. He gave no further details.

The NIF is already a powerful research tool for scientists studying such arcane subjects as the interior of planets and the deaths of supernovas.

Nuclear stockpile

The NIF's primary purpose set by Congress is still to verify the safety and reliability of America's stockpile of hydrogen bombs without relying on surface nuclear bomb tests, which are banned by international treaty.

NIF's tiny thermonuclear explosions would analyze the behavior of an exploding bomb by duplicating its highly secret internal structure and analyzing the relevant computer codes involved.

But a source familiar with the issue said Tuesday he is confident that the nuclear weapons stockpile has already been shown to be safe and reliable with the NIF's help.

Many congressional hawks have argued that achieving "ignition" is crucial to that weapons-safety issue. But the source called such insistence "false," and said they hoped merely to create a political excuse for returning to the traditional nuclear weapons testing.

In an interview, Ed Moses, who has directed the NIF project since 2007, said Tuesday he could not predict if or when he and his team of scientists and engineers might ultimately achieve ignition.

"Our goal is of course ignition," he said. "The goal is to get there or understand why you don't."

To carry out their experiments, scientists at the NIF facility have been firing an array of 192 precisely tuned laser beams simultaneously at a tiny gold capsule no larger than a peppercorn and filled with frozen hydrogen gas. Each laser firing consumes 1,000 times more energy than the United States consumes at any one moment.

If successful, the capsule - called a hohlraum - would be transformed into a source of X-rays at extremely high energies that would compress the gas inside until it explodes within a trillionth of a second.

Energy levels too low

The explosion would then be sustained continuously in what fusion scientists call "ignition and energy gain." But in scores of firings so far, the laser beams have never reached the tremendous energies needed to blast the capsule and generate the X-rays powerful enough to create the miniaturized thermonuclear explosion.

NIF's leaders and the project's supporters have repeatedly emphasized in congressional testimony over the years that achieving the ignition breakthrough could lead the way to energy independence, with civilian power plants providing unlimited thermonuclear energy using only the hydrogen in the oceans for fuel.

In Congress, budget battles over NIF have gone on for years. When the NIF was planned in 1994 its total cost for construction and operations was predicted to be $2.1 billion. By 2002, the budget had risen to $3.3 billion.

Moses estimated Tuesday that the facility's total costs for construction and ongoing research have now reached no more than $5 billion. But Tri-Valley CARES, the Livermore-based antinuclear organization, says an analysis of past congressional appropriations show that NIF's costs have risen to $7.5 billion.

"There's no way" anyone could reach that total, Moses insisted.

Albright's announcement said that L. Jeffrey Atherton, a chemical engineer and member of the NIF leadership group, will be NIF's new director. NIF staff members said Moses will remain in charge of the entire project.

Laser Fusion Facility Faces Dimmer Spending

April 11, 2013
Science Magazine's -Science Insider - David Malakoff

A controversial and perpetually troubled laser fusion project would get a hefty funding reduction under the president's 2014 budget request for the Department of Energy (DOE). The cuts to the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California appear to be a direct consequence of the project's failure to create a burning fusion plasma by its 2012 goal.

NIF has long had critics, who contended even before the multibillion-dollar machine was built that it would never work. After numerous delays and cost overruns, NIF finally began operations in 2009, and managers set a 30 September 2012 goal of achieving "ignition" by using its 192 lasers to crush a tiny capsule of hydrogen fuel. But the device fell substantially short of that goal, and late last year officials told Congress that they weren't sure NIF would ever be able create a burning plasma.

NIF advocates have argued that the project, even if it didn't achieve ignition, is useful for conducting experiments that would help engineers understand and maintain the nation's stockpile of nuclear weapons. That is now NIF's focus, although some outside experts and members of Congress are skeptical of that use. They also question the wisdom of giving NIF any more time or money to achieve ignition.

The budget request appears to reflect some of that skepticism. To help pay for maintaining the nuclear stockpile during a time of austerity, "the Budget proposes to achieve savings by reducing investments in the National Ignition Facility, which failed to achieve ignition in 2012 as scheduled, and by implementing several management efficiencies," it states. In particular, the budget calls for ending NIF accounting practices that allowed Livermore officials to charge some of the project's costs to other programs - a practice that critics said effectively obscured NIF's true cost.

It's not clear exactly how big the proposed NIF cuts are, because the project receives funding from several programs within DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the nation's nuclear weapons program. A Livermore spokesperson tells ScienceInsider that NIF's operating budget request is $329 million for 2014, down 20% from 2012.

Other NIF-affiliated budget lines also appear to take a hit, but it's hard to calculate exact numbers, says Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley CAREs, a watchdog group in Livermore that has been critical of the laser project. But NIF "is taking a smaller hit that I had anticipated; these are very modest cuts considering NIF's abject failure to achieve ignition," she says. Her group wants NIF to be managed by DOE's Office of Science for civilian research. "We should run it as an unclassified user facility for 5 years, and then do an analysis of what kind of science the nation is getting for its money, and then decide whether to pull the plug," she says.

Groups gear up for annual Good Friday protest at Livermore lab

March 25, 2013
Bay Area Newsgroup- Jeremy Thomas

LIVERMORE -- As they have for the past three decades, local anti-nuke groups and interfaith organizations are preparing to hold their annual procession and Good Friday protest at Lawrence Livermore Lab this week.

This year's theme is "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?" based on the title of a book by Martin Luther King Jr. The keynote speech will be given by Rev. Phil Lawson, pastor emeritus of Easter Hill United Methodist Church in Richmond and co-founder of the National Council of Elders, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and former interfaith program director of East Bay Housing Organizations.

The annual protest has been going on for about 30 years said Carolyn Scarr, program coordinator for the Ecumenical Peace Institute/CALC, co-sponsors of the event.

"It's a real question of whether we'll live as dominators or neighbors in this world," she said. "That's what we'd like people to think about."

She said an average of 30 to 50 people are arrested each year for blocking the gate.

Those attending will meet at Vasco and Patterson Pass roads in Livermore beginning at 6:45 a.m. Worship services will be held at 7 a.m., followed by a procession to the lab's west gate, which protesters have blocked at past Good Friday events.

Attendees will be able to stop at stations of the cross along the route for talks about the lab. Members of Livermore-based Tri-Valley CAREs (Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment) will participate -- with staff attorney Scott Yundt discussing pollution at the lab and executive director Marylia Kelley speaking about converting the lab from nuclear weapons research to civilian science.

"From Tri-Valley CARES' perspective, this is an important occasion to point out that the vast majority of the lab's budget goes to nuclear weapons activity ... and to point to the pollution over the years suffered by workers and community members alike," Kelley said.

Following the procession, from 10 a.m. to noon, a community gathering will be held at Asbury United Methodist Church, 4743 East Ave. Light refreshments will be provided.

The event is co-sponsored by the Ecumenical Peace Institute/CALC and the Livermore Conversion Project. Past protests have drawn an average of 100-200 people.

For details, visit or call 510-655-1162 or 510-654-4983.

Click here to hear a radio interview on Up Front KPFA Good Friday interview with TVC starts at 33:00 and ends about 36:00. Click here to hear another radio interview about the Good Friday with action references and quotes TVC. It begins at 25.10 and ends about 29.10.

For Love's Sake

March 14, 2013
The Independent- Marcus Page-Collonge

This morning I returned to the nuclear weapons laboratory at Livermore to celebrate life while protesting the 88% of their budget spent on nuclear weapons. The last time I held vigil here with several friends was three years ago on my honeymoon vigil for peace.

My spouse and I were betrothed on St. Valentine's Day while living near Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. My spouse and I are retreat coordinators and farmers who are committing to monthly demonstrations for love and peace at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). We came to LLNL this morning and will be back with more friends on April 5th for the same reason to support the goodness of choosing life as a solution.

Since Livermore Lab prepares daily for nuclear war and spends $1,000,000,000 annually on fear-mongering and violence, these first-Friday vigils are the least we can do to oppose the life-wasting immorality of LLNL's 88%. We would love to speak with LLNL employees about the international responsibility they can take for nuclear disarmament. We welcome others to join us at the Lab at 7 am in the spirit of local dialogue on our shared responsibility in this world.

Rhetorical Question

March 14, 2013
The Independent- Chelsea Collonge

In the face of across-the-board cuts to Livermore Lab and federal programs, a government official handed roughly five million un-earned bucks to the contractor that manages the Lab, on top of the $39 million they received for their performance last year.

This official also, with no explanation, changed the contractor's "Fail" grade to a pass, handing them a no-compete, extended contract. This money is pure profit, bypassing the budgets of the Lab itself. It comes from taxpayers who have already provided billions for mismanaged projects such as the National Ignition Facility. Rewarding mismanagement, covering up failures, eroding oversight; is this hands-off approach to the Lab's leadership really the best use of limited national resources?


March 14, 2013
The Independent- Scott Yundt

It is estimated that the total costs of the US nuclear weapons complex over the next decade will exceed $640 Billion! Twenty years after the end of the cold war, the costs and inherent danger of our nuclear weapons program is putting us all at risk of both actual and fiscal annihilation. We need to bring serious public pressure to bear on the federal agencies and private companies involved in the nuclear weapons complex.

We have the ability to bring some of this pressure locally. I will be joining other citizens at the gates of Lawrence Livermore National Lab, our local nuclear weapons research and design facility, to vigil for nuclear disarmament once a month.

The vigil will take place at the Lab's East Avenue gate (at East Ave. & Vasco Rd.) from 7AM to 8:30AM on the Friday following the first Thursday of every month. It is a small spark that can hopefully add to a collective fire to end this nuclear madness.

Ken Rose Interviews Tri-Valley CAREs Staff Attorney Scott Yundt

March 4, 2013
Ken Rose- What Now- KOWS Radio Occidental 107.3 FM

Click to hear the full interview...

Group very helpful to lab employees

February 21, 2013
Valley Times-Herald- Richard French (second article down)

Hello, Livermore neighbors. I've lived in Livermore for my entire 55 years, minus a couple of years while I was in the U.S. Marine Corps and traveling. My family lived in Livermore all of this time.

My dad worked at the Livermore Lab for 32 years as a math scientist and computer programmer. He was the best father a son could have, and I miss him dearly. He died of cancer two summers ago. His illness was determined to have been more likely than not caused by his exposures at the lab. The Labor Department has a compensation program that has money set aside for Energy Department employees like my dad and their survivors.

In my case, I needed some help with the Labor Department's application process. I received that aid here in Livermore from Scott Yundt, the staff attorney at Tri-Valley CAREs. Scott also facilitates a support group for workers and their families. Interested members of the community can contact him at or at 443-7148

Read the full story...

Organization does great work for 30 years

February 21, 2013
Valley Times-Herald- Jo Ann Frisch

Tri-Valley CAREs celebrates its 30th anniversary this year! I joined the group in 1988 and am presently serving on the board of directors. We have grown from a small group of Livermore residents in 1983 to more than 5,000 members now.

Through dedicated advocacy, we have spoken truth to power and stopped the creation of new nuclear weapons; made sure community members have had a voice in decisions that impact their lives; demanded cleanup of nuclear waste in our air, soil and water; and worked toward a conversion of Livermore Lab to a nuclear weapons-free "green" lab.

We invite you to join us as we seek a peaceful and equitable society for our children and ourselves. With your help we can win new victories in our 30th anniversary year. Look for various events coming up in 2013 on our website at

Read the full story...

Redirect Mission

February 21, 2013
The Independent - Tom O'Neill

"Livermore is a town with the soul of a college." This can certainly be said by reason of the outstanding rise of Las Positas College. But it can also be said by reason of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Sandia-Livermore.

In the twenty years I've followed Livermore local politics, there's never been a time when scientists from our labs have not been involved in our community's educational, cultural, and economic development.

These same working scientists (the non-managerial ones at least) have of course little input on the budgeting of projects at the labs where they work. Yet I am sure they bring the same civic virtue to their day jobs that they bring to their work on behalf of the local community.

Unfortunately, the great taskts of national security like shifting ground in seismic epochs, have moved on from concerns for sharply defined nuclear supremacy to the issues of global climate change, decreasing biological diversity (the web of life being rent with apertures), and a world population that continues to grow even as its individual members make ever greater demands on resources that continue to deplete.

The current budgets of our labs all but ignore these urgent issues even as they persist in a preoccupation with nuclear weaponry that subverts all our concern for nuclear non-proliferation. To the private and guarded misgivings of some of our hardworking scientists, it is time that we, their fellow citizens, here in Livermore add our own strong voices on behalf of redirecting immense intellectual capital lodged here in a manner that addresses realistically the matters that threaten our national security.

Roads and Bombs

February 14, 2013
The Independent- Chelsea Collonge

I drive between the Bay Area and New Mexico several times a year. Both these places which I call home are harmed by nuclear weapons policy. Los Alamos Lab in New Mexico makes new nuclear bomb cores, despite our government's promise to reduce the nuclear stockpile. Now Livermore Lab in the Bay Area has to import these bomb cores, test them and send them back? If this plan goes into action, toxic plutonium will join me and millions of others on the highway six times a year.

We wouldn't need to test these bomb cores at all if DC focused on the safety of existing weapons rather than new untested designs. Playing pass-the-nuke might be a fun adventure for the politicians and scientists, but it's one that communities can't afford. Join with Tri-Valley CAREs to tell DC and the Labs: road-trips are fine, but leave the bombs behind!

Hazardous Plan

February 14, 2013
The Independent- Beverly King

On January 30th, Tri-Valley CAREs sponsired a Community Forum at the Livermore Liabrary to explain the Dept. of Energy plan to dangerously ship plutoniumpits from Los Alamos, New Mexico for testing at the Lawrence Livermore national Laboratory and then returned to New Mexico via public roads.

I was at the Forum to hear leal, environmental and policy experts explain their concerns about the plutonium shipments, which ranged from legalities to environmental hazards to the complex issues of nuclear development.

The Forum was filled with people concerned with this dangerous proposal. I thank Tri-Valley CAREs for sposoring this event. most encouraging was when the audience separated into groups to discuss various issues and determine the next course of action. The enthusiasm was ardent and productive. To join in the next stps one can attend a follow-up meeting at the Livermore Library on Thursday, February 21st at 7:30. Additional community response can stop this hazardous plan. For more information check

Plutonium Plan Mobilizes East Bay Community

January 30, 2013
NBC Bay Area- Kris Sanchez

East Bay activists say Dept of Energy plan is potentially illegal

TriValley CAREs - Communities Against a Radioactive Environment - is planning a public forum for this evening to tell people about the U.S. Department of Energy's proposal to transport plutonium bomb cores, also known as "pits," to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

"Lawrence Livermore failed security drills and no longer has the security for bomb-usable plutonium," said Marylia Kelley of TriValley Cares.

Kelley says she's been to Washington, D.C. to talk to lawmakers about the proposal, which she says has been in the making since last spring. "This is not two guys talking in a hallway," Kelley said.

However, the Public Affairs spokesman from Lawrence Livermore Laboratory says nothing has been decided, and that in fact, there is no plan in place.

"If the National Nuclear Security Administration decides to go down that route, and they decide that they want to have testing here - and there are a lot of if's here - security is something that would have to be part of the conversation," said spokesman Jim Bono.

Bono adds that Lawrence Livermore Lab won't really have a say in the decision that will ultimately be made by the NNSA.

The statement from NNSA reads in part, "NNSA has no plans to return Security Category I/II material such as pits to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Should it become necessary to revisit this decision, NNSA would only do so after carefully evaluating the policy and program implications of such a change."

Kelley says she agrees that there is no "final" plan, and thus, this is the time for the public to act to make sure the plutonium cores don't end up at a facility without the proper security, even if it's just a for testing.

"There are safer alternatives. It makes nobody safer to put these bomb cores on trucks at Los Alamos, bring them through three states if they take the shortest route, test them at Livermore lab, put them back on a truck send them back across the three states and to Los Alamos lab," Kelley says.

The public forum is Wednesday, January 30th from 7pm-9pm at the Livermore Public Library at 1188 S. Livermore Avenue, Livermore.

Read the full story...

Weapons-grade plutonium could be trucked to Livermore, watchdog groups say

January 31, 2013
Bay Area Newsgroup- Jeremy Thomas

LIVERMORE -- Nuclear watchdog groups spoke out at a panel Wednesday against a federal proposal they say could result in the trucking of weapons-grade plutonium from New Mexico to Lawrence Livermore Laboratory for testing.

"We're here to ask how and why we can stop plutonium shipments to Livermore," said Scott Yundt, staff attorney for Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, which sponsored the forum.

Government representatives say there is no such plan to move plutonium from Los Alamos National Laboratory to the Bay Area for diagnostic testing. But during the presentation, panelists from Livermore and New Mexico said although no plan has been formalized, the idea has been discussed by U.S. Department of Energy officials and in documents from the National Nuclear Security Administration.

"There's no question that this is the proposal," said Tri-Valley CAREs Executive Director Marylia Kelley. "What would be the fair thing to say is that the final decision hasn't been made."

Tri-Valley CAREs convened the forum to draw attention to elements of the draft Revised Plutonium Strategy, a NNSA alternative to a delayed multibillion-dollar nuclear facility at the Los Alamos lab. Periodic diagnostic testing on plutonium "pits," the panelists said, is being considered for Livermore's Superblock facility, starting in 2014.

According to the NNSA website, "Plutonium pits are a critical core component of a nuclear weapon.

To ensure the reliability, safety, and security of nuclear weapons without underground nuclear testing, weapons go through a surveillance process, where they are regularly taken apart, examined, and tests run on their components."

Lab spokeswoman Lynda Seaver said any decision to move plutonium would be up to the NNSA, an agency within the Energy Department.

The bottom line is this is an NNSA decision regarding these pits, and right now this is only a discussion," Seaver said. "Until NNSA tells us they're going to do this, we can't do anything else."

She also confirmed Superblock is the only place in the country that can do this type of diagnostic testing.

In September, the NNSA removed all Category I and II special nuclear material from the Livermore lab -- a class including enriched uranium and high-grade plutonium -- in an effort to reduce operating costs and improve security. The move, according to the agency, saved taxpayers about $40 million.

Al Stotts, an NNSA spokesman, said Tuesday the agency doesn't plan to ship plutonium to Livermore or reverse the lab's security downgrading but didn't shut the door completely.

"NNSA has no plans to return Security Category I/II material such as pits and secondary assemblies containing (special nuclear material) to LLNL," Stotts said in a prepared statement. "Should it become necessary to revisit this decision, NNSA would only do so after carefully evaluating the policy and program implications of such a change."

Stotts said any change requires going through a strict environmental process, including National Environmental Policy Act studies.

Yundt, Tri-Valley CAREs attorney, said if the agency does decide to move plutonium to Livermore, it should conduct a full NEPA report, otherwise the group would pursue "judicial action."

Another panelist was Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, who said any decision to bring weapons-grade plutonium back to Livermore could have "profound implications" on the lab's direction.

"I think this is a winnable issue," Coghlan told the audience.

U.S. Plans to Ship Plutonium Bomb Cores Across Three States

January 29, 2013
Environmental News Service

LIVERMORE, California, January 29, 2013 (ENS) - Environmental, legal and nuclear experts from California and New Mexico are holding a community forum Wednesday to reveal the "potentially illegal" new federal government plan to ship plutonium bomb cores across three western states.

The forum will be the first public discussion of this proposal by the U.S. Department of Energy to move the plutonium bomb cores from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

The Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories are the nation's primary nuclear weapons design facilities.

On September 30, 2012, the Livermore Lab permanently lost its security authorization to handle, use or store bomb-usable quantities of plutonium, including bomb cores, called pits.

Nine days earlier, the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration said that its removal and consolidation program for plutonium and enriched uranium had eliminated these Security Category I/II special nuclear material items from the Livermore Lab's Plutonium Facility.

NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino said on September 21, 2012, "Consolidating this nuclear material will help save critical taxpayer dollars, help improve the safety and security posture at the site, and help align our enterprise for the coming decades."

The Livermore Lab's primary mission will continue to be to ensure the safety, security and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile, said D'Agostino, but "this mission will now be performed with a small quantity of special nuclear material, resulting in annual cost savings for taxpayers of about $40 million."

Despite no longer being responsible for security covering Category I/II special nuclear material, the community groups hosting the forum are pointing out that Livermore Lab will be receiving plutonium pits from Los Alamos.

Marylia Kelley, executive director, Tri-Valley CAREs, and Jay Coghlan, executive director, Nuclear Watch New Mexico will tell the forum that the DOE, "has failed to adequately plan for the permanent reduction of Livermore Lab's security forces from a Category I/II level to the lesser Category III, which does not permit nuclear bomb usable quantities of plutonium to be on the site."

The NNSA explains that plutonium pits are a critical core component of a nuclear weapon. "To ensure the reliability, safety, and security of nuclear weapons without underground nuclear testing, weapons go through a surveillance process, where they are regularly taken apart, examined, and tests run on their components," the agency says on its website.

Some of the inspections are so thorough that the plutonium pit is destroyed during evaluation, says the NNSA. In order for this weapon to reenter the stockpile, a replacement pit is needed.

NNSA lost the ability to manufacture replacement pits when Colorado's Rocky Flats Plant closed in 1992. "For the W88 warhead, this was a concern because there were not enough W88 pits to replace ones that were destroyed during the surveillance process," the NNSA says.

By 2007, NNSA regained its ability to manufacture plutonium pits, which is now done at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which manufactured pits for the W88 nuclear warhead from 2007-2012.

While the Los Alamos Lab now makes plutonium pits for the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, Kelley explains that the DOE left a suite of pit diagnostics in one service bay in Bldg. 334 at the Livermore Lab.

DOE now proposes to bring whole plutonium pits from New Mexico to California to utilize the pit diagnostics, that Kelley calls "shake and bake," because they consist of a shaker table, thermal unit and drop test.

"Los Alamos Lab does not currently possess this particular diagnostic suite and Livermore Lab does not possess the security infrastructure to safely handle the pits," warn Kelley and Coghlan.

They are concerned because, the Energy Department "has not conducted any environmental impact statement or review of the safety hazards and potentially catastrophic consequences of its proposal."

At the forum they will propose alternatives to the government's plans that they say will provide greater safety at both national laboratories and all the communities in between.

The forum also will address the Superfund cleanup of leaking toxic and radioactive wastes at Livermore Lab and the contrasting futures that cleanup and bomb testing offer to the community.

The forum is sponsored by Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment), Livermore-based nuclear watchdogs since 1983.

It will take place Wednesday, January 30, from 7 to 9 pm at the Livermore main library, 1188 South Livermore Ave, Livermore, California.

Read the full story...

KPFA Radio Interview about Plutonium Pits coming to Livermore Lab

January 22, 2013
Tara Dorabji

Plutonium pits are scheduled to routinely ship across three states, from the Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab to the Livermore nuclear weapons lab. On September 30, 2012, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's security status was downgraded. The Livermore Lab is no longer authorized to handle, test or store nuclear bomb usable quantities of plutonium, including these plutonium pits. Scott Yundt, the staff attorney for Tri-Valley CAREs discusses the dangerous plan and the upcoming community meeting (on Jan 30) to stop it.

Click here to listen to the interview...