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Fall 2014 Citizen's Watch Newsletter

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Nuclear Pollution & the Power of Our Voices

by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' Fall 2014 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Nuclear weapons activities at the Livermore Lab main site and its Site 300 have resulted in hundreds of documented toxic and radioactive releases to our air, soil, groundwater and surface waters. These activities, and the dangers they pose, are ongoing.

Both locations are federal "Superfund" sites. The EPA placed the Livermore Lab main site on its list of most poisoned sites in the country in 1987. Site 300, the Lab's high explosives testing range near Tracy, joined the roster in 1990.

The cleanup of tainted soil and groundwater aquifers at both locations is complex and includes multiple and often commingled plumes of hazardous and radioactive wastes, involving uranium, tritium, volatile organic compounds, high explosives, hexavalent chromium and others. The cleanup timeframe is multi-generational and will take 50-80 years, or more.

The necessity to address this pollution is urgent. At the main site, the EPA calculated that the largest off-site groundwater contaminant plume could affect municipal water wells. The result would add one cancer for every thousand Livermore residents drinking the water. At Site 300, the EPA estimated the risk of drinking the water at one cancer for every hundred people.

In this era of federal budget uncertainties, the Lab is adding to the danger by delaying technical progress on the cleanup and abandoning its community involvement obligations.

At the main site and Site 300, the Superfund cleanup process has gotten off-track, and too many decisions are being made informally and out of public view. The power of our voices is a vitally needed antidote to bureaucratic inertia and the pollution lurking in our environment.

Lab's "Public Involvement" is Broken

At the main site, Livermore Lab has not held a meeting of its official "Community Work Group" to oversee Superfund cleanup decisions in about two years. The public is being systematically excluded.

Contributing problems include the thick veil of secrecy under which the Lab and its parent agency, the Dept. of Energy (DOE), too often hide, the hypertechnical "Lab-speak" that makes many cleanup documents impenetrable, the absence of Spanish translation that shuts out the most historically disenfranchised among us, and the regulatory agencies' inability to compel meaningful changes in the DOE's public involvement methods.

At Site 300, a pressing problem is the lack of any official process to involve the public in Superfund cleanup decisions. There is no "Community Work Group." Here, too, the Lab techno-speak is a barrier and there is a refusal to translate any Superfund documents into Spanish.

Our Goals for Public Participation and Cleanup

Our overall aim is to improve the quality and quantity of the Superfund cleanup at the Livermore Lab main site and Site 300.

We believe that environmental justice means that the remedy choices and cleanup levels chosen must reflect the entire community's input, not just that of the polluter and the federal and state regulatory agencies. The public that bears the health risks must be given the tools and the opportunities to decide "how clean is clean?" and which technologies for conducting the cleanup are acceptable.

The solution is to strengthen the overall participation of community residents in Superfund decision-making. We at Tri-Valley CAREs can help by conducting outreach to Spanish speakers, instituting an environmentally focused Youth Video Contest and other student activities, and conducting workshops and community meetings, such as the one we are sponsoring September 18 (see Insert).

Another challenge we are addressing is to ensure adequate stable funding for the Superfund cleanup. Funding is vulnerable every year; in addition, cleanup funding is woefully insufficient and is secondary to costly nuclear weapons programs. Only about 2% of the DOE funding at Livermore Lab goes to the cleanup. We at Tri-Valley CAREs will set up meetings in the coming weeks and months with local and state officials, members of Congress and other decision-makers.

In the final analysis, however, the broken public participation system that exists today cannot be fully remedied until DOE and the Lab agree, or are compelled, to create an open public process that includes all sectors of the Livermore, Tracy and surrounding communities. The public's voices must be heard in this process, with decisions reflecting their involvement.

These outcomes are possible. They are within our grasp. It is up to each of us to seize the moment and exercise our power for change.

Key Questions for the Future

Along with renewed public involvement, there is a need to improve the management of pollutants and the cleanup technologies used at the main site and Site 300.

At the main site, the Lab has deferred completing a focused feasibility study to address the commingling of radioactive tritium and chlorinated solvents. Presently there is no role for the community in remedy selection. Moreover, there are four "pilot projects" underway requiring greater community oversight. They involve bio-remediation, injection of zero-valent iron, in-situ thermal treatment of contaminants and pneumatic "fracking" to open pathways to contaminants trapped in clays.

At Site 300, there is incomplete characterization of contaminants in soils, particularly in an area used for bomb design tests involving depleted uranium, or DU. The remedial investigation/feasibility study to determine the best DU cleanup technology and the cleanup levels to be attained is lagging a year or more behind schedule and lacking a regular public involvement process.

Additionally, now is the time that Liv-ermore Lab is undergoing a review of its permit to store and process hazardous wastes from ongoing operations. The old permit has gone beyond its expiration date and the new one is still in-progress, we are told. The agency in charge of approving, denying or making changes to the Lab's hazardous waste permit is the CA Dept. of Toxic Substances Control. Tri-Valley CAREs has requested a 90-day public comment period (rather than 30-days) and other community involvement mechanisms.

More information on the draft permit and the status of the Superfund cleanup will be available at the community meeting on Thursday, September 18. Environmental scientist Peter Strauss and other experts will there, and you are invited. (see Insert for details)

Strategic Thinking

by Scott Yundt from Tri-Valley CAREs' Fall 2014 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Tri-Valley CAREs' board of directors, staff, and members, new and old, gathered on Saturday, August 23rd to conduct our annual strategic planning retreat. Two skilled facilitators led us through a number of successful exercises to help us focus and plan the program for the coming year.

The day began with Tri-Valley CAREs staff detailing the achievements of the year that has passed since the last strategic planning. This accountability piece allows participants to see how strategic planning influences the staff's prioritizing over the year and brings them up to date on the work that has been done and what still needs doing. This report, "Looking Forward, Looking Back" will be posted on our website.

Then the potential program priorities for the coming year were presented. Additional perspective on those priorities was offered via a "SWOT" exercise, in which the group's current Strengths and Weaknesses are discussed together with external Opportunities and Threats.

Then participants were given the opportunity to vote on the program priorities. The top six priorities all received significant numbers of votes and are: 1) Stop new bombs and bomb plants, cut the nuclear weapons budget; 2) Ensure the cleanup of pollution at the Livermore Lab main site & Site 300; 3) Block plutonium proposals at Livermore Lab for bomb cores & the National Ignition Facility; 4) (tie) Remove Livermore Lab & Sandia, Livermore from the nuclear weapons complex; 4) (tie) Obtain justice for sick workers with a focus on Livermore & Sandia Lab workers made ill by on the job exposures; and 5) Promote global nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation & the "rule of law."

The day culminated with discussions of internal strategies, like outreach, technology and fundraising. We played an inspiring game that showed us the road to disarmament is possible, and we ate great food and enjoyed each others company. We thank all who joined us and encourage you to join us next year.

Supporting the Marshall Islands' Lawsuit

by Scott Yundt from Tri-Valley CAREs' Fall 2014 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Lawyers for the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) are asking a Federal Court judge to reject the U.S. government's claim the United States government can not be compelled to comply with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

On April 24, 2014, the RMI filed a lawsuit in U.S. Federal Court, alleging the United States has violated its moral and legal obligations under the NPT by refusing to negotiate in good faith toward complete nuclear disarmament.

On July 21, the U.S. responded to these allegations by filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the issue of U.S. compliance with the treaty is not subject to the Court's jurisdiction.

On August 21, the RMI filed an Opposition to the U.S. motion to dismiss, explaining why the Court cannot and should not look the other way.

The RMI argues that because the Non-Proliferation Treaty is in effect and the U.S. is a party to it, there is no choice but for the U.S. to comply with it. The U.S. Constitution says "ALL" treaties are the supreme law of this nation, not just some treaties; and the federal courts are charged with interpreting treaties, and resolving treaty disputes, such as this one.

Tri-Valley CAREs was called upon to file an Amicus Curiae brief regarding the proper venue in federal court. The RMI wishes to have the case heard in the Northern District of California, home to significant nuclear weapons research and development at Livermore Lab. However, the Government's Motion to Dismiss alleged that the nuclear weapons work at the Lab was tangentially related to NPT compliance and argued that the case should be dismissed for lack of venue. Tri-Valley CAREs' brief describes the significant nuclear weapons work being done at Livermore and the legal basis for maintaining venue in the Northern District of California as preferred by the RMI.

The RMI was used as the testing ground for 67 nuclear tests conducted by the United States from 1946 to 1958. These tests - equivalent to 1.7 Hiroshima bombs being exploded daily for 12 years - resulted in lasting health and environmental problems for the Marshall Islanders. The RMI Nuclear Zero lawsuit against the U.S. seeks no compensation, but rather, seeks action to commence and conclude negotiations for complete nuclear disarmament by 2020, thus ending the nuclear weapons threat for all humanity, now and in the future.

Tony de Brum, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands, emphasizes that the Marshallese people "have suffered the catastrophic and irreparable damage of these weapons, and we vow to fight so that no one else on earth will ever again experience these atrocities."

Print Bites: All the News that Fits to Print

by Scott Yundt and Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' Winter 2014 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

A Group Called CRENEL.The 9-member "Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories" held its first meeting in late July. Featured speakers included key congressional staff who drafted the enabling legislation for the CRENEL. What they said to the Commissioners is encouraging. Doug Clapp, the Majority Clerk on the Senate Energy & Water Appropriations subcommittee, highlighted the CRENEL's charge to determine whether there are opportunities for consolidation and realignment. Clapp told the Commissioners: look at whether we need all three of the big weapons labs. I hope you will consider looking at that. Leland Cogliani, Professional Staff on the Senate Energy & Water Appropriations subcommittee and the CRENEL's main architect, urged the Commissioners to question: Are the labs appropriately sized? It looks like "no" to us. Cogliani also told them: If you want to close a lab, tell us that in the report. Tri-Valley CAREs has meetings in Washington, DC this month (September) with the CRENEL and Cogliani. We will keep you posted.

For Justice. Tri-Valley CAREs is a co-founding member of a new statewide network, the California Environmental Justice Coalition (CEJC). The emerging coalition, already two dozen groups strong and growing, takes action to bring about systemic change in industry and government policies and practices to protect health and promote justice and resilient communities by following the Principles of Environmental Justice; promoting unity and solidarity; using community-based knowledge; and strengthening community leadership. CEJC honors the work of all our state's EJ groups and alliances and will use its strengths, including its unique combination of urban, suburban and rural groups, both large and small, to win on our issues. Look out polluters; here we come!

Remembering Hiroshima in Livermore. A large gathering took place outside of Livermore Lab on the morning of August 6th, the 69th Anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. This year's events included a rally and a march to the gates (where participants performed a traditional Japanese dance and a symbolic "die-in"), followed by a direct action. This year's theme, "Failure To Disarm: Holding Our Government Accountable" illuminated ongoing nuclear weapon "modernization" programs happening at Livermore Lab and elsewhere in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Attendees stood in silence at the time of the bombing and heard inspiring talks that touched on the continuing dangers of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant meltdowns, the continuing development of nuclear weapons at Livermore Lab (which was discussed by Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney Scott Yundt, pictured above) and the U.S. military build up in Asia.

Our keynote speaker, Rick Wayman of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, spoke about the Nuclear Zero lawsuits brought by the tiny but courageous Republic of the Marshall Islands. (See more on the back.) 30 non-violent protestors were arrested at the gates.

This successful event was sponsored by dozens of groups, including Tri-Valley CAREs. We believe that public involvement at this historic time, at the gates of one of the two principal U.S. nuclear weapons design labs, can concretely move us closer to the more truly secure, environmentally friendly, just and peaceful world we seek.

More pictures, video, press articles, and the text of the speakers speeches are available on our website in an August 7th blog about the event. Contact us if you are interested in participating in the planning for next year's 70th Anniversary event, (925) 443-7148.

Alerts 4 U

from Tri-Valley CAREs' Fall 2014 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Thursday, September 18

Special Tri-Valley CAREs meeting: Nuclear Waste Cleanup
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM, Livermore Library
Community Room A
1188 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

Join us for this very special meeting. We will hear from environmental scientist Peter Strauss and other experts regarding the Superfund cleanup of toxic and radioactive contamination at Livermore Lab. We will also craft an action plan to ensure the community has a voice in decisions. See Insert for details.

Friday, September 26

International Nuclear Abolition Day Vigil
7 AM - 8 AM, Livermore Lab East Gate, Greenvile Rd.
(925) 443-7148 for details

This month's vigil for nuclear disarmament will fall on International Nuclear Abolition Day. Folks from the Catholic Worker Farm are hosting the peace vigil, which will include prayers, songs, and potential dialog with LLNL workers. The theme of the day will be "Don't Bank on the Bomb" to bring attention to the release of a 284-page report of that title. The report will identify 298 financial institutions in 30 countries that invest heavily in companies involved in the US, British, French, Indian and Israeli nuclear weapon programs, including those profiting from nuclear weapons work at Livermore Lab. For more on the report check We hope you join us at this special vigil!

Thursday, October 2

Letter to the Editor writing party
5:30 PM - 7 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Come and write a letter to the editor of your favorite newspaper in a friendly and supportive environment. Our suggested topic will be the cleanup of toxic pollution at Livermore Lab. We will offer a short briefing and handouts to get you started. Or, you may choose to write on a different topic. Snacks and refreshments served. Also, save the date for the Thursday, November 6th Letter to the Editor writing party.

Thursday, October 16

Tri-Valley CAREs meeting
7:30 PM - 9 PM, Livermore Library Community Room A
1188 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

We will follow up on the September Special Meeting on Nuclear Waste Cleanup and hear updates on the Hazardous Waste Permit Renewal and more! It will be a fun and information packed meeting. See you there.

Friday, October 31

Deadline for Youth Video Contest submissions

This will be the final day for submissions to our 2014 Youth Video Contest. (See Insert for more info). All valid entries will posted on our Youtube channel and on our website. The winning videos will be shown at our December 9th party and videographers will receive special recognition. Mark your calendars early. See Insert for video & party details.

Friday, October 31

Vigil for Nuclear Disarmament
3 PM - 4:40 PM, Livermore Lab West Gate, Vasco Rd.
(925) 443-7148 for details

This month's vigil for nuclear disarmament will fall on Halloween (note the new time and location). The vigil will include prayers, songs, and potential dialog with LLNL workers. All are invited to bring signs, good vibes and hopes for peace.

Click here to download the PDF.