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Spring 2013 Citizen's Watch Newsletter

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The Weaponeers Strike Back

by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' Spring 2013 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Behind the scenes, a critically important struggle is developing between the Navy, which seeks to constrain the costs and the number of changes that Livermore Lab will introduce into its W88 submarine launched nuclear warhead, and the weapons designers at Livermore who are chomping at the bit to design the nation's first "common platform" or "interoperable" nuclear warhead that can be delivered from either a land-based missile silo or a submarine.

A leaked Navy memo, released in January by Tri-Valley CAREs and Nuclear Watch New Mexico, revealed the Secretary of the Navy's opposition to any near term start of the redesign effort for the W78/88-1 warhead. Moreover, the September 2012 memo stated the Navy's refusal to pay for the initiative.

The two watchdog groups have subsequently uncovered a second, more recent, memo from the Nuclear Weapons Council (NWC). It shows the weaponeers at Livermore and at the National Nuclear Security Administration Headquarters striking back. In December 2012, the NWC granted Livermore Lab "written approval" for entry into Phase 6.2 (the analysis and feasibility study) for the new warhead. However, the memo directs Livermore to evaluate two baseline designs.

One design will be the Lab's "preferred option," which is the new W78/88-1 interoperable warhead that would use some elements from the land-based W78, some from the sub-based W88, and the core from a third design, the W87. The other option for the Navy's W88 is more modest. The memo states it will be "based on the current design." The choice of which design will go forward in the Life Extension Program will be made at the end of Phase 6.2.

However, the weaponeers slipped a poison pill into the NWC memo. It states that "surety enhancements" will be considered as "objective requirements" in the ostensibly more modest design effort. Depending on which enhancements are included, the Navy may be offered a false choice in which both warhead designs introduce adventurous changes, are inordinately costly, and will keep Livermore busy at deadly pursuits for decades.

Rarely does the public get a window into the weaponeers' ambitions and the interagency battles that underlie important decisions about nuclear weapons development. Yet, it is through these processes that key aspects of national policy are often determined. In the final analysis, however, the President has the power to not request funds for specific nuclear weapons activities. And, the Congress has the ultimate power of the purse to refuse funding even if it is requested. Tri-Valley CAREs will continue its investigation, and we will keep you informed.

"DC Days" 2013

by Scott Yundt and Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' Spring 2013 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Tri-Valley CAREs is preparing its team for the 25th annual "DC Days." The four-day event in April brings activists from around the country to Washington, DC to speak truth to power about the impacts of nuclear weapons on their communities.

Following an all-day training session will be nearly 100 pre-set meetings with members of Congress, their committee and personal staff, and top officials in the Obama Administration. The event is organized each year by the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability and its member groups, including Tri-Valley CAREs.

Your Tri-Valley CAREs delegation this year will include Janis Kate Turner, our Board President whose home sits near the contaminated groundwater plume emanating from Livermore Lab.

Additionally, Bob Civiak, a physicist, policy analyst and former Budget Examiner at the White House Office of Management and Budget, will be joining our team. And, rounding it out will be Scott Yundt, our group's Staff Attorney, and Marylia Kelley, our Executive Director.

Together we will conduct the advocacy necessary in DC to stop dangerous and provocative nuclear weapons, strengthen accountability and safety in the nuclear weapons complex, and preserve important cleanup activities.

Janis said, "I am going to Washington to present the petitions we have gathered. I want to prevent plutonium from being put on our highways. Further, I will advocate to stop nuclear weapons and fund cleanup of toxic wastes instead."

Will you add your voice to amplify the message? While we are in DC, call your Representative on April 15, or as soon thereafter as you can. You can use the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Ask him or her to co-sponsor the SANE Act which is being introduced by Rep. Ed Markey. See "Print Bites" on page 4 for details.

Print Bites: All the News that Fits to Print

by Scott Yundt and Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' Spring 2013 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Stop that Bomb. Tri-Valley CAREs joined more than a dozen national and grassroots nuclear watchdog organizations in sending a letter to our Senator, Dianne Feinstein, outlining the logic of withholding any funds requested by DOE NNSA to enhance the B61 nuclear bomb to create the new B61-12. The groups' February 5 letter outlines a series of better options, including U.S. withdrawal of all B61s from NATO bases. As we reported earlier, the B61-12 Life Extension Program (LEP) was originally estimated at $3.9 billion. A more recent Defense Department analysis places its cost at $10.4 billion, or about $25 million per bomb. After sending the letter, the groups met with Senator Feinstein, who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that funds nuclear weapons activities. To follow up, we ask you to call Senator Feinstein via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to add your thoughts on the B61-12 LEP and on nuclear weapons spending in general.

Nuclear Sanity. Soon, Rep. Ed Markey will reintroduce the Smarter Approaches to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act in the House of Representatives to cut wasteful nuclear weapons spending. Right now, he is looking for co-sponsors. Call your Representative via the switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to find out if s/he is a SANE Act co-sponsor yet. Markey's bill, if passed, will save $100 billion over the coming decade by curtailing more than a dozen wasteful and proliferation-provocative nuclear weapons programs, including the B61-12 Life Extension Program, the Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12, and the MOX plant at the Savannah River Site. Tri-Valley CAREs is honored that Rep. Markey has listed our group again this year as a participating non-governmental organization (NGO) in the effort to cut the nuclear weapons budget.

Plutonium Fuel Revelation. In March, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which is the investigative arm of Congress, revealed that the MOX (mixed oxide plutonium fuel) plant is experiencing continuing cost increases and schedule delays. The GAO testified that, "DOE is currently forecasting an increase in the total project cost for the MOX facility from $4.9 billion to $7.7 billion and a delay in the start of operations from October 2016 to November 2019." What MOX has yet to experience, however, is a willing customer. Tri-Valley CAREs and groups across the country are calling for termination of the MOX project. And, we will be targeting its funding in the FY 2014 budget request.

See a Problem? The Government Accountability Office has released a new study of U.S. bio-warfare agent research labs. Among its major findings: The federal government never implemented GAO's 2009 recommendation to create national standards for planning, building and managing facilities handling dangerous pathogens, including at Livermore Lab. According to GAO's March 2013 report, "there is still no one agency or group that knows the nation's need for all U.S. high-containment laboratories... including the research priorities and capacity, number and location." In short, there are an excessive number of bio-labs, housing more anthrax, plague and other hazardous biological agents than anyone is tracking, needlessly spending taxpayer money each year.

Moniz Tapped. President Obama has nominated Ernie Moniz to replace outgoing Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. Some environmental groups have protested the choice, citing Moniz' ties through MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to big oil and natural gas "fracking" enterprises as well as his vocal support for nuclear power. Moniz served as Undersecretary of Energy during the Clinton Administration. Reportedly, the Senate is likely to confirm him with little debate. As the new Secretary, he will make key decisions about nuclear weapons as well as energy policy. Tri-Valley CAREs will call on Moniz to increase openness at DOE (which has suffered greatly since the Clinton years) and to forge energy policies that favor truly "green" renewable technologies and security policies that concretely reduce U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons and speed their dismantlement.

Nuclear Waste Leaks. In late February, the DOE announced that six underground tanks at the Hanford site near the Columbia River in eastern WA were leaking high-level nuclear waste. Earlier in the month, the Department reported that one high level waste tank that had been "emptied" was oozing the concentrated sludge left in its bottom at the rate of 100 to 300 gallons per year. From the 1940s to the 1970s, the government produced plutonium in reactors at Hanford for the nuclear weapons stockpile. This resulted in around 53 million gallons of high level nuclear waste. Our colleagues in WA have been demanding double shell tanks, but so far Hanford's high level wastes are in 177 giant tanks, of which 149 are single shell. In addition to the six newly found leaks, other underground tanks and dumpsites at Hanford are leaking radioactivity into the environment.

An Agency Divided. The DOE Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has repeatedly written reports and its chief has told Congress that it would be more functional and budget friendly to dissolve the semi-autonomous NNSA altogether and place its functions back inside DOE as they were before NNSA was formed in 2000. As Tri-Valley CAREs has noted in various venues this view makes a lot of sense, as does the OIG's parallel recommendation that all the DOE laboratories undergo a BRAC-like process to weed out duplication and force appropriate closures. More recently, the head of the DOE Dept. of Health, Safety and Security testified to Congress that he, too, supports dissolution of the NNSA in favor of the old structure. In contrast, the Deputy Energy Secretary testified recently in defense of the present structure. Meanwhile, as a result of the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, a high-level group will be empaneled to make recommendations on the future of NNSA and its nuclear safety procedures. As the panel gets underway, we will keep you posted on its activities, overall direction and recommendations.

From Norway to Mexico. For one week in March, in Oslo, Norway, the humanitarian dimensions of nuclear weapons took center stage, reframing the discourse from the more narrow political and security "frames" to the consequences that the use of nuclear weapons would have on all of society. The week began with a forum, hosted by the NGO International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons that attracted about 450 civil society leaders from 70 countries. Next, the government of Norway hosted an international conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, attracting 127 governments, UN agencies and representatives from various sectors of civil society. The 5 major nuclear powers, representing the "Permanent 5" seats on the UN Security Council, had determined they would boycott the Norwegian government's initiative. Thus, the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China were notably absent. Nonetheless, Mexico announced it would host the follow up meeting, and so this necessary, historic and broad-based discussion will continue at both the NGO and governmental levels. Viva Mexico!

That's Guid! Scotland's governing party has just approved language demanding removal of British nuclear weapons if voters pass the referendum on formal independence next year. Participants at the Scottish National Party convention approved an amendment to the national constitution banning the "housing, basing and possession" of nuclear weapons. Presently Scotland houses four British subs carrying nuclear tipped Trident missiles at the Faslane naval base. The independence vote is slated for Sept. 18, 2014. Stay tuned!

Dangerous Response. After announcing its intention, North Korea conducted its third nuclear test in February. Initial analysis suggests it was more successful than the country's 2006 and 2009 tests. The UN Security Council unanimously passed a new round of sanctions. While not likely to lead to a positive outcome, the sanctions, like the test itself, were predictable. However, U.S. nuclear capable B-52 and B-2 bombers began runs over South Korean territory in March that unmistakably simulated a nuclear attack on the North. While North Korea's rhetorical responses have been bellicose, there is a clear distinction - the U.S. could devastate North Korea and has a recent history of military intervention there with a still unresolved ending. Put simply, the U.S. must stand down its provocative military maneuvers and call on its allies in the South and its opponents in the North to likewise suspend their military exercises.

In the short run, genuine communication, by any means available, is paramount. Proposals already on the table for a Northeast Asia Nuclear Free Zone should be pursued. The U.S. can and should change its nuclear policy from deliberate ambiguity to one of declared, unequivocal "no first use" of nuclear weapons. In the longer term, a world free of nuclear weapons must be not just pursued but achieved. There are no "right nations" to possess nuclear bombs. Hypocrisy about that basic truth holds the whole world hostage to a situation where miscalculation, madness or malevolent intent can lead to annihilation.

Alerts 4 U

from Tri-Valley CAREs' Winter 2013 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Monday, April 22

Earth Day Action for Environmental and Climate Justice
Noon, EPA Region IX Headquarters
75 Hawthorne St., SF (near BART)
(925) 443-7148 for details

Join us on Earth Day to tell the White House, Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency to protect our climate, health and communities, not polluters! The event is sponsored by more than 60 organizations, including Tri-Valley CAREs. Pam Richard, our 2013 Board Vice-President, will be speaking. The event will begin at Noon with a traditional round dance and feature amazing speakers, music and cultural offerings during the afternoon. Directly impacted people from First Nations to Kettleman City to Oakland to Livermore will be there. Your presence is requested.

Thursday, April 25

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

Your Tri-Valley CAREs team will be freshly returned from Washington, DC and scores of meetings with members of Congress, committee staff, and senior officials in the Administration. Three of the team members will share their experiences with you, including progress we made and some of the "intel" we gained. We will also discuss next steps in stopping the transport of plutonium bomb cores and other nuclear weapons programs, cleanup at Livermore Lab and more. Don't miss it. Snacks and refreshments will be served. (In May, our meetings will return to the third Thursday of the month, May 16)

Tuesday, May 2

Sick Worker Support Group meets
Noon - 2 PM, Livermore Library
Community Room A
1188 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

This group is for YOU if you or a loved one has suffered illness that may be related to exposure to radiation and toxic materials at Livermore Lab, Sandia or another DOE site. Meet other workers and learn more about the federal compensation program. The sick worker support group is facilitated by Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney, Scott Yundt.

Thursday, May 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

Write a letter to the editor of your favorite newspaper in a friendly and supportive atmosphere. Our suggested topic this month will be the nuclear weapons budget, which is scheduled to be released April 10. We will offer a short briefing and handouts. Or, you may choose to write on a different topic. Snacks and refreshments will be served.

Friday, May 3

Livermore Peace Vigil
7 AM - 8:30 AM, Livermore Lab
Corner of East Ave. and Vasco Rd.
(925) 443-7148 for details

Vigil leaders are Chelsea Collonge and Marcus Page. The monthly vigils are a practice of peace. Lab workers are encouraged to stop and discuss nuclear weapons and their abolition. Additional vigilers are welcome. Feel free to come one time, or to return each month.

Federal Official Cooks Lab Management Review

by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' Spring 2013 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

A single federal official has stepped in and made "an adjustment to the recommended incentive fee" for the contractor that manages and operates the Livermore Lab. The contractor is a consortium made up of Bechtel National, the University of California, Babcock and Wilcox, the Washington Division of URS Corp. and Battelle.

The Fiscal Year 2012 Performance Evaluation Report (PER) for Livermore Lab shows that the numbers were cooked in Washington to benefit the contractor after the evaluation had been completed, allowing for an increased fee and the award of an extra year extension of the management contract.

The report states that the "Gateway to Award Term" requires the contractor to earn a minimum score of "80% earned incentive fee" to obtain the one-year extension. The Lab management's score is listed as "Fail (78%)." The PER clearly says the contractor failed to qualify for a one-year extension.

However, the PER also contains an addendum that reads: "It is noted that subsequent to the issuance of the PER that the NNSA [Headquarters] Fee Determining Official exercised her authority... making an adjustment to the recommended incentive fee, which resulted in the Contractor earning the award term." The one-paragraph addendum does not provide any rationale for the "adjustment," nor does it disclose in which management performance category the bump up was bestowed.

The Fee Determining Official was Neile Miller, the NNSA Deputy Administrator who is presently the agency's acting Administrator, following the resignation of Tom D'Agostino. Miller gave the contractor an extra $541,257 to help it meet the minimum "Gateway to Award Term" 80% pass score.

The 39-page Livermore Lab PER is rife with examples of management failures and potentially illegal practices. For example, the report notes an instance in which federal funding was given for one project but Lab management spent it on something else.

Moreover, the PER glosses over the debacle at the National Ignition Facility, which missed its third and final deadline to reach ignition. That failure resulted in a mere $1.3 million reduction in the maximum possible award fee. The total monetary award to the contractor is listed in the PER Summary as $44 million out of $50 million.

Tri-Valley CAREs has called on Congress to investigate the process that led to the Fee Determining Official's override of the "Fail" score for the contractor. We believe Congress must act to increase transparency and accountability in federal contracting procedures, including at Livermore Lab.

Keep Bomb Cores off the Road

by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' Spring 2013 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Tri-Valley CAREs hosted a forum earlier this year with environmental, legal and nuclear experts to discuss a federal proposal to transport plutonium bomb cores from the Los Alamos Lab in New Mexico to the Livermore Lab.

We also launched a petition campaign to give a direct voice in decision-making to our members - and to communities in CA, AZ and NM that will be put in harms way. (Please sign our petition in this insert.)

Under this government proposal, the nuclear bomb cores will come to, but not stay in, Livermore. Following "diagnostic tests" here the plutonium cores will go back on the road again to Los Alamos.

Background: Livermore Lab permanently lost its security authorization to handle, use or store bomb-usable quantities of plutonium, including these bomb cores. Yet, the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the agency that owns both weapons labs, left a suite of bomb core diagnostics in a service bay at Livermore Lab.

The Government's Plan: The DOE NNSA now proposes to grant itself a "variance" in order to bring nuclear bomb cores from NM to CA to utilize the diagnostics, which are called "shake and bake" by the weaponeers. The diagnostics consist of a "shaker table" to vibrate the plutonium, a "thermal unit" to heat the plutonium, and a "drop test" to measure the force of impact on the plutonium bomb cores.

Our Demand: Since Los Alamos Lab does not possess these diagnostics and Livermore Lab does not possess the security infrastructure to safely handle the plutonium cores, Tri-Valley CAREs is challenging the DOE NNSA to either retire the diagnostics altogether or move them to where the bomb cores are located.

Next Steps for the Government: The DOE NNSA has promised us that the agency will conduct an environmental review if and when it makes a final decision to put the plutonium bomb cores on the road. However, the DOE NNSA did not specify the level of review it would undertake. We specifically asked for a full Environmental Impact Statement and public hearings. Their reply was vague and unresponsive to our request.

Next Steps for the Public: We are not waiting until a final decision is made and the bomb cores are on the road. Instead, we seek to influence that decision. We are bringing thousands of signatures we have gathered so far to DC in mid-April. We plan to meet with DOE NNSA and with Congress. We will return to DC with more petition signatures later in the year. Therefore, we ask your help gathering signatures throughout the spring. Locally, we are also meeting with elected officials and decision-makers, including city councils and emergency responders. And, finally, we have notified DOE NNSA that we will file litigation if necessary.

Lab Seeks Hazardous Waste Permit Renewal

by Scott Yundt from Tri-Valley CAREs' Spring 2013 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The Draft Permit Renewal for the management of hazardous waste at Livermore Lab's main site will be issued by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) in May of this year, four years after it was due. The weapons programs and operations at the Lab have generated significant quantities of non-hazardous, hazardous, radioactive and mixed wastes. There are over 100 regulated hazardous constituents present at the Lab. These substances are known to cause a variety of health effects, including cancer, changes in hormone levels, skin disease, reproductive issues, and suppressed immune system.

The DTSC implements the provisions of the federal law that govern hazardous waste, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Waste management operations at the Lab are subject to federal, state, regional and local requirements.

Concurrently, DTSC will make its determination whether additional environmental review must be completed pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act. Mitigation of any significant impacts to the environment stemming from the Lab's handling, storage, treatment, packaging, and disposition of hazardous and mixed radioactive waste may be required.

Since 2009, the Lab has operated its Hazardous and Radioactive Waste Management facilities with an outdated permit (originally issued in 1999). After two deficient applications, the Lab's second revised permit renewal application was accepted, setting the stage for preparation of the Draft Permit Renewal, expected in May.

Upon release, the DTSC will allow for 30 days for public comment on the Draft Permit Renewal. During that time there will also be a public hearing in Livermore. Tri-Valley CAREs' staff will closely examine the document for legal and factual accuracy, create detailed written comments and draft talking points for the public hearing. Our initial review of the Permit Application suggests that the Draft Permit Renewal will propose some significant modifications that could pose significant impacts to the environment.

Tri-Valley CAREs has several concerns about the hazardous waste at the Lab that we hope the DTSC examines in the Draft Permit Renewal. First, there is an earthquake hazard at the Lab's Decontamination and Waste Treatment Facility (DWTF), which is the main hazardous waste facility. A study of the impacts of such an event on the facilities, which might release hazardous and mixed radioactive waste into the environment, must be completed.

Additionally, the very real possibility that a mishap at DWTF - whether the result of accident, oversight, mechanical failure, or failure to comply with applicable regulations - could result in substantial impacts to the environment and must be analyzed. Given Livermore Lab's history of such mishaps, an incident is likely.

Stay tuned for details on the public hearing in Livermore concerning the permit. Members of the public will be encouraged to attend. Tri-Valley CAREs will also coordinate written public comments via our website and newsletter.

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