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Spring 2014 Citizen's Watch Newsletter

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More for Nukes, Less for Security

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

Want to know a nation's real policies? Skip over the government speeches and carefully groomed headlines. Read its budget. This is where true priorities are revealed. Federal budgets are a country's policy in action, and, as such, are worthy of attention.

In March, the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration sent its Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget request to Congress for nuclear weapons and related activities. The budget request consistently privileges nuclear bomb development over nonproliferation and environmental cleanup.

Especially blessed by the budget request is the Life Extension Program (LEP) to 'modernize" the B61 nuclear bomb by giving it provocative new military capabilities. Plundered in order to pay for the bomb is the program that secures the world's most vulnerable nuclear materials. Also caught in the vise of budget stagnation are the funds to halt toxic and radioactive poisons moving downwind and downstream from contaminated nuclear weapons facilities.

Here are a few of the key numbers. The budget request for the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration is $11.7 billion. Of that, the largest chunk by far, $8.3 billion, is for Nuclear Weapons Activities, an increase of $534 million, or 7%, above the FY 2014 level, which was already far too high.

Increases for the B61-12 Nuclear Bomb

Notably, a major increase is requested for Directed Stockpile Work. The increase is mostly for the Life Extension Program (LEP) to combine four versions of the B61 into a new B61-12 bomb, a risky enterprise that is neither desirable nor necessary. Additionally, there is a B61-12 LEP-related increase proposed in the nuclear weapons Readiness Campaign budget line.

The total estimated cost for the B61-12 has risen from $3.9 billion in 2010 to at least $10 billion today, not including an additional $1 billion in Defense Dept. funding for a new tail kit. At this price each of the new B61-12 nuclear bombs will cost twice its weight in solid gold, according to the Ploughshares Fund.

Here are the near-term costs. The FY 2015 request for the B61-12 Life Extension Program stands at $643 million, a 20% increase over 2014. Worse, the budget documents state that this bomb's LEP is slated to remain well above the $600 million mark in 2016 and 2017, and then rise to more than $725 million each year starting in 2018. As the B61-12 LEP costs keep rising, the timeline to actually produce the first unit of the new bomb is falling behind. The FY 2015 request extends the date for the first production unit to 2020, due to the complexity of the design changes the weaponeers want to make.

Moreover, this is the U.S. nuclear bomb deployed in NATO countries. Its presence contributes to rising tensions in the region and, more broadly, to global instability. A growing number of elected officials in the NATO countries that house the B61s are objecting to the B61-12 LEP and also to a future role for nuclear weapons in NATO. Indeed, a logical step would be for the U.S. to retire the B61s rather than spend $11 billion "LEPping" them into a new bomb design.

Nonproliferation Funding Takes the Hit

In contrast to the nuclear weapons activities budget, the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration's nonproliferation accounts take a big hit in the FY 2015 request. Indeed, it is fair to say that nonproliferation is being raided to pay for the B61-12 and other ill-advised bomb programs. Here, too, the government's priorities are showing.

The budget request for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation is down from about $2 billion in FY 2014 to $1.56 billion in the FY 2015 request. A portion of that decrease is due to a welcome reduction in the Fissile Materials Disposition budget line that funds the MOX program and reflects its placement into "cold standby." But, that is not the entire story. Funding for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which helps secure vulnerable nuclear materials around the world, is slashed from $442 million to $333 million, a 25% reduction. Other nonproliferation budget lines are likewise reduced in the FY 2015 budget request.

Scott Yundt, Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney, called the precipitous drop in the nonproliferation budget "a dangerous policy trajectory," adding that, "the DOE likes to talk about reducing nuclear dangers. Yet, the agency is cutting the very funds it needs to properly accomplish that mission. The U.S. and the world need to better safeguard, package and store nuclear materials, not create new variants of nuclear bombs."

Lethargic Cleanup Funding

The FY 2015 budget request does not express the commitment to cleanup needed by the people living near nuclear weapons facilities. Sites being cleaned up with DOE Environmental Management funding will see a slight drop in total funding, from $5.83 billion in 2014 to $5.63 billion in the 2015 request.

The funding for the Superfund cleanup of leaking toxic and radioactive wastes at Livermore Lab comes mostly from the National Nuclear Security Administration"s cleanup budget and partly from the Environmental Management budget. While Livermore's Environmental Management funds are down slightly from last year, it appears that the FY 2015 cleanup monies will be sufficient for the Lab to cover its major activities. Still, measures that residents want in order to expedite cleanup will not be funded in this budget.

The budget request also contains a novel component not seen in prior years, called the Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative (OGSI). This is a wholly new "wish list" that, if funded, would bust the budget caps and shower even more money disproportionately on nuclear weapons activities. Congress should reject the OGSI entirely and, instead, move a significant portion of the funds requested for weapons activities into nonproliferation and environmental management as the budget process unfolds in the coming weeks and months.

The Public's Role & Next Steps

Now that the President's FY 2015 budget request has gone to Congress, it is the legislators in the House and Senate who will decide how much, or how little, funding each of these programs will actually receive. These are your elected officials and you have a window of opportunity now to make sure that your voice is heard. Ask yourself whether the budget reflects your values. What are your true priorities? How would you allocate funding?

Once you are clear about what you would like to say, it's easy to call your U.S. Representative and Senators using the capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You might ask to speak to the defense aide regarding the nuclear weapons budget. Ask the aide to keep you informed of your legislator's position on the nuclear weapons budget. And, if you are calling about a specific program, like the B61-12 LEP or the Global Threat Reduction Initiative or DOE's Environmental Management, ask to be kept informed of any action your legislator takes on that specific program.

Here is what one key Senator said about the nuclear weapons budget request at a recent Congressional hearing called by the appropriations subcommittee she chairs: "What I see are additional cuts to well-managed programs that have made this country safer from nuclear terrorism at the expense of increased funding for poorly managed nuclear weapons programs." -- U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

We can concretely influence U.S. policy by changing the budget. In mid-May, your team from Tri-Valley CAREs will be in Washington, DC conducting a whirlwind of meetings with the Obama Administration and members of Congress, including Senator Feinstein. And, we would love it if you could join us by lifting up your voice to speak to Congress while we are there. Imagine the powerful synergy we can create together!

"DC Days" 2014

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

Tri-Valley CAREs is preparing its team for the 26th annual "DC Days." Our staff attorney, Scott Yundt, has been busy serving on the national planning committee for the event, which will bring together nearly eighty activists from around the country to speak truth to power about the impacts of nuclear weapons on their communities.

The four-day event is organized each year by the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) and its member groups, including Tri-Valley CAREs.

After the all-day training, which will include a briefing on nuclear weapons by our executive director, Marylia Kelley, the participants will conduct about a hundred pre-set meetings with members of Congress, committee staff and top officials in the Obama Administration.

This year, new board member and Tracy resident Gail Rieger will be joining Tri-Valley CAREs delegation. "I want to bring attention to the clean up needs at Site 300 near my home, Rieger said. "I will also demand that the plan to truck plutonium to Livermore Lab be abandoned. Those trucks will pass through Tracy," she added.

Together we will conduct the advocacy necessary to preserve nonproliferation programs and important clean up activities at nuclear weapons complex sites. Another major focus will be to stop dangerous and provocative nuclear weapons programs.

You can add your voice to amplify our message! While we are in DC, call your Representative and Senators on May 19th, or as soon thereafter as you can. Tell them that your friends are attending meetings with members of Congress today.

Be sure to attend our June 19th Tri-Valley CAREs meeting (see Alerts 4 U on page 3) for a report back from this event, and look to your next Citizen's Watch, or our website and Facebook page, for timely news of progress we are making.

Double Your Donation

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

Colombe Foundation has challenged us with an exciting opportunity. Over the next 30 days, they will double your contribution to Tri-Valley CAREs in any amount, up to $5,000. Your donation can be by check, cash or credit card. You can make credit card donations via our website - Your donation in any amount is tax-deductible and will be hugely appreciated. We cannot do the work we do without you! THANK YOU!

To Donate Using Network for Good:

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Print Bites: All the News that Fits to Print

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

Suing for Disarmament. The small nation of the Marshall Islands has just filed a lawsuit against the U.S. and the eight other nuclear weapons states at the International Court of Justice. The suit demands that the nuclear-armed countries live up to their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and "customary international law" to abolish their arsenals. The lawsuit also charges the U.S., Russia, UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea with "modernization" programs that the suit says will cost $1 trillion over the next decade. The Marshall Islands also filed a parallel suit in federal court in San Francisco against the U.S. Although the U.S. has caused devastation testing its weapons in the Marshall Islands, the suit seeks disarmament and not compensation. A petition and website have been set up at for non-governmental organizations and individuals to obtain more information and to show support.

Frankenbomb Out. We applaud the decision by the White House to defer the W78/88-1 "interoperable" nuclear warhead for five or more years. Weaponeers at Livermore Lab had been creating a "Frankenbomb" mash up of the W78 land-based warhead, the W88 sub-based warhead and the plutonium core from a third weapon, the W87. The Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget request effectively terminates the project until "some time beyond FY 2019." Five years is the federal budget planning horizon and programs relegated to its far edges and beyond generally face cancellation. However, the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration appears to be pulling out all stops to forestall terminating the program. In the agency's just-released Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan, NNSA states it will resume the Frankenbomb project in FY 2020. We aim to ensure that never happens. We invite you to continue working with us for its cancellation

MOX on Ice. We have another budget victory to share. The mixed oxide (MOX) plutonium fuel factory under construction at the Savannah River Site in So. Carolina is being placed on "cold standby." This announcement in the budget request follows an internal analysis that placed its overall price tag at about $30 billion. Cold standby is a concrete step toward cancellation. Tri-Valley CAREs has long maintained that weapons-grade plutonium should be carefully guarded and kept out of the environment, not put into the economy as a fuel for commercial nuclear power plants. The state of South Carolina has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to keep construction going. Stay tuned.

Plutonium Danger at NIF. National Ignition Facility at Livermore Lab is nowhere near achieving the fusion "ignition" that is its middle name. A spate of public relations earlier this year revealed that NIF had actually missed "breakeven" by a factor of 100. Breakeven is necessary, but not sufficient, for any chance of ignition. The FY 2015 budget requests $513 million for Inertial Confinement Fusion, the lion's share of which is for NIF. But, here is the real shocker: After NIF officials assured us that they had no near-term plans to use plutonium in NIF, the budget request states that plutonium shots at NIF will start in the coming year! We think the change is because the Lab is desperate. Introducing plutonium will mean putting workers and the community at risk. We oppose plutonium in NIF, and invite you to join us.

Dismantlement Down. We have been arguing for years that the U.S. government spends too little money on irreversibly dismantling nuclear weapons that have been retired from the arsenal. And, consequently, as you might imagine, too few are disassembled each year. In FY 2014, the U.S. is spending less than $55 million on this important task. And, next year's budget only asks for $30 million. Irreversible dismantlement is one of the key obligations of the U.S. under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We will be talking about this at the NPT Preparatory Committee meeting at the United Nations in New York.

Radiation Leak at WIPP. On February 14th, a serious radiation release occurred at the DOE's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico. Radiation contaminated at least 21 workers and was released into the environment. A 5-person Accident Board recently submitted a report to DOE Headquarters concluding "that the unfiltered above ground release ... was preventable." Further, "[t]he Board identified the direct cause of this accident to be the breach of at least one [transuranic] TRU waste container in the underground which resulted in airborne radioactivity escaping to the environment downstream of the [High Efficiency Particulate Air] HEPA filters." Not all of the radioactivity released went through the HEPA filters because two dampers in the exhaust building were not suitable and did not fully close, allowing radioactive particles to be released directly to the environment. The report identifies eight contributing causes to the radiation release to the environment, including ineffective radiation protection, poor nuclear safety, inadequate maintenance program, declining safety culture and ineffective oversight at DOE.

Alerts 4 U

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

Thursday, May 15

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

Join us for this very special meeting where we will hear from guest speaker Professor Robert Jacobs. He is an historian of social and cultural aspects of nuclear technologies at Hiroshima City University. He is the lead researcher for the Global Hibakusha Project, which works in radiation affected communities around the world. He will outline findings of the Global Hibakusha Project and speak about the ways in which radiation exposures can devastate communities separate from the health effects, specifically in relation to the current crisis in Fukushima. We will also hear a report back from Marylia Kelley on her trip to the Non-Proliferation Treaty meeting at the UN. Don't miss it!

Friday, May 30

Livermore Peace Vigil for Nuclear Abolition
7 AM- 8 AM, Livermore Lab East Gate
Located on Greenville Road, Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Vigil leaders are Chelsea Collonge and Marcus Page-Collonge. The monthly vigils are a practice of peace. Lab workers are encouraged to stop and discuss nuclear weapons and abolition. Additional vigil participants are welcome.

Thursday, June 5

Letter to the Editor writing party
5:30 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs office
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 nuclear weapons budget. 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.

Saturday, June 14

Livermore Rodeo Parade
Gather 9 AM - Parade 10 AM
Downtown Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Join Tri-Valley CAREs' parade entry in Livermore's biggest annual parade. Our theme this year will be "Keeping Deadly Plutonium Off Our Highways," to bring awareness and inspire opposition in the community to the plan to bring bomb cores from New Mexico to Livermore to test them on diagnostic machines at Livermore Lab. Participants will join us walking the parade route carrying balloons for kids and passing out pamphlets. Volunteers needed.

Thursday, May 15

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

Tri-Valley CAREs' DC Days team will report back on scores of meetings with members of Congress, committee staff, and senior officials in the Administration, including progress we made and "intel" we gathered. See you there.

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