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Plutonium Shots to be Conducted at National Ignition Facility

December 19, 2014
NS&D Monitor - Todd Jacobson

Plutonium shots at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility are expected to take place for the first time in January as the National Nuclear Security Administration takes another—somewhat controversial—step on the massive experimental laser system. NNSA weapons program chief Don Cook told Congress last week that the plutonium shots would begin, helping the agency “greatly expand the understanding of plutonium properties in important regimes relevant to NNSA’s mission.”

Lawrence Livermore spokeswoman Lynda Seaver said only a tiny amount of plutonium will be used in the shots—“anywhere between less than one milligram up to 10 milligrams, about the size of a poppy seed”—and would involve non-weapons grade plutonium. Up to 12 shots a year could be performed. “These shots are nothing new,” she said. “They were always a part of NIF’s mission and have been discussed since the 1990s, when NIF was being constructed.”

NIF Offers Unique Capabilities

Thus far, experiments run at NIF have not included plutonium in the shots, using targets consisting of deuterium, tritium and beryllium, but shots involving plutonium are needed to take another step in the understanding of nuclear weapons physics, Cook said. Experiments on plutonium are already conducted at the Nevada National Security Site’s Joint Actinide Shock Physics Experimental Research Facility and on the Z Machine at Sandia National Laboratories, but NIF would allow plutonium to be compressed at “strain-rates” not accessible on other machines, Cook said.

He said scientists have already used dynamic x-ray scattering diagnostics to help measure materials’ structure under high pressure using materials like lead, tantalum and uranium. “It is expected that this platform will successfully produce crystallographic data for the determination of the phase of plutonium at pressures not achieved elsewhere,” Cook said. “Radiographic capabilities at NIF will also allow the determination of other material properties such as strength and equation-of-state at high pressures and high strain rates.”

NNSA Downplays Risks of Pu Shots

While some activist groups have questioned the safety of using plutonium at NIF, Cook downplayed the potential risk of the shot, suggesting that the size of the plutonium planned for the shot had a comparable activity to two household smoke detectors. “The plutonium from the experiments will be totally contained within the target assembly or within the target chamber, and if it were not captured, the exposure to an individual standing at the LLNL site boundary would be less than 0.005% of the dose that individual would receive on a flight from San Francisco, CA to Washington, D.C., and less than 0.03% of the dose that individual would receive from a set of bitewing dental xrays,” Cook said. He said alpha radiation monitoring equipment is being purchased for the facility for $300,000. The plutonium used in the experiments will come from the lab’s existing stocks.

Tri-Valley CAREs, a Livermore-based activist group, has questioned the NNSA’s conclusions about the safety of the shots, noting that an analysis of the risks hasn’t been released. Of significant concern, the group said, is that plans to use an inner containment vessel to capture debris after the shot have been abandoned, raising questions about contamination for workers and the public, as well as contamination of the target chamber and diagnostic equipment.

The group has also noted that the exact type of plutonium to be used in the experiment has not been specified, though it said it obtained documents indicating that plutonium-242 and [/or] 244 would be used, though a mix involving plutonium-239 might also be used. Seaver said only plutonium-242 would be used in the experiments.

Scott Yundt on Breaking the Set with Abby Martin

December 17, 2014
Russia Today - Breaking the Set (on from 14:45-21:25)

Lawrence Livermore National Lab to test plutonium using NIF laser

December 12, 2014
The Contra Costa Times - Jeremy Thomas

LIVERMORE -- Lawrence Livermore Lab will start testing plutonium using the world's largest laser at the National Ignition Facility, beginning in early 2015.

The experiments, according to the lab's Primary Nuclear Design Program director, Mike Dunning, will attempt to re-create the behavior of plutonium under conditions present in nuclear weapons without resorting to underground nuclear testing.

Funded by the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, the $3.5 billion facility -- a giant laser comprised of 192 beams that can be focused and fired onto a target about the size of a poppy seed -- has a dual mission of achieving fusion ignition and supporting management of the nation's nuclear stockpile.

Dunning said the possibility of using NIF to experiment on plutonium has been discussed since the 1990s. From six to 12 "shots" each year, he said, will be carried out for the NNSA, with future testing to be determined based on the results.

"This is an opportunity for us to get high-quality data using a regime that was previously unavailable to us," Dunning said.

While lab officials say the facility will provide researchers with a unique way to simulate the extreme heat and pressure involved in nuclear explosions, detractors have concerns over the safety of combining radioactive material with the powerful laser, and worry the tests are an indication the facility is moving away from fusion research.

Scott Yundt, staff attorney for nuclear watchdog Tri-Valley CAREs, said the experiments herald a sea change in NIF's focus and will hamstring research because the laser chamber will need costly and time-consuming decontamination, leaving little time for any other type of science.

"It's a major shift in the program at NIF and the intention of the facility," Yundt said. "Doing these plutonium experiments puts major constraints on (NIF's) ability to also be doing civilian fusion energy research. It makes the focus of the facility ... only on nuclear weapons research."

Yundt said unanswered questions over the type of plutonium that will be used in the tests and the method and frequency of experiments are also unsettling.

"It's too secret for the public to understand the risks associated," Yundt said. "They're claiming that they're very minute risks, but that is difficult to verify."

Lab spokeswoman Lynda Seaver said the tests will present no impacts to health or safety, because only a minuscule amount of non weapons-grade plutonium -- ranging from less than a milligram to 10 milligrams -- would be used. In addition to enhanced safety procedures, in the event of a mishap, she said, the material would be completely contained within NIF's target chamber.

Lab officials wouldn't disclose the type of plutonium to be used in the tests, but did say it would come from the lab's existing inventory and will not be transported in from elsewhere.

Unconvinced by the assurances, Yundt said Tri-Valley CAREs is exploring options to halt the tests, including a temporary restraining order or court injunction, until the lab can prove compliance with environmental laws and international treaties.

Read the full story...

Lab has been polluting area for long time

November 11, 2014
Tri-Valley Times - Erin Vistnes

As a local high school student, I have made it my responsibility to become educated on the dangers presented by the Livermore Lab. Through my research, I have discovered numerous unsettling facts that I do not think are well known to the community.

Since the lab began in 1952, hundreds of accidents have led to contamination of local groundwater and soil with dangerous chemicals. Such contaminants include TCE, which has been known to cause birth defects and neurological damage, and radioactive tritium, often associated with cancer and reproductive problems.

Another disturbing statistic relates to airborne discharges. Since 1960, the lab has released about 1 million curies of radiation, roughly equivalent to the amount released upon the citizens of Hiroshima after the nuclear bombing in 1945.

Due to severe pollution, the lab's main site was added to the EPA Superfund list in 1987, thus labeling it as one of the most contaminated sites in the nation. Considering that these hazards are still ubiquitous, cleanup will need to continue until at least 2080.

Read the full story...

Keep the feds' funds adequate for lab cleanup

October 28, 2014
The Valley Journal - Hayden W. King

The Livermore Lab is one of the nation's most contaminated sites. In 1987, it was added to the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund list, which catalogs the most polluted locations in America so a proper cleanup can be funded. The Superfund was founded in 1980 to ensure control over sites with leaking hazardous waste that threatened human and environmental health.

The initial cleanup at the Livermore Lab under the Superfund went well, as concrete milestones were set and met regularly. However, now that the tasks are increasing in difficulty, the lab has decreased its focus on community involvement in cleanup decisions. I am a student and lifelong resident of Livermore. I could not have picked a better place to grow up, and I hope to keep it that way for all future generations. It is important for everybody in the community to take initiative in making sure progress is made in the cleanup. To ensure proper funding for the cleanup is made a priority, contact local U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

Marshall Islands nuke suit against U.S. gets Nobel winners’ support

October 16, 2014
San Francisco Chronicle - Bob Egelko

The Marshall Islands, a small nation in the northern Pacific that endured 67 U.S. atomic tests in the 1940s and 1950s, has sued the United States in a Bay Area federal court, claiming violations of an international nuclear weapons treaty and seeking a court order that would require the U.S. to enter negotiations on nuclear disarmament within a year. The suit appears to be a longshot — Justice Department lawyers are seeking dismissal on multiple grounds, including a lack of judicial authority over the issue — but it recently picked up some eminent support.

In an open letter to the islands’ government and its people, 68 advocates of disarmament and human rights from 22 nations, including two Nobel Peace Prize winners, endorsed the federal lawsuit and a parallel suit the Marshall Islands have filed in the World Court against all nine nuclear weapons nations.

“You, and any governments that choose to join you, are acting on behalf of all the 7 billion people who now live on earth and on behalf of the generations yet unborn who could never be born if nuclear weapons are ever used in large numbers,” said the letter, dated Oct. 3.

“Win or lose in the coming legal arguments, what you, and any who join you, will do has the deepest moral significance. …All people and all governments that have the welfare and survival of humanity and the planet at heart must support you wholeheartedly.”

Signers included Desmond Tutu, the South African cleric and foe of apartheid who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, and Mairead Maguire, a 1976 Nobel laureate for her work for peace in Northern Ireland.

Others included Helen Caldicott, the Australian antinuclear activist and founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Tadatoshi Akiba, a former mayor of Hiroshima. A dozen U.S. residents signed the letter, including Marylia Kelley, executive director of the antinuclear group Tri-Valley CARES in Livermore, and Martin Hellman, a Stanford engineering professor, inventor and researcher on the risks of nuclear weapons.

Learn all about pollution from Livermore Lab

October 8, 2014
The San Jose Mercury News - Stephanie Ericson

The Livermore Lab has two federal "Superfund" cleanup sites where soil and groundwater contain radioactive and toxic pollutants. The Livermore Main Site became a Superfund site in 1987 and Site 300 in Tracy (a high-explosive test site) in 1990. The cleanup is complex and may take 50 to 80 years.

Community involvement is a critical part of the cleanup. In the past, it led to important improvements in techniques, but it has been sidelined in recent years. For example, the lab's "Community Work Group" at the main site hasn't met in two years. Site 300 doesn't even have one.

This is all the more reason to learn about these contaminants, their impacts on the Tri-Valley and Tracy and cleanup options. Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment invites you to ask questions. You can also help us craft a plan to ensure that the community has a voice in how the cleanup goes forward.

Superfund Site

September 18, 2014
The Independent - Stephanie Ericson

The Livermore Lab has two federal "Superfund" cleanupsites where soil and groundwater contain radioactive and toxic pollutants. The Livemore Main Site became a Superfund site in 1987 and Site 300 in Tracy (a high explosive test site) in 1990. The cleanup is complex and may take 50-80 years.

Community involvement is a critical part of Superfund cleanup actions. In the past it led to important improvements in cleanup techniques. Sadly, public involvement has been sidelined in recent years. For example, the Lab's "Community Work Group" at the main site hasn't met in two years. Site 300 doesn't even have one.

All the more reason to take an opportunity to learn more about what these contaminants are, how they impact the tri-valley and tracy, and what the options are for cleaning them up. On Thursday, Sept. 18, Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment invites you, the community, to a meeting where you will hear from environmental experts and be able to ask questions. You can also help us craft a plan to ensure that the community has a voice in how the cleanup goes forward. The meeting starts at 7 pm at the Livermore Library - Civic Center, 1188 S. Livermore Ave.

Lab Clean Up Meeting

September 11, 2014
The Independent - Marylia Kelley

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is one of two U.S. nuclear weapons design facilities that have developed every nuclear warhead in the nation’s arsenal. The Lab’s nuclear weapons activities have contaminated the environment with uranium, plutonium, tritium, volatile organic compounds, high explosives, chromium, and more.

This pollution poses harm to the residents of Livermore, Tracy, the Tri-Valley and beyond.

Tri-Valley CAREs was founded in 1983 to monitor operations at the Livermore Lab and ensure cleanup of its nuclear and toxic pollution, which exists at the main site on East Avenue and the high explosives testing range, called Site 300, near Tracy.

The group has decades of experience in community organizing, and, while we have had numerous successes in winning improvements to the cleanup, there is much more to do.

For this reason, Tri-Valley CAREs is hosting a community meeting on September 18 for all interested residents. The meeting will be from 7 PM to 8:30 PM at the Livermore Library Community Room A, 1188 South Livermore Ave. It will feature environmental scientist Peter Strauss and other experts.

The Livermore Lab cleanup is happening under the federal Superfund law. Yet, as most of us recognize, the Lab is an institution that often hides behind a thick veil of secrecy. Further, the Lab’s Superfund cleanup program involves serious delays and funding shortages.

But, there is good news as well. Formal and informal ways exist for residents to make sure the Lab’s cleanup plans meet with community approval, to improve those plans if they don’t, and, ultimately, to make sure that Congress adequately funds them.

Now is a key time for community members to get involved. I hope to see you at this important meeting. Call or check online at for more information.

Thirty citations issued at annual Livermore lab 'Failure to Disarm' protest

August 1, 2014
The Contra Costa Times - Lou Fancher

LIVERMORE -- Sixty-nine years after the massive devastation of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, there were 60 seconds of silence at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday to commemorate the moment when the first bomb was dropped.

This year's anniversary protest outside the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory bore the theme "Failure to Disarm." It was marked by lawsuits, filed in April by the tiny Republic of the Marshall Islands against nine nuclear weapons states, including the United States. The lawsuits do not seek damages relating to the 67 nuclear weapons tests the U.S. conducted in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958. Instead, the "Nuclear Zero" lawsuits, filed in The Hague and against the U.S. in federal court in San Francisco, claim the nine states failed to disarm as prescribed by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and by customary international law. The San Francisco complaint specifically cites the Livermore lab's activities to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile as a breach of the treaty and a violation of international law.

Before the moment of silence, approximately 100 peace activists gathered outside the lab to hear keynote speeches and rally to the music of Duamuxa and Daniel Zwickel, the son of longtime peace advocates Abe and Jean Zwickel. Approximately 30 people were arrested and cited by Alameda County Sheriff officers for trespassing and released.

Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, said before Wednesday's protest that she intended to "stand up for a world free of the scourge of nuclear weapons and potential global annihilation."

Specifically concerned about the lab's formal budget request to Congress that earmarks 89 percent of the lab's fiscal year funds for activities related to nuclear weapons, Kelley said the issue isn't whether or not society should have scientists, it is what they should be creating.

Tri-Valley CAREs Staff Attorney Scott Yundt monitors the lab's activities and facilitates a support group for the 1,900 former lab employees who have filed for compensation because of job-related illnesses.

"Half of them have been refused, and it's been a powerful learning process for me," Yundt said. "We hear about above-the-ground accidents, but every worker has stories of spilling radioactive materials and many of them get ill."

Yundt attended his 10th protest this year and said he hoped a group campout in Del Valle Regional Park Tuesday would help prompt him to recommit himself to action. Planning to take his wife and two young children to join the roughly 30 people he said typically attend the nighttime vigil, Yundt expressed his hope that ongoing protests will result in future change.

"Even our high-level military officers believe (nuclear) technology is no longer serving the use we want it to," he said. "They recognize it's a huge waste of money and (nuclear) programs should be scaled back."

Bob Hanson of Rossmoor said he planned to attend the protest because he's angry at his country.

"One person's voice doesn't amount to much, but I have to hope that my example will help others to wake up and take action for the good of the planet we live on," he said. " I would like my grandchildren to have the chance to live in a world uncontaminated by nuclear radiation."

Read the full story...

Protesters to mark anniversary of Hiroshima, Nagasaki bombings at Livermore lab

August 1, 2014
The Contra Costa Times - Jeremy Thomas

LIVERMORE -- Peace activists will mark the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at Lawrence Livermore Lab Wednesday with a rally and commemorative march to the lab.

The rally, themed "Failure to Disarm," will highlight a lawsuit filed by the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) against nine nuclear states, accusing them of violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and international law.

The demonstration starts at the corner of Vasco and Patterson Pass roads at 7:30 a.m., where the keynote speaker will be Rick Wayman, director of programs for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Other speakers include Scott Yundt, staff attorney for Tri-Valley CAREs; Jackie Cabasso, executive director of the Western States Legal Foundation; and Chizu Hamada, a spokesperson for the No Nukes Action Committee.

Following a moment of silence at 8:15 a.m. -- marking the moment the first atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima -- protesters will proceed south down Vasco Road to the lab's West Gate for a traditional Japanese dance and the chalking of human bodies on pavement, memorializing those killed in the bombings. Demonstrators who choose to do so will risk arrest by blocking the gate.

Last year's protest resulted in 31 arrests for trespassing, including that of famed "Pentagon Papers" whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.

Read the full story...

Hiroshima Day

July 31, 2014
The Independent - Staff

Hiroshima Day will be marked on Wed., Aug 6 with a rally near the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory at the corner of Vasco Road and Paterson Pass Road in Livermore.

Tri-Valley CAREs is among the sponsors of the event, which begins at 7:30 a.m. with music, speakers, art and a moment of silence to honor radiation victims.

At 8:30 a.m., there will be a short procession to the Lab's gate where those who choose will peacefully risk arrest.

Information can be found at

Tri-Valley CAREs Announces Inaugural Youth Video Contest

July 31, 2014
The Independent - Staff

“Six Decades of Nuclear Bombs at Livermore Lab” is the theme of the inaugural Youth Video Contest sponsored locally by Tri-Valley CAREs*. The instructions are simple: Describe why a clean environment is important to you.

On Tuesday, July 29th at 10am at Livermore Main Library (1188 South Livermore Avenue), Tri-Valley CAREs will hold a press conference announcing the video contest. Members of the organization will put up a display on the bulletin board in the main hall, as well as be available for interviews, questions, and photo opportunities.

Youth of all ages are invited to submit videos of two minutes or less, with a grand prize of $500, a second prize of $250, and a third prize of $100. All videos are due electronically by Halloween, October 31, 2014 and will be posted on the contest Facebook Page: and Youtube Channel. Details of the contest can be found at:

While submitters may take a broad perspective, the video must address some aspect of contamination at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s main site or Site 300. Both locations are on the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Superfund” list of the most contaminated sites in the country.

Participants need not be from Livermore or Tracy. Nuclear contamination affects a wide area. Winner will be notified in November and be awarded at an awards ceremony on December 9th, also at the Livermore Main Library.

Videos can be cartoons, live-action, documentary style, etc. Participants can film with such technologies as cell phones and laptop web cams.

Contact Scott Yundt, Staff Attorney, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148, or Joseph Torres, Community Outreach and Communication Intern, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 321-6290

The 2014 Youth Video Contest is co-sponsored by Tri-Valley CAREs and The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Youth video contest highlights lab pollution

July 29, 2014
The Valley Times - Jeremy Thomas

Anti-nuclear group Tri-Valley CAREs is holding a youth video contest with a grand prize of $500.

The theme of the contest, which was to kick off Tuesday, is "Six Decades of Nuclear Bombs at Livermore Lab." Youth of all ages are invited to submit videos of two minutes or less about why a clean environment is important. Videos can be cartoons, live-action, documentary style or other forms and must address contamination at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory's main site or at Site 300.

All videos are due electronically by Oct. 31 and will be posted on the contest Youtube channel and its Facebook page

Read the full story...

Days of remembrance for the Marshalls

July 12, 2014
The San Francisco Chronicle - Jessica Garcia

Sixty-nine years ago, the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Aug. 6 and 9 are days of remembrance for those actions and a reminder that further progress is needed for nuclear disarmament. The Marshall Islands know all too well of the devastating effect of living in a nuclear age.

From 1946 to 1958, the U.S. conducted 67 nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands. Their explosive power was estimated to be 1,000 times greater than the bombs that crippled Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Still plagued by the health and environmental effects, this past spring the Marshall Islanders sought relief in the International Court of Justice, suing the nine nuclear powers for their failure to comply with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, known as the NPT.

The Marshall Islands have also filed in the U.S. District Court a lawsuit against the United States for breach of treaty and flagrant violations of international law.

The Marshallese seek global nuclear disarmament, not compensation, so that we may all enjoy the security of living in non-nuclear environment.

Read the full story...

Atomic Bombs

July 10, 2014
The Independent - Jessica Garcia

Sixty-nine years ago, the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. August 6th and 9th are days of remembrance for those actions and a reminder that further progress is needed for nuclear disarmament.

The Marshall Islands know all too well of the devastating effect of living in a nuclear age. From 1946-1958, the U.S. conducted 67 nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands, the explosive power was estimated to be 1,000 times greater than the bombs that crippled Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Still plagued by the health and environmental effects, this past spring the Marshall Islander’s sought relief in the International Court of Justice, suing the nine nuclear powers for their failure to comply with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, known as the NPT.

The Marshall Islands have also filed in the Federal Court Northern District of California, suing the U.S. for breach of treaty and “flagrant violations” of international law. The Marshallese seek global nuclear disarmament, not compensation, so that we may all enjoy the security of living in non-nuclear environment.

Nuclear Weapon

July 10, 2014
The Independent - Erin Vitnes

In August, America will be encountering two anniversaries many have chosen to forget or ignore over the past six decades; the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagaski. Between the tragedies, 225,000 lives were lost almost immediately, not to mention countless victims who perished over time from radiation-induced illness.

I imagine how this massive loss of lives would affect our area, as the numbers represent a population including Livermore, Pleasanton, and Tracy.

Despite this nuclear catastrophe, our nation continues to build and develop new weapons, with a design lab in Livermore’s backyard.

As a young adult, I find our country’s nuclear obsession disturbing. Legal attempts to eliminate nuclear weapons, such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty, are having mixed success, intensifying my anxiety further. Thankfully however, a generous group in our community is acting against the nuclear threat.

Tri-Valley CAREs will be gathering at the Livermore Lab at 7:30AM on August 6th, the anniversary of Hiroshima, to honor those who died and to peacefully protest the creation of more bombs. Check out for details.

Tell senators to cut failed NIF spending

June 26, 2014
The San Jose Mercury News/ Times-Herald- Jo Ann Frisch

It's big, shiny and broken. The National Ignition Facility was supposed to attract talent to Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. It did, but many left due to its poor performance. NIF was built for ignition, but after almost 20 years and $8 billion, that's nowhere in sight.

Lab management wants to divert attention from NIF's failures. Unfortunately, the plan will hurt workers and the community.

The 2015 budget states that Livermore Lab will begin using plutonium in NIF. This will invalidate the 1995 NIF nonproliferation study. Worse, it will increase its nuclear waste by 50 percent and worker exposure to radiation threefold, according to the latest environmental impact statement.

If you're tired of your tax dollars going down NIF's bottomless pit, and don't want plutonium splattered around, let our U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein know. Feinstein chairs the subcommittee that funds NIF. Then call Sen. Barbara Boxer to oppose plutonium in NIF. Boxer sits on the committee that oversees cleanup of the lab's leaking toxic and radioactive wastes. Call the capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and leave both Senators a message. I did.

Read the full story...

Nuclear Weapon

June 19, 2014
The Independent - Tiffany Lam

Congress is about to make budget decisions for Fiscal Year 2015. Part of the budget request includes $634 million for the healthcare a.k.a. maintenance of a type of nuclear weapon called the B61. Except this isn’t a mere maintenance program, it is an unscrupulous modification program.

Understandably every machine requires maintenance. Wires may need to be replaced and screws need to be tightened. The nuclear stockpile is no different. However, the B61 Life Extension Program (LEP) seeks to modify the precision of this nuclear bomb, which will make its use more likely.

The problem with the B61 LEP is three-fold. First, the new modifications cannot be fully tested since nuclear testing ended in 1992. Instead, modifications will be tested through computer modeling, which can introduce scientific uncertainty. This is a safety issue.

Second, it is misleading to believe that $634 million for Fiscal Year 2015 is the total for the LEP. The LEP completion date is expected to be in 2024. Thus, the total cost for the program will be closer to $11 billion.

Finally, funding a more usable nuclear weapon will make the world a more dangerous place. Congress should consider this fact in its budget decisions.

Be heard in Washington

May 16, 2014
The Stockton Record - Jo Ann Frisch

Activists from Livermore-based Tri-Valley CAREs are heading to Washington, D.C. this month to speak about the impacts of nuclear weapons in our communities.

This annual event is organized by the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA). Activists from around the country will attend about 100 meetings with members of Congress and administration officials.

They will advocate to preserve non-proliferation programs, clean up at nuclear weapons complex sites and stop dangerous, provocative nuclear weapons programs, including some planned for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Add your voice while they're in D.C. by calling your representatives and senators. Tell them you support community members who are attending meetings with members of Congress about these issues.

Then attend the June 19 meeting at Livermore Library at 7:30 p.m. for a report back. Also, check our website and Facebook page for timely news of progress we're making.

Read the full story...

Report: Nuclear Modernization

May 2, 2014
NPT News in Review - Arianna Framvik Malik

Nuclear weapon states usually point to their reductions in nuclear weapon arsenals as evidence of their compliance with article VI. However, while the total number of nuclear weapons has been reduced since the cold war, the amount of spending on nuclear arsenals has increased significantly. This panel explored the implications of the modernization of US nuclear weapons for the NPT.

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico encouraged the audience to follow the money, pointing to the $355 billion that the Congressional Budget Office has estimated will be spent on revamping nuclear weapons programmes during the next 10 years. At the same time the Office indicated that at least $1 trillion will be spent over the next 30 years on nuclear weapons. This is an all time record, surpassing the record that President Reagan set in 1985 during the height of the cold war.

According to Coghlan, this cuts through the NPT rhetoric and explains what’s really happening with the Treaty. Marylia Kelley of Tri-Valley CAREs agreed, arguing that it is country’s budgets that are in fact policies in action. Pointing to the reason behind the accelerating nuclear weapons-maintaining budgets in the US, Kelley points to the nuclear weapon-labs, calling them, and especially the directors of the labs, the tail that wags the dog. The labs have a lot of clout with politicians who put their faith in nuclear weapons, enabling the lab-directors to keep their facilities going by compelling increased spending on new and modified weapons designs.

Following disagreement from a State Department audience member, it was made clear that there is an ongoing debate of what constitutes building a new weapon or endowing an existing weapon with new capabilities, something then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared four years ago would not be done by this administration. However, modifications are being made to US nuclear weapons. The US is actively building major facilities for all three components of the nuclear bomb: the plutonium component, the highly enriched uranium component, and the non-nuclear components.

Read the full story...

Cold Standby

April 3, 2014
The Independent - Beverly King

The fiscal year 2015 budget request contains some encouraging news. The White House has placed the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) mixed oxide fuel (MOX) program on “cold standby.”

Construction of the MOX plant at the Savannah River Site, which would have prepared weapons plutonium for use in civilian nuclear power plants, is now stopped. This is a step in the right direction.

The MOX program has an estimated cost of $30 billion. The budget request states that NNSA will study safer and more cost effective means of disposing of surplus plutonium.

This is of personal interest to me. Recently, I was in Rep. John Lewis’ office with a group of African-American women from South Carolina and Georgia. The Savannah River Site is in their backyard, and it is already leaking radioactive material. These women told of family members, friends and neighbors who were sick or dying of radioactive exposures.

I recall their suffering today. I hope that “cold standby” means that we will not impose another nuclear facility on these women – or on anyone.

Nuclear Spending

March 27, 2014
The Independent - Stephanie Ericson

Nuclear nonproliferation got both a boost and a hit in Obama’s newly released budget request for the next fiscal year.

The good news is that the administration deferred a new weapons design program for five years. This is the W78/88, a mash-up of land- and submarine- based warheads that could be launched from both platforms. With this proposed Livermore Lab “interoperable” warhead program probably scuttled for good, we not only save up to $28 billion long term, but also avoid blatant nonproliferation hypocrisy that would compromise U.S. global security goals (think Iran).

Yet overall the budget request increases funding for dubious weapons programs at the expense of valuable nonproliferation work. For example, The Global Threat Reduction Initiative was slashed 25%. What could be more important than securing vulnerable nuclear materials around the world? Meanwhile the budget request increases funding for a new B-61 bomb, a project judged useless by a former top U.S. military leader.

The message I’m getting is that real security is less important than keeping weaponeers well-fed and happy.


February 21, 2014
Nuclear Security & Deterrence - Todd Jacobson

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has cancelled an ambitious laser fusion energy program aimed at marketing and commercializing National Ignition Facility technology in the face of Congressional scrutiny and questions about the utility of the program. Acting Livermore Director Bret Knapp confirmed last week in an interview with NS&D Monitor that the program, known as LIFE (Laser Inertial Fusion Energy), had been formally terminated, though he emphasized the decision had no impact on NIF itself. “We’ve just marketed LIFE way beyond where it was ready to be marketed,” Knapp said. “The problem is it’s a really nice idea that is so far away. What we need to do is study the fundamental things so we begin to understand ignition.”

NIF has recently made some slight progress on the path to ignition (NS&D Monitor, Vol. 18 No. 6), but the elusive goal has proven much more difficult to achieve than initially promised, and the lab has rebalanced the shots on the massive laser in favor of shots designed to improve knowledge for the Stockpile Stewardship Program while taking a more measured approach to understanding the physics of ignition.

‘Way More Trouble Than … It’s Worth’

With a tag line of “soon enough to make a difference,” LIFE seemed to assume the facility would quickly achieve ignition and envisioned a fleet of modular power plants employing laser fusion reactors to solve the world’s energy needs by producing “safe, cost-effective and reliable baseload power.” According to the program’s website, LIFE’s approach was to “build upon the technology advances achieved in building and conducting ignition experiments on NIF.”

The problem, according to Knapp, is that the concept is so far away from implementation that it appeared to distract from the current mission of achieving ignition. “Once we get ignition you still need a 50 times multiplier before you ever start talking about getting energy out,” Knapp said. “There’s a bunch of things. This idea of starting to market this fusion energy thing is just a thing that’s gotten us into way more trouble than it should’ve, or that it’s worth.” Marylia Kelley, the executive director of Tri-Valley CARES, a Livermore-based watchdog group, has long been critical of NIF and the pursuit of LIFE. “The science just isn’t there yet to support LIFE,” Kelley said. “ ‘Betting on the come’ is neither prudent science nor sound fiscal management. It’s a good idea to stop further funding for LIFE now. In fact, it is overdue.”

LDRD Funding Comes Under Scrutiny

Lab spokeswoman Lynda Seaver was unable to say exactly how much money has been spent on LIFE, but she said the lab spent $58.4 million from Fiscal Year 2008 to FY 2013 on inertial fusion energy efforts, which includes the LIFE program. Much of that money came in the form of laboratory directed research and development funds, which represents a small percentage of laboratory spending on programs deemed innovative and exploratory. LDRD also offers the lab more flexibility in terms of how it spends its money, and there is less Congressional oversight than typical budget items. “We got ourselves in the situation where people thought we were spending too much money—that we should’ve been spending on experiments— marketing LIFE,” Knapp said. “I don’t think there was a ton of money spent on it, I don’t think it’s that big a deal, but I think it got us cross-wise with more people than it was worth. The basic research and stuff is still useful to do but you don’t have to pin it on LIFE.”

Congressional appropriators, however, began to question the growing amount being spent on LIFE in recent years and had begun to object that LIFE—with dozens of staff and a director, Michael Dunne—had grown into more than a LDRD program. “When you start getting key Congressional supporters mad at you, you need to fix it,” Knapp said. “We’re going to keep, as quietly as we can, marching toward ignition. … I think we’re going to continue to make progress. Whether we are going to get to ignition or not, I don’t know. But I’m feeling better than I was three months ago.” Knapp said the lab will still invest in resources that include relevant materials science, diode pumped laser development, and target research, but he emphasized that those are “multipurpose” areas with relevance to magnetic fusion energy or directed energy in addition to inertial fusion energy applications.

Even limited nuke use may cause famine

February 13, 2014
Tri-Valley Times - Alison Forrest

One consequence of the use of nuclear weapons that people do not often consider is food security. The national Physicians for Social Responsibility recently published a report that examined this issue.

Titled, "Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People At Risk," the study examined a hypothetical nuclear war between India and Pakistan. They found that a nuclear exchange involving less that 0.5 percent of the world's nuclear weapons would have a global impact on food supplies.

Even a "limited" nuclear war would cause significant global climate disruption. There would be shortages for corn and soybean production, which is usually used as food to "grow" animals, and for Chinese rice and winter wheat production. This would lead to increased prices, and food would be inaccessible to hundreds of millions of people. Overall, the global impact could put up to two billion people at risk of starvation.

The report calls for the global elimination of nuclear weapons as soon as possible. This is a common-sense recommendation that, if heeded, will benefit all humanity.

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Give Diplomacy a Chance

February 13, 2014
The Independent - Jo Ann Firsch

At least seventy members of Congress are organizing a letter to the President supporting US-Iran diplomacy and opposing new sanctions or other measures that would kill the talks.

Negotiations with Iran reportedly will resume February 18 in Vienna.

The first phase of the nuclear agreement was negotiated in November 2013. It covers six months. During that time, the agreement freezes Iran’s uranium enrichment program. It puts daily inspectors on the ground and eliminates Iran’s stockpile of 20% enriched uranium. In return, some U.S. and European Union sanctions were temporarily lifted.

These milestones will help secure a comprehensive deal with Iran that will ensure it will never become a nuclear weapons state.

I urge my Congressman, Eric Swalwell, to sign on to the letter to give diplomacy a chance.

Keeping Nuclear Bomb Cores Off Our Roads

January 16, 2014
A.J. Muste Memorial Institute, Muste Notes - Marylia Kelley

It was during conversations with congressional staff in Washington in March 2012 that we at Tri-Valley CAREs first learned of a proposal to put whole plutonium bomb cores on the road from the Los Alamos Lab in New Mexico to the Livermore Lab in California. There had been no public announcement or environmental review, despite the plan’s obvious dangers. Even now, the U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration’s plutonium transportation plan remains shrouded in secrecy.

Hanging in the balance is a stark choice of values: do we prioritize the weapons labs or public safety?

Radioactive plutonium cores are the A-bomb components of modern nuclear weapons. The first plutonium atomic bomb was the one tested at Alamogordo, New Mexico in July 1945. It was then used as the model for the bomb dropped on the people of Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945, which left as many as 80,000 dead.

The government’s plan would put these plutonium bomb cores on a “road trip” of about 1,200 miles across New Mexico, Arizona and California. Upon arriving at Livermore Lab, at the eastern edge of the San Francisco Bay Area, these bomb cores would undergo “shake and bake” testing. This involves a shaker pit to vibrate the plutonium cores, a thermal unit to heat them and a high crane from which to drop them. The purpose is to see how the plutonium bomb cores will respond in storage, transportation and “use” environments (meaning nuclear war).

Following the “shake and bake” tests, the bomb cores would be loaded into trucks for the 1,200-mile return trip to Los Alamos, through California’s agricultural Central Valley and the densely populated greater Los Angeles area. When we asked the National Nuclear Security Administration how often these bomb trucks would roll, we were told the number of trips would be based on the needs of the nuclear weapons campaigns each year.

Livermore Lab houses the “shake and bake” equipment but lost its security authorization to house plutonium bomb cores, so its officials plan to obtain “variances” to the nation’s nuclear safety and security regulations every time the cores arrive—although a 2008 review stated that only four trucks would be needed to move the equipment instead.

We at Tri-Valley CAREs believe that public education and organizing are essential to stopping this dangerous plan. We launched our campaign with a community “town hall” meeting in January 2013. The meeting included environmental, legal and nuclear weapons experts who watchdog both the Livermore and Los Alamos Labs.

We held the town hall in the largest available community space at the Livermore Public Library. We had Spanish translation available in a conversational setting. The meeting successfully engaged scores of new community members regarding the government’s proposal and the threat it poses locally, in towns along the transportation route, at Los Alamos, and, potentially, around the world in the event of a major catastrophe.

The meeting also presented alternatives to the government’s plan— from decommissioning the “shake and bake” to moving the equipment to where the bomb cores are located. After hearing from four panelists and engaging in some lively Q & A, the participants broke into action groups.

It was particularly exciting to see new people become engaged. Participants moved their chairs into smaller circles where they developed strategies, practiced talking points and took on follow up tasks, including gathering petition signatures, contacting groups along the transportation route, writing elected officials and more.

From this foundation, we continue to mobilize residents to challenge this plan through letters to the editor, the petition campaign and sit-down meetings with youth, other community members and decision-makers.

One initial successful outcome is a formal letter Tri-Valley CAREs received from the government official in charge of the plutonium plan, committing to a review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) before moving forward. Tri-Valley CAREs is following up, as the agency official did not commit to producing a full Environmental Impact Statement and holding public hearings. Another success can be seen in the 3,000 signatures gathered so far on our petition to stop the transport of the plutonium bomb cores.

Tri-Valley CAREs will continue to organize the community, gather petitions, and coordinate with other groups to ensure that this plan is changed. If the government tries to move forward, we will mobilize people to comment on the NEPA environmental review document. Finally, we are developing a contingency plan to bring litigation in federal court if necessary.

We are asking groups in directly affected states to take action with us to prevent the transport of plutonium bomb cores through their communities. Please check or call 925-443-7148. Further, we invite peace and justice advocates everywhere to join the struggle to stop the continued development of nuclear weapons and move this country and the world toward their permanent abolition.

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Change Mission

January 9, 2014
The Independent - Pamela Richard

In 2014, I would like to see a change in the priorities at Livermore Lab. If the Lab’s mission would shift from nuclear weapons to civilian science, the community, the country, and the world could all benefit.

In the current situation, the safety of the 7 million people who live within a 50-mile radius of the Lab is at risk. A major accident could contaminate the air, soil and water on which our lives depend.

In the coming year, I hope the government decides not to bring plutonium bomb cores from Los Alamos to Livermore to be tested. Instead, my wish is for 2014 to bring more cleanup of the radioactive and toxic plutonium that already exists at the Lab’s Main Site in Livermore and at Site 300, where explosives were detonated in the hills between Livermore and Tracy.

Let’s employ more of our scientists to solve the pressing problems of our planet, such as climate change, renewable energy, water scarcity, ocean acidification depletion of our natural resources, and more. Livermore Lab has small programs in several of these areas. I hope 2014 is the year that they become its central focus.

Stop the lab's 'Frankenbomb' nuke program

January 2, 2014
San Ramon Valley Times - Scott Yundt

Livermore Lab has been pushing Congress to move forward with the development of a dangerous new nuclear warhead. Most of the research and development would take place in Livermore.

This project, estimated to cost upward of $14 billion, would mix elements from several existing nuclear weapons.

Some components would come from the Navy's submarine-based W88, some from the Air Force's silo-based W8, and some from other weapon designs.

This mash up of three or more different warheads would create an untested Frankenbomb with new military capabilities, thereby violating our nuclear non-proliferation treaty obligations and encouraging other nations to undertake similar new weapons programs.

Because the Navy and others have objected to the interoperable warhead's costs as well as the radical nature of the proposed new design, the Obama administration could, and should, impose a 5-year delay on the program to study alternatives.

The Livermore-based Tri-Valley CARES has brought important information to light about this new warhead and continues to challenge this dangerous and costly program.

The group serves as an important check on the Lab's otherwise unfettered nuclear ambitions. Check out their work at

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Young adults have it right on nukes

January 2, 2014
Tri-Valley Times - Alison Forrest

Harvard University's Institute of Politics has been surveying undergrad students since 2000 to determine the attitudes young adults (18- to 29-year-olds) on many different social and political issues.

On the Oct. 30—Nov. 11 survey, one of the questions asked was if the students supported a policy to "Reduce spending related to the nuclear arsenal by reducing U.S. nuclear warheads from approximately 2,000 to approximately 1,550." This was supported across the board by Democrats, Republicans and independents.

I'd say we young people have got it right.

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