Reading Room

January 2007 Citizens Watch Newsletter

Agency Rejects Civilian Science Plan for Weapons Lab Green Team Charges Bias, Unequal Treatment in Bidding Process

by Marylia Kelley and Bob Schaeffer
from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The Dept. of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has arbitrarily and improperly eliminated a proposal seeking to transform Livermore Lab into a "World-Class Center for Civilian Science," according to representatives of the rejected consortium.

Livermore Lab GREEN, LLC includes two nuclear watchdogs, Tri-Valley CAREs and Nuclear Watch of New Mexico, as well as New College of California and WindMiller Energy.

"The DOE rejected our bid because it proposes to bring Livermore Lab into compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty and other key U.S. and international laws," charged Marylia Kelley, Executive Director of Tri-Valley CAREs and the Limited Liability Company manager. "The agency is serving narrow self interest in perpetuating high budgets for nuclear weapons, rather than genuine national security."

The GREEN, LLC's management bid follows stated congressional intent by proposing to move plutonium and highly enriched uranium out of Livermore Lab before 2014, and offers DOE and the nation a phased approach to attracting more civilian science and less nuclear weapons activity.

Yet, the DOE's rejection letter stated as its reason for tossing the bid that the green team "did not demonstrate an understanding of the requirements of the solicitation where it proposed '[a] change in the overall direction' at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory."

Specifically, DOE called the GREEN, LLC proposal for phasing out the Lab's nuclear weapons programs over time "inconsistent with DOE/NNSA strategic planning."

The DOE letter further charged that this transition would undermine the agency's "ability to comply with federal law." The letter did not specify what law, however. Nor has the agency subsequently offered the name of any law in response to questions submitted by the GREEN, LLC.

"Our proposal was arbitrarily and improperly eliminated because DOE rejects the principle that the U.S. should lead the world toward nuclear nonproliferation by demonstrating restraint in its own weapons programs," declared Jay Coghlan, the Executive Director at Nuclear Watch of New Mexico.

Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney, Loulena Miles added, "As a result of DOE's decision, the other two bidders are being offered a chance to appear in-person before a DOE panel to orally explain, defend and potentially augment their bids, an opportunity that is being improperly denied to the GREEN, LLC."

U.S. Rep. David Hobson (R-OH), as Chair of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, had already criticized DOE for its lackluster performance in attracting real competition to the bidding process. Now, the agency is trying to summarily narrow the field by one-third. Both of the remaining bidders represent 'business as usual' for new nuclear weapons development.

The Livermore Lab GREEN, LLC has responded by requesting a formal debriefing, a process wherein the agency is supposed to answer questions regarding its decision. The debriefing meeting was set by DOE for Dec. 20, by teleconference. When members of the GREEN, LLC phoned in, they were told by the DOE contracting officer, Daniel Saiz, that he was canceling the meeting -- and that he would not reschedule, though the GREEN, LLC requested it.

On Dec. 20, the GREEN, LLC followed up by submitting a series of 19 detailed questions and a letter again requesting a debriefing meeting. The DOE has thus far refused to reschedule the meeting. Instead, on Dec. 26, Saiz mailed a "preaward debriefing" notice that was not responsive to, and did not answer, the green team's 19 questions. According to Kelley, "It looks like DOE had this on tap and is not participating in the process in good faith."

Moreover, said Kelley, "DOE's so-called debriefing notice contains incorrect information, for example by stating that parts of the bid were missing when in fact they were not."

On January 3, the GREEN, LLC re-submitted its original 19 questions along with new queries about DOE's intentions in participating in the debriefing process.

"The ball is now in DOE's court," remarked Miles. "We want to give them every opportunity to conduct a clean and fair process, but we may be forced to lodge a protest in order to protect our rights if DOE is not willing to follow the rules."

Report From Bio-Weapons Convention

by Loulena Miles
from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

At the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) meeting in Geneva in November, Kofi Annan gave one of his last public addresses as UN Secretary General. His statement opened the BWC's five-year-review. This international treaty entered into force in 1975 and has since served as the world's foremost law banning the development of biological weapons. The 2006 review conference was critical because it marked the first review since 2001, which is when the U.S. derailed final approval of a verification protocol. That protocol had been ten years in the making and would have given the treaty modest enforcement powers. John Bolton led the U.S. team that prevented the protocol from passing.

Annan described the 2001 defeat in his opening statement. "Five years ago, in this very room, you faced the dire prospect of stalemate and deadlock. In becoming States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention, you had demonstrated your determination to do your part in preventing disease from being used as a weapon. But when it came to strengthening the Convention through a protocol, years of negotiations had failed to achieve a consensus. Deep and bitter divisions threatened to bring collective efforts against biological weapons to a permanent halt."

In the years since 2001, annual meetings of experts were established and states attempted to strengthen other aspects of the BWC while leaving the "verification protocol" off the table. As the November review conference began, deep divisions among states parties remained, the future of the treaty was uncertain and the degree of possible progress was unclear.

Annan's statement concluded by reminding the states of the importance of the work ahead. "Far more unites you than divides you. The horror of biological weapons is shared by all."

Indeed, the horror is reflected in the U.S. budget. The U.S. came to the review conference in a unique position not only because it was the primary cause of the BWC verification protocol failure, but also because it was far outspending other countries on biological weapon agent research, ostensibly research that is solely for defensive purposes.

Since the anthrax attacks that followed 9/11, the U.S. has spent more than $32 billion on biodefense. Bush requested $5.24 billion in the 2007 budget alone. Proposals for advanced bio-weapon agent research to be "collocated" inside U.S. nuclear weapons labs has come from this spending. Proposals at Livermore and Los Alamos were first put forward in 2002, with a new one for Site 300 in 2006. If any of these labs open, it will create, at a minimum, a "perception problem" because other states cannot verify whether the bio-research conducted behind the fence at a classified nuclear weapons lab is actually offensive or defensive. Further, since there is no way of verifying a states' compliance or enforcing the treaty's provisions, suspicions are likely to grow.

Tri-Valley CAREs has been highlighting this collocation problem on the world stage since 2002. We filed a lawsuit to stop facilities at Livermore and Los Alamos Labs from going forward without adequate environmental study. Due to the lawsuit, so far the "bright line" separating the collocation of bio-warfare agents and nuclear bombs has not been crossed.

This year, Tri-Valley CAREs again sent a delegate to the Biological Weapons Convention to raise the collocation issue. In the absence of a verification protocol, our statement called upon member states, now and in the future, to agree to geographically separate high-level biodefense research from nuclear weapons research labs in order to build trust among states parties.

"It was a key opportunity to bring attention to this major problem on the floor of the Convention and offer a solution," said Tri-Valley CAREs' staff attorney Loulena Miles. "We invited discussion on how states parties could adapt the treaty so that it could establish clear lines and guidance for a variety of questionable state-funded 'biodefense' activities before a crisis situation arises."

Many experts believe that the greatest threat of advancement in the field of biological weapons flows not from non-state terrorist groups but from within state-funded labs. In the U.S., thousands of new researchers have entered into the field since the flood of congressional funds that began in 2001.

"It's high-time that the BWC begins to grapple with the huge loophole in the treaty for state-funded research labeled as "biodefense." Work can be done in these government labs that pushes the envelope on existing bio-weapon agent characteristics and could even create much more deadly agents than had existed before," said biodefense expert Dr. Judith Flanagan. "We need to make sure that this research does not go forward without meaningful public and political oversight."

The Review Conference ended with an agreement to meet annually to grapple with measures to strengthen the treaty. For Miles, the continuing survival of the BWC, combined with modest steps for the future, constituted a measure of success. Miles said she was glad that the treaty framework remains intact -- so that it can be improved upon when there is more political will. "Although one might wish for more, I think that this was on par with the realistic expectations of participants," she concluded.

Study Undercuts Rush for New Nukes

by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Every so often, life serves up an interesting mix of irony and timing. One such instance involving the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration occurred as 2006 drew to a close.

Our story begins with the DOE lagging behind schedule in releasing a scientific report on the rate at which plutonium "ages" in nuclear weapons. Congress had passed a law the prior year insisting on the report, which involved an outside review of DOE's data, as well as an unclassified summary of the report's findings. The DOE was trying to drag its feet, but it had to send the review to Congress.

At the same time, DOE had scheduled a series of public meetings around the country on its plan to revitalize the U.S. nuclear weapons complex at eight sites, including Livermore Lab. The DOE called its plan Complex 2030, though peace and environmental advocates quickly dubbed it "Bombplex."

The driver for the new "Bombplex" was (and is) the DOE's so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program, which involves re-designing and rebuilding essentially every nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal. Under RRW, a new nuclear bomb design would come out of the weapons labs at Livermore and Los Alamos every five years. A newly revitalized nuclear weapons production complex would build these RRW nukes at the rate of 125 per year.

A major justification underpinning the RRW program was DOE's insistence that it could not guarantee that the plutonium in U.S. nuclear weapons would detonate reliably after about 45 years. It might turn to peanut butter or green cheese, DOE implied.

Therefore, DOE said, we must build a whole new plutonium bomb core factory soon to churn out hundreds of plutonium bomb cores per year and rebuild all the weapons in the arsenal. (And, while we are at it, we should also re-design all the weapons, or so DOE-think goes.)

This brings us to the release of the scientific report on plutonium aging. While Complex 2030 hearings were in full swing, and DOE was proclaiming the need for new plutonium facilities and new nukes, Congress received the overdue unclassified assessment done by a group of scientists known as the JASONs.

The JASONs' report revealed that the plutonium cores of U.S. nuclear weapons will last a minimum of 100 years '? and potentially much longer. This is more than double DOE's original estimate of 45 years.

It is important to note that the JASONs reviewed the plutonium aging data produced by DOE's own weapons labs. Therefore, it is fair to suspect that DOE may have chosen not to release the information at all '? had Congress not demanded it.

The fact that the plutonium in the present nuclear arsenal will perform reliably for a century or more calls into question DOE's rush to build a new plutonium bomb core factory, the RRW program and the entire "Bombplex." In short, the JASONs' study shows there is no "need" relating to plutonium aging for any of these endeavors.

The average age of a U.S. nuclear weapon in the enduring stockpile is 21.6 years (much less than the minimum 100 years outlined by the JASONs). Moreover, the U.S. is believed to have about 10,000 intact nuclear weapons and another 12,000 plutonium pits (bomb cores) in reserve at the Pantex site in Texas.

The revelations in the JASONs' report dramatically shift the focus away from the phony justifications for weapons production to the very real need for radioactive waste cleanup and warhead dismantlement.

Tri-Valley CAREs and colleagues around the country call on the DOE to abandon its ill-conceived, proliferation-provocative plans for the RRW program and Complex 2030. We also call on DOE to stop increasing plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos Lab and abandon the proposal to build a whole new plutonium pit factory at an as yet unnamed location.

Instead, DOE should go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan that reduces the global nuclear danger by focusing on the Non-Proliferation Treaty -- and creates safe communities by cleaning up the radioactive contamination that is the legacy of 60 years of nuclear weapons development.

Given that DOE has not evidenced any willingness to re-think its plans, we call on people everywhere to contact their elected officials immediately and begin a dialogue on U.S. priorities '? particularly with the newly elected Congress. And, stay tuned. Upcoming editions of Citizen's Watch will bring you reports from the Complex 2030 hearings, plus all the latest news.

from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and enables the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals."

-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Keep the dream alive. We thank all who joined us on Dr. King's birthday, January 15, to celebrate nonviolence and protest war in Iraq and around the globe. We invite your participation in creating social and political change every day. Call us for details.

Thank You for a Hopeful New Year

By Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

I begin the new year with a heartfelt THANKS to all of our members and friends who volunteer time and donate financially to achieve the R-E-S-U-L-T-S that create a more peaceful, just and healthy planet earth. Your vision of a better future, and your willingness to act to make it a reality, inspires me.

More than 500 of you responded to our end-of-year fundraising drive. Your generous support will enable us to win victories in the coming year. With your help, we will shine light on secret nuclear projects, and promote needed debate.

We will oppose new nuclear weapons, including the Reliable Replacement Warhead program. We will stop the "Bombplex" that is intended to produce these weapons.

We will continue our local advocacy for cleanup of toxic and radioactive contamination at the Livermore Lab main site and Site 300. And, we will prevent the government from bringing live anthrax, plague and other bio-warfare agents to our communities.

These are worthy endeavors, and I appreciate your ready companionship on the often difficult journey to accomplish them. Together, we are truly making a positive difference!


Marylia Kelley

More Contamination for Livermore Lab's Site 300 in Tracy... Bigger Bomb Blasts Planned

By Loulena Miles
from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch, Page 1 of a 2 page insert

The Livermore Lab's Site 300 is becoming more and more dangerous. Although the Dept. of Energy (DOE), which owns Livermore Lab, announced in early 2006 it would most likely phase out explosives testing at Site 300, by year's end the agency dramatically changed course.

The DOE site has just obtained a permit to ramp up the explosive power (i.e., the explosive yield) of bomb tests that are detonated on outdoor, open-air firing tables. Moreover, the permit also increases the amount of toxic debris that Site 300 can send into the air annually.

Site 300 is the Livermore Lab's high explosives testing range, located on Corral Hollow Road in Tracy. Prevailing winds waft from Site 300 over the rapidly growing Tracy community.

The new permit increases the annual explosive limit at Site 300 eight-fold, from 1,000 pounds to 8,000 pounds of TNT-equivalent. It also increases the daily limit from 150 pounds per day to 350 pounds per day.

These increases mean more air pollution for residents of the surrounding area. Residents are concerned also that these new, bigger blasts will be accompanied by an increase in airborne radiation.

As Bob Sarvey, Tri-Valley CAREs' long-time board member and a Tracy resident and business owner, has noted, the Lab routinely uses "depleted uranium" in its open-air bomb tests at Site 300. Uranium-238, the isotope in "depleted uranium", has a radioactive half-life of more than 4 billion years.

Sarvey teamed up with a housing developer to challenge the permit application on the grounds that Livermore Lab had misled the Air Pollution Control District, the local agency that issued the permit. For example, the Lab's application claimed that Site 300 was a remote location, 10 miles away from the City of Tracy. As Sarvey points out, the City of Tracy recently annexed the land to the border of Site 300 '? and new residential developments are planned nearby.

Tri-Valley CAREs is providing technical assistance to the effort to overturn the permit. A hearing is planned for early February.

In the 15 years that the Air Pollution Control District has existed, the Lab had never applied for a permit for its open-air testing because the TNT equivalent of those explosions had been below the regulatory limits. "National security" is the reason stated by Livermore Lab for the change of policy.

Livermore Lab is also applying to the Dept. of Toxics to change its California State permit to increase Site 300's toxic waste storage from 3,300 gallons to 5,500 gallons.

At the same time they are increasing polluting activities, the Lab and DOE are attempting to clean up extensive contamination throughout Site 300 from past bomb tests, including a two-mile-long plume of groundwater contaminated with radioactive and toxic materials. In 1990, Site 300 was named as a Superfund site. (See reverse side for more information on the February 7, 2007 public workshop on the Superfund cleanup at Site 300.)

TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION. In addition to increasing Site 300's explosive limits, there are plans to build one of the world's largest maximum containment bio-warfare agent research labs there. Site 300 is on the Dept. of Homeland Security's list of sites being considered for this massive new project, called the "National Bio and Agro Defense Facility" (NBAF). The Dept. of Homeland Security is slated to announce its "finalists" in early 2007. Tri-Valley CAREs has a petition to oppose this facility. Call us for details. And, stay tuned.

Cleaning Up Pollution at Livermore Lab's Site 300 in Tracy... More Work is Needed

By Peter Strauss
From Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch, Page 2 of 2 page insert

Public workshop: Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Time: 6 PM to 8 PM. It is OK to drop-in.

Location: Tracy Community Center, 300 East 10th Street.

Sponsored by the Dept. of Energy (DOE) and Livermore Lab. Tri-Valley CAREs will have an information table, handouts, and technical experts for you to talk to.

The Livermore Lab's Site 300 encompasses 11 square miles between the cities of Livermore and Tracy. The Tracy Hills residential development is planned nearby.

Since 1955, Site 300 has been used for the processing and testing of high explosives and other materials for nuclear weapons. Activities at Site 300 include fabricating high explosive compounds and weapons components, testing of explosives and mock nuclear bomb cores, and decontaminating high explosive equipment.

The bomb cores tested at Site 300 are often composed of uranium-238. Tritium, which is the radioactive isotope of hydrogen that gives the H-bomb its name, has also been used extensively at Site 300.

In 1990, Site 300 was placed on the National Priorities List (Superfund List), and DOE has since started the Superfund cleanup investigation. At this stage, however, there is no overall plan to clean up Site 300. The main contaminants found in soil and groundwater include: toxics, such as Volatile Organic Compounds (especially TCE), high explosives materials (HE), uranium-238 (also called "depleted uranium") and tritium.

During many of the explosive tests, radioactive tritium, uranium-238 and other pollutants were released to the environment. Solid wastes from these tests were placed in unlined landfills on-site; the landfills became saturated as the water table rose and the groundwater became contaminated. The tritium plume in groundwater currently stretches about two miles.

Preliminary human health danger estimates at Site 300 indicate elevated risk. Prior to beginning remediation, excess lifetime cancer risks fell in the range of six people in ten-thousand to one person in one-thousand. This risk assessment assumes that these cancers will result from occupational exposure. If DOE were to dispose of this property, and it was used for residential purposes, excess cancer risks would be many times higher.


1. Funding for cleanup of Livermore Lab Site 300 should be adequate and stable. A cut back in funds only delays inevitable expenditures in the future, and may make the cleanup more expensive. This is because larger areas of groundwater will have to be cleaned up as the plumes spread, and because soil that is not cleaned up will leach contaminants to the groundwater.

2. DOE must be held accountable for contamination, and cleanup agreements that it has entered into with the State of California and EPA must not be altered.

3. A "Technical Impractability Waiver" for the contamination around the Building-834 area should be opposed. That the DOE may seek a waiver and not actually clean up the area is mentioned in a document preceding the Proposed Plan.

4. Cleanup standards should be set for residential limits (which are more strict than industrial limits) and at a level that does not exceed one-in-one million excess cancers.

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