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November 2007 Citizens Watch Newsletter

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The Nuclear Maze Revealed

by Jedidjah de Vries
from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

There was something new and slightly different offered at the anti-war demonstration in San Francisco on October 27. At the back of Dolores Park, where the march ended, a bright yellow structure had been set up, built out of cloth and stakes.

In front stood Tri-Valley CAREs' Outreach Director, Jedidjah de Vries, inviting folks inside to tour "the nuclear maze, full of illogical twists and turns."

To plan and construct the maze, we came together with a number of other groups, such as Western States Legal Foundation and the UC Berkeley student group Fiat Pax. Visitors traveled through the maze as though following the path of the nuclear fuel cycle.

Impacts of the Fuel Cycle

The walls of the maze were lined with images and informational displays about the environmental and health effects of all things nuclear, from uranium mining and enrichment, through depleted uranium to nuclear power and weapons.

While an atmosphere of post-demonstration exuberance reigned outside the intricate maze, inside the yellow walls somber and sober reflection on the past, present and future effects of nuclear weapons and power was the rule.

About a thousand people traversed the nuclear maze that day. At the maze's exit were tables, knowledgeable activists and further information about nuclear weapons and power -as well as specific actions people could take. One table was staffed by members of the Iranian community at which folks were invited to discuss the ramifications of an attack on Iran.

Nearly everyone who passed through the display remarked on how powerful the experience was. Many thanked us for bringing nuclear issues to them. Numerous viewers explicitly asked us to recreate the nuclear maze at future events.

Other Actions

San Francisco wasn't the only site of an anti-war action in October. Additional marches, vigils and demonstrations were held around the country.

Here in Livermore, we are holding an anti-war vigil and sign holding on the third Friday of each month. On October 19, about 2 dozen came together. Participants - ranging from high school students to senior citizens and everything in between - stood out on the downtown corner of First Street and Livermore Avenue with signs and chants for over an hour. Despite the cold that particular evening, vigilers showed that there was local resistance to the ongoing war in Iraq. For some this was the first demonstration they had ever attended.

The Livermore vigils are being organized as part of the nationwide "Iraq Moratorium" campaign. This month's action will be at 5:30 PM on November 16th by the fountains at the same downtown location, First Street and Livermore Avenue.

Too Little Progress

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

On November 5, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its congressionally-requested audit of the Dept. of Energy's (DOE) progress in securing nuclear materials that are housed at numerous sites across the country, including Livermore Lab. The GAO report title tells the story: "DOE Has Made Little Progress Consolidating and Disposing of Special Nuclear Material."

The GAO found that while the Dept. of Energy told Congress in 2005 that it would complete plans within one year to consolidate and better secure special nuclear material (principally plutonium and highly enriched uranium), as of November 2007 only 2 out of 8 plans were in place.

The other 6 are lagging; still in what GAO termed "early stages of development." Further, GAO found significant deficiencies in the 2 plans that DOE had completed.

Among the 6 plans left undone is the proposal to remove all weapons usable quantities of plutonium and highly enriched uranium from Livermore Lab. As has been noted by both Tri-Valley CAREs and government agencies, the bomb grade material at Livermore Lab is vulnerable to theft, terrorist attack or release in a catastrophic event such as an earthquake.

The "superblock" at Livermore Lab's Main Site, where most of these highly radioactive and fissile materials are located, is a mere 800 yards from the surrounding neighborhoods. Tract homes, apartment buildings, little league fields and city parks are built right outside the Lab's fence line. More than 7 million people live within a 50-mile radius.

Nearby communities and some Members of Congress have wisely been pressuring DOE to remove Livermore Lab's nuclear material. Yet, DOE has no tangible plan to do so.

According to the GAO, simply attempting to secure Livermore Lab's plutonium in place will cost nearly half a billion dollars over the next 7 years. What can be done now?

First, DOE should undertake (not just promise) a detailed plan, and do so with maximum transparency and public participation. Second, Livermore Lab should safely and properly package the plutonium that it has on site. Some of the plutonium used in weapons programs, for example, is currently stored in paint cans and food tins. It must be put into certified containers.

Third, Livermore Lab should immediately terminate all weapons experiments that use plutonium. This includes canceling plans to use plutonium in "L-cast," which is the prototype plutonium pit (bomb core) foundry under construction at Livermore Lab. Fourth, Congress should pass legislation mandating that DOE pick up the pace, complete the required plan and remove all special nuclear material from Livermore Lab by 2010.

We hope that the GAO report is fully utilized by Congress, and that legislation will be forthcoming. The report contains recommendations that should be implemented not only for Livermore Lab's nuclear materials but also for the nation.

And, we will raise the plutonium issue when the DOE comes to town in early 2008 for public hearings on its "Complex Transformation" plan (formerly called "Complex 2030," AKA the "Bombplex"). Stay tuned. Get involved.

Alerts 4 You

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

In December
Bombplex Plan release date
(925) 443-7148 for details

The Dept. of Energy now predicts its draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for "Complex Transformation" (formerly called "Complex 2030") will be published in December, with public hearings to follow in early 2008. This is the plan for new nuclear weapons and production facilities that we call "Bombplex." Your participation will be crucial. Fact sheets are available at

Friday, December 21
Local Action to Stop the War
5:30 PM, downtown Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

In this season of peace, join us in a vigil and sign holding to protest the ongoing war in Iraq. We will gather at 5:30 PM at the fountains, corner of First St. and Livermore Ave.

Group Demands New Report on Anthrax Release

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

Following the discovery that Livermore Lab officials had covered up a major anthrax release (see Citizen's Watch, October 2007), Tri-Valley CAREs swung into action with a demand letter for a new and complete environmental report and public hearings.

The group also filed multiple Freedom of Information Act requests in order to obtain still hidden and potentially significant information surrounding both the accident and the government's initial response to it.

"We aim to ensure that the public has a say in whether or not Livermore Lab opens an even more deadly bio-warfare agent research center," said Marylia Kelley, the group's Executive Director.

Staff Attorney Robert Schwartz explained further, "In light of the numerous violations of law that led to the anthrax accident, we call on the U.S. Dept. of Energy, which owns Livermore Lab, to redraft its Environmental Assessment for the new bio-lab and re-circulate the document for public comment."

Schwartz added, "Moreover, we are asking DOE to fully analyze the anthrax release and prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and hold public hearings before moving forward with new, even more dangerous experiments involving a plethora of potentially lethal biological warfare agents." Tri-Valley CAREs has been in litigation against DOE since 2003 over the proposed Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) bio-warfare agent research facility, to be located at the Livermore Lab Main Site at the edge of town.

Due to the litigation, the facility has not yet opened. The group's victory last year in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals forced DOE to revise its original Environmental Assessment (EA) for the BSL-3 to consider the potential impacts of terrorist activity.

After being revised (poorly), this document was circulated for public comment. However, because DOE covered up important details about the anthrax release, which occurred in September 2005, and any actions taken to remedy bio-agent problems, the public's ability to comment was effectively circumvented.

Schwartz said, "Our members and the public at large certainly would have considered information about an anthrax release at Livermore Lab significant when commenting on the potential impacts of a proposed BSL-3 facility, which would handle even deadlier 'select agents' and require increased shipments to and from Livermore."

Tri-Valley CAREs' demand letter to DOE, sent on October 29, 2007, outlines the group's concerns with the way the anthrax release was dealt with in the draft revised EA for the BSL-3. Instead of being forthcoming about this incident and the issues that it raises, the government instead chose to characterize it as merely a minor violation of shipping and packaging requirements.

While in reality Livermore Lab shipped more than 4,000 vials of anthrax across the country over the course of two days with two of the anthrax vials lacking any cap at all and a third with a loose twist top, the DOE simply claimed in the EA that the "inner packaging of these shipments violated DOT packaging requirements." That EA did not even mention that anthrax was the biological agent involved in the shipments or that the pathogen was released.

As a result of Livermore Lab's mistakes, two workers who opened one of the anthrax shipments were treated with the antibiotic Cipro for a week. Livermore Lab management was ultimately fined $450,000 for the accident by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This is the largest fine listed by the DHHS for an accident involving a "select agent," which is the name given to biological warfare-related agents.

Additionally, the EA that DOE circulated failed to disclose that Livermore allowed an unauthorized individual to have access to potentially deadly bio-weapon agents in order to package the anthrax shipments. Further, the EA neglected to mention that Brynte Johnson, Livermore Lab's Select Agent Responsible Official, failed to ensure compliance with the shipping and packaging regulations. Johnson is still serving as the Lab's Responsible Official, despite violating the law.

"Bio-warfare agent shipments into and out of the new BSL-3 would be made via the U.S. Postal Service and other commercial package delivery services, potentially resulting in the exposure of an untold number of individuals," said Marylia Kelley. "Further, the fact that Livermore Lab allowed an unauthorized individual to have access to deadly biological agents is directly relevant to the terrorism analysis ordered by the Ninth Circuit. The EA should have analyzed this situation in detail. Instead, the EA covered it up."

Tri-Valley CAREs is considering further litigation if the DOE attempts to open the BSL-3 on the basis of its faulty EA.

Recently, Tri-Valley CAREs also filed five Freedom of Information Act requests with various federal agencies in an attempt to gain more details about the anthrax release. These requests are now either pending or in the appeal process. To date, most of the information available about the anthrax release has come from Livermore Lab itself, which is distressing given the government's repeated efforts to downplay the significance of this incident.

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