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"Forget the Rest" blog


Senior DOE nuclear officials coming to Santa Fe for public hearing; more

March 11, 2016

This letter is being sent to local members. Tell us if you want off this exclusive list.

Dear friends --

1. Senior DOE nuclear officials coming to Santa Fe for public hearing

"We interrupt our regular programming" to advise you that on the evening of March 22, senior Department of Energy (DOE) officials are coming to Santa Fe in the context of a public hearing organized by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB).

The hearing will be held on Tuesday, March 22, 2016, from 5:00 - 6:30 pm (Session 1) and from 6:45 - 9:00 pm (Session 2) at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, 201 West Marcy Street (map).

There will be a public comment period from 8:00 - 8:45 pm. This is not a long comment period, so we highly recommend arriving at 4:30 pm to sign in to speak, if you think you might want to do so. We believe it would be futile and counterproductive to use what influence we have with the DNFSB to stretch out the comment period.

The agenda provides detail. The presence of Madelyn Creedon, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Principal Deputy Administrator, and Monica Regalbuto, DOE Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management (EM), indicates that this is an important meeting.

As Administrator Frank Klotz's principal deputy, Ms. Creedon plays a role in most major decisions about the nuclear warhead complex, such as who manages Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and how, and the shape of NNSA's programs and budgets for nuclear weapons. Ms. Regalbuto is the person ultimately most responsible for allocating DOE's cleanup funds and establishing cleanup goals. Both have only a few months remaining in office but their actions and decisions during that period will help guide the next administration for at least its first year, a crucial period. 

As noted in the agenda, the official purposes of this meeting are to:

1. Discuss the hazards posed to the public and workers by the containers of waste stored at Area G.
2. Discuss actions taken or planned to resolve known inadequacies in the current safety bases [safe operational rules and limitations] of the various facilities that manage or store transuranic waste at LANL.
3. Discuss actions taken to improve transuranic waste management at LANL in response to the challenges caused by the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant accident and its associated findings.

The meeting will also be, whether we like it or not, an occasion in which NNSA, DOE, and the DNFSB assess how much interest there is in safety at LANL and, more subtly, how much public support there is for LANL's dangerous nuclear weapons missions, and for cleanup. As you will have noticed, there are very few opportunities for the public to speak to senior nuclear officials.

Communication to NNSA and DOE about "the big picture" will no doubt be as much tacit and "between the lines" as it will be overt. In our view, many creative and respectful forms of communication may be helpful. The Board even provides helpful guidelines. But unlike the case in many (faux) "hearings," in this case our simple words will receive close attention. DNFSB sincerely does want public input into these issues.

DNFSB is a small, high-quality federal agency with strong traditions of openness, responsiveness (e.g. to LASG requests), and tremendous expertise. It is highly respected in most places, feared by contractors, and loathed by neoconservative nuclear hawks, especially by certain staff on the armed services committees, who see "excessive" safety as an impediment to nuclear warhead production. For this reason the DNFSB has been under continuous political attack for many years now.

Trish and Astrid Webster recently met with DNFSB Chair Joyce Connery, board member Bruce Hamilton, and staff in Santa Fe; Greg and sometimes others (Trish, or Peter Neils) meet privately with the Board and staff in DC on roughly a quarterly basis.

The DNFSB deserves our support and help. One way to provide that is to come to this meeting and speak.

Feel free to ask your friends to come to this hearing, and to the meeting below.

2. Reminder: Study Group meeting coming next week!

We'll be meeting on Wednesday, March 16, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 107 W Barcelona Rd (map), from 6 to 8 pm. We'll meet in the library.  We will provide a short update on the administration's nuclear weapons and plutonium disposal plans, especially as they relate to the New Mexico labs and New Mexico. We also want to briefly describe the progress made in Geneva so far this year on a nuclear weapons ban, and how you can help.

Given the importance of the hearing on the 22nd we will have to at least lightly address the above safety issues. We will provide possible talking points for your consideration, but in truth if you attend the hearing you will be well-equipped to speak from what you will learn from the issues raised (or not raised!) by the speakers during Session 1 (5:00 to 6:30 pm).

Why is all this important? Because it is really about global empire, the wars we are conducting to maintain that empire, our national priorities, whether we will transition from fossil fuels and protect the climate -- the whole enchilada. But don't take my word for it. Here's the nation's #2 military officer, in an article published yesterday:

Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spent a chunk of his appearance at a defense conference discussing the need to educate the public on why nuclear weapons remain relevant in order to secure funding for a coming wave of modernization costs.

“We have a bill to pay to modernize our nuclear force in all three legs of the triad. And we need to figure out how to do that and how to talk about it so that everybody understands why each leg of the triad is so important,”...

Selva seemed to argue that the triad — the naval, air and ICBM nuclear delivery arms of the Pentagon — needs to take precedent over conventional systems, given its centrality to American global power projection.

“Our capacity to deter nuclear foes adds credibility to our conventional force, and if we are ever threatened by a nuclear foe who is our equal or our better, then our conventional force loses relevance quick,” Selva said.

As much as we would like to think otherwise, nuclear weapons are currently New Mexico's greatest defining political loyalty. This state will never thrive until we end our abusive, non-consensual relationship with the nuclear empire.

See you soon,


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