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"Forget the Rest" blog


November 19, 2015

Dear friends –

One last reminder!  Our get-together on Santa Fe this Sunday, from 4 to 7 pm, is filling up nicely but there is still room for more!

So please RSVP as soon as possible by phone (505-265-1200) or by email and we'll tell you how to get there!

Please consider reaching out to your friends who might be interested or who might want to help support our work.  If your friends want to come on Sunday have them contact Trish ASAP.

Our terrific guest speakers at this meeting include Robert Alvarez, who will speak (and take questions) on the future of the nuclear weapons complex (and its cleanup), and Dr. Frank von Hippel, who will speak (and take questions) on pit production (and surplus plutonium disposition).  I will introduce them along with some of the other figures in the Study Group present, and I will talk about our plans for the coming months.

Selected recent news of interest:

"We were so appalled at the proliferation of absurdities and witlessness at the recent EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Conference, particularly the session on "The NPT Review Conference and the Future of Nuclear Disarmament", that we begged the Disarmament Guru - last seen at the NPT review conference in May - to come to our aid once more. He has graciously assented to share his wisdom: you can read it here.
"Investigative journalist Denton (The Plots Against the President: FDR, A Nation in Crisis, and the Rise of the American Right, 2012, etc.) offers an ambitious “empire biography” of the Bechtel family and the secretive, privately held construction company–turned–diversified international conglomerate that has been “inextricably enmeshed” in U.S. foreign policy for seven decades.

"In this incredible-seeming but deeply researched book, the author traces the phenomenal rise of the California-based corporation that became famous for building the Hoover Dam and went on to handle billion-dollar projects from the Channel Tunnel to the Big Dig; to construct airports, power plants, and entire cities; to cart away the wreckage of the World Trade Center and rebuild Iraq; to privatize America’s nuclear weapons business (assuming control of Los Alamos, etc.); and, in the end, to complete 25,000 projects in 160 countries. Now the world’s largest contractor, with offices in 50 nations, Bechtel, from 1999 to 2013, received $40 billion in contracts from the U.S. Departments of Energy and Defense. “Despite its fiercely antiregulatory, antigovernment stance,” writes Denton, “the Bechtel family owes its entire fortune to the U.S. government.” She describes the dizzying revolving door between Bechtel’s headquarters and the federal government: Bechtel executives that include John McCone, George P. Shultz, and Casper Weinberger have passed through, forging links with the CIA and other government agencies and leading to favorable contracts and subsidies. Whether in war-torn Europe, the Middle East, or elsewhere, it has always been “difficult to determine if Bechtel was doing favors for the US government, or if it was the other way around.” Parts of this mammoth story have been told before, but Denton has shaped it into a taut, page-turning narrative detailing the company’s machinations under five generations of family leadership. She concludes that the firm is “either a brilliant triumph or an iconic symbol of grotesque capitalism.”

"Filled with stories of cronyism and influence peddling, Denton’s riveting and revealing book will undoubtedly displease the so-called “boys from Bechtel,” who refused to talk to Denton, referring her to the company website."
Sally's book hits the shelves on February 16, 2016.
This article is undoubtedly oversimplified but, that said, this news about clinches it: a major part of the Hanford cleanup -- the Waste Treatment Plant (WTP), or major parts of it -- will fail.  This is a $72 billion project in total life-cycle cost.  It is certainly the largest project in the Department of Energy (DOE), the flagship project in the DOE cleanup program, and also probably the largest civil engineering project in the United States.  It's a Bechtel project, and it's failing like so many DOE and NNSA projects before it.

The huge Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) and its associated Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel program is also failing, regardless of what the administration or Congress does at this point.

These failures are part of the flowering of a larger pattern of failure that began as long ago as the Arab Oil Embargo in 1974, as a formerly classified GAO report we obtained from that office helps make clear (not posted, per request).  Bob Alvarez has seen it all "go down" and may speak to this on Sunday.

The local LANL cleanup program will certainly leave most of the waste buried on site, while creating more waste all the time, some buried locally.  It too is failing overall.
The picture shows the moment of impact. Trish and I have seen the unpublished impact video (in the Senate) and expect it by mail this week.  The plowed circle appears to be roughly of radius about 8 times the length of the bomb (11' 8") and so is on the order of 100 ft, or ~30 m.  This comports well with the advertised 30 m Circular Error Probable (CEP) for the new guidance system (tail kit) and is the likely meaning of the plowed dike.

The entry of the bomb into the dirt is very clean in the video with hardly any dirt kicked up.  The B61 has always had intrinsic earth-penetration ability and that is surely being retained.  Even a shallow explosion underground is considerably tamped and so the shock wave transfers to the earth pretty well, tempting NATO to target in that mode -- but that shock also then transfers from the earth to the atmosphere (like a drum head), causing far-away damage from air shock as well as the rolling radioactive basal surge, which follows.  So much for "low yield."  A 50 kt airburst over Santa Fe would create a firestorm from St. Michael's Drive to U.S. 599.  There would be few if any survivors.

The combination of variable yield (reportedly not functional in tactical B61s today), unprecedented accuracy (allowing lower yields for assured target destruction), multiple fuzing modes (any height above, at, or below the earth's surface), delivery by stealthy airplanes, forward basing, and unprecedented target acquisition intelligence, make this a nuclear "bomb for all reasons."  But frankly, which nuclear bomb isn't horrible?  This one is no more dangerous than any other bomb or warhead.

Development is fairly advanced, thanks to passive approval of the whole modernization program by the arms control community and "antinuclear" groups as a condition for ratifying New START in the Senate.  Now it's all about the evil Russians, just like the Cold War.  First production is slated for FY2020.  Officially, it is to be replaced by the B61-13 starting circa 2040, on about the same schedule as the Hanford WTP -- and a joke.
  • North Dakota, a star of "Saudi America" propaganda, is now losing production at a rate of 2.5% per month (See data and comments here).  Also, OPEC has world oil supply peaking in June and July and declining by about 1 million bpd since then.  U.S. production has been declining about 1% per month overall and so is Canada, within the accuracy of the data.  Despite what you may have read, there are no new bonanzas ready to come on line globally that can easily compensate for this sag.  With prices low and likely staying low (according to about everybody) due to a developing lack of commodity demand (aka economic depression), investment in production has been declining precipitously.  Heinberg has a nice summary today ("Can We Afford the Future?").  The short answer, as an increasing number of analysts are beginning to understand, is -- not really.
This is not the place to discuss this in depth but what this means is that a gentle, slow transition to a renewable energy, climate-friendly future while keeping the "American Way of Life" intact is not going to happen.  We must make the transition rapid or it probably will not happen at all.  Theo Kitchener has a recent speculative article addressing this problem -- just the latest one that could be cited.

To our knowledge this conversation is not happening in climate movement circles in New Mexico, and in very few places elsewhere.  As a result of people not really understanding how urgent our transition has to be, the best organizations are isolated and stymied in their efforts, and overall progress is glacial, so to speak.
See you on Sunday!


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2901 Summit Place NE Albuquerque, NM 87106, Phone: 505-265-1200