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Cost of Savannah River Site Plutonium Bomb Plant Soars to $11 Billion; DOE’s Nuclear Bomb Facility Jolts FY22 Funding

Savannah River Site Watch May 29, 2021

“Though pressure is growing on the unneeded GBSD, DOE and DOD have so far refused to reassess the supposed need for the costly weapons system and the need for new plutonium pits on its warhead. Over 15,000 pits are in storage at DOE’s Pantex site in Texas and experts have stated that they “have credible minimum lifetimes in excess of 100 years as regards aging of plutonium.” (JASON “Pit Lifetime” report to NNSA, January 2007)”

NNSA Request of $475 Million for Unneeded Pit Production Plant for Nuclear Warheads is Far Under Annual Level Needed for Controversial Project, Spells Trouble

COLUMBIA, SC, US, May 29, 2021 /EINPresswire.com/ — The U.S. Department of Energy budget request to Congress for Fiscal Year 2022 holds some startling surprises related to fabrication of plutonium “pits” for nuclear warheads at the DOE’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The biggest shock in the budget request by DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration is that the total estimated cost of the SRS pit plant has soared to $11.1 billion, more than double the previous cost estimate of $4.6 billion (in the FY 21 budget request).

Thus, in a one-week period, the cost estimate of the SRS Plutonium Bomb Plant (PBP) has more than doubled in cost and the schedule for the facility’s initial operation has slipped up to five years. These troubling and potentially debilitating developments foreshadow problems to come to the challenging pit-production project, according to the public interest group Savannah River Site Watch.

The breath-taking $11.1 billion cost comes weeks before a key decision will be made on the planning for the facility, so-called “Critical-Decision-1.” That decision point will include a cost range for the PBP and the budget states that the $11.1 billion “value does not represent the CD-1 approved high end of the range.” (pages 220 and 225) Thus, an even higher figure can be expected to be reported in mid-June. DOE claims that better cost estimates will come with “CD-2/3 approval in FY23-24.” (page 211)

Given DOE’s extremely poor track record in managing complex and costly construction projects, as was seen with the MOX debacle, it is fully expected that the pit plant cost will increase over time and that the schedule for the project will continue to slip. The high cost of the SRS pit plant construction and operation will put extreme pressure on both the pit project and the new W87-1 nuclear warhead – atop the new, proposed Ground Based Strategic Deterrent missile – for which the first pits would be made, according to SRS Watch.

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Virtual Advocacy for “Safety, Security, and Savings” at ANA DC Days:

May 26, 2021

Members of the Peace Farm virtually visited Washington, DC this month to participate in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s “DC Days,” an annual event where organizations from across the nation, whose members are directly affected by nuclear weapons production and the incidental health and environmental consequences, make their voice heard to federal policy makers.

Detonate Open-Air Bomb Tests at Livermore Lab’s Site 300

The Peace Farm is pushing for safe and secure toxic cleanup and prioritizing public health while saving billions by terminating ill-conceived new nuclear weapons programs.

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s new report, “Safety, Security, and Savings” marks the foundation of our 2021 advocacy. Each Biden Administration official and member of Congress with whom we meet gets a copy – and so do our members and friends (see below). The report includes a series of fact sheets and recommendations covering new warheads, bomb plants, nuclear waste, cleanup, and more.

CLICK HERE for the full report.

Environmental Justice

Los Angeles Times Newsletter: The dark legacy of a nuclear meltdown, and what it means for climate change

Despite growing up in Los Angeles, until recently I knew next to nothing about Santa Susana, which is nestled in the Simi Hills west of the San Fernando Valley. As my L.A. Times colleagues have chronicled, it was a nuclear reactor and rocket engine test facility for decades, and the site of a partial nuclear meltdown in 1959. Today more than 700,000 people live within 10 miles.

Santa Susana is an incredibly toxic site. And the parties responsible for the long legacy of radioactive waste and other contaminants — namely Boeing, NASA and the federal Department of Energy — have done hardly anything to clean it up.

Santa Susana is also the subject of a new documentary, “In the Dark of the Valley,” which is making the rounds on the film festival circuit. It’s a gut-wrenching story about children living near the field lab who have been diagnosed with cancer, and whose mothers have banded together to demand a full cleanup, in hopes that other families won’t suffer like theirs have.

On the border of New Mexico and Texas, yet another predominantly Latino town is fighting plans for a new gas-fired turbine at a power plant owned by El Paso Electric. Here’s the view from the ground in Chaparral, where residents say some of country’s dirtiest air is making them sick, as Claudia Silva writes for New Mexico In Depth. El Paso Electric says the new gas unit is needed to help keep the lights on during hot summer weather. Indeed, power grid officials are warning that not just California but also Texas, New England and parts of the Midwest are at risk of energy shortages this summer, per Utility Dive’s Robert Walton.

Nuclear Waste

Alliance of Texas environmental, oil interests block bill that would have given nuclear waste company a financial break

ERIN DOUGLAS, TEXAS TRIBUNE MAY 11, 2021

The entrance to the Waste Control Specialists site, where radioactive and hazardous waste is disposed of and stored in Andrews County. Credit: Eli Hartman for The Texas Tribune

A bill opposed by both environmental and some oil interests that would have given a nuclear waste company in West Texas a big break on state fees failed to receive a vote in the Texas House before a key deadline on Monday.

Waste Control Specialists has been disposing of the nation’s low-level nuclear waste, including tools, building materials and protective clothing exposed to radioactivity, for a decade in Andrews County. The company is currently pursuing, with a partner, a federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission license to store spent nuclear fuel on a site adjacent to its existing facility, a plan that both environmentalists and some oil companies that operate in the region have long opposed.

House Bill 2692, which also would have banned the most dangerous type of radioactive waste from entering Texas for disposal under state law, was blocked from advancing by a point of order brought by state Reps. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, and Harold Dutton, D-Houston.

It was sent back to committee and has failed to be voted out a second time before Monday, the last day House committees could report measures and have a chance of passing.

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Critical Events

Support the City of Santa Fe in Leaving the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities

The FULL Santa Fe City Council will meet next Wednesday, May 26 to vote on whether or not to remain in the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities. Contact the Santa Fe councilors in support of local governments LEAVING the RCLC.

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO AREADY WROTE IN!

NUCLEAR POWER – TEXAS

Geothermal energy can keep the lights on in Texas

Dallas Morning News / April 7, 2021

With weather-related failures in natural gas, nuclear, coal, wind and solar generation as temperatures reached record lows, the state’s power generating capacity dropped by almost 70%, creating a catastrophic energy shortage. This is where geothermal energy could have saved the day.

EGEB: Texas wind power smashes records in March

Michelle Lewis / Apr. 7th 2021

EGEB: Texas wind power smashes records in March: In March, Texas grid operator ERCOT’s wind power generation smashed its previous record. Wind topped 10.4 million megawatt-hours (MWh) during the month, which is 2 million MWh above its previous high set in December 2020, according to data from the Energy Information Administration’s hourly electric grid monitor.

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NUCLEAR WASTE – HOLTEC

New Mexico sues US over proposed nuclear waste storage plans

AP News / By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN March 29, 2021

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico sued the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Monday over concerns that the federal agency hasn’t done enough to vet plans for a multibillion-dollar facility to store spent nuclear fuel in the state, arguing that the project would endanger residents, the environment and the economy.

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NUCLEAR WASTE – TEXAS/NEW MEXICO

Landgraf nuclear waste bill doesn’t ‘go far enough,’ says PBC

State Representative Brooks Landgraf has filed a bill, prohibiting the storage and disposal of high-level waste in Texas.

Midland Reporter-Telegram, March 5, 2021

The Permian Basin Coalition released a statement Thursday saying that Rep. Brooks Landgraf’s bill to ban the storage of high-level nuclear waste in Texas “does not go far enough” in seeking to keep nuclear waste out of the state.

Landgraf’s bill would ban the storage and disposal of high-level nuclear waste away from civilian nuclear power plants or university research reactors in Texas. A proposal from Waste Control Specialists to expand their existing nuclear waste site in Andrews County to store high-level waste would be impacted by the bill.

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A Big Win for Comprehensive Cleanup in New Mexico: State sues DOE over LANL cleanup

The lawsuit notes that Nuclear Watch New Mexico previously filed a lawsuit against the DOE over its non-compliance with the 2016 Consent Order.

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said in a statement that “What New Mexicans really deserve (is) to have needed cleanup drive funding instead of the budget that DOE wants driving cleanup. We strongly salute the Environment Department for taking legal action against DOE’s scheme of expanding dirty nuclear weapons production over cleanup.”

By: T.S. LAST / JOURNAL NORTH / February 25th, 2021 at 11:45pm Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal abqjournal.com

SANTA FE – The state Environment Department has lost patience with the U.S. Department of Energy over what it says is a “continuing pattern of delay and noncompliance” with the cleanup of hazardous legacy waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory, posing a health risk to people in surrounding communities.

After a dispute resolution process broke down, the New Mexico Environment Department late Wednesday filed a civil lawsuit against the DOE in 1st Judicial District Court in Santa Fe. It claims that DOE has failed to meet objectives identified in compliance orders in 2005 and 2016 and has dragged its feet in cleaning up contamination left behind from decades of bomb-making and nuclear research.

It asks that a court-supervised process be conducted to resolve the issues.

“We’re a state agency, and our patience is long,” Environment Secretary James Kenney said in a phone interview. “But our patience runs out quickly when there’s an inability to meet promises.”

DOE maintains that significant progress has been made since 2016, including addressing hexavalent chromium contamination in groundwater and the cleanup at several sites with elevated levels of soil contamination. It maintains that it completed all 16 compliance order milestones for fiscal year 2020.

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