From the Guardian, September 29, 2014
By Cady Enders
…Congress and the Department of Defense, together with New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), are gearing up to dramatically increase production of nuclear weapons cores to numbers not seen since the cold war. In a report to Congress last month, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) outlined specific recommendations for a nuclear production plan under which as many as 80 explosive plutonium cores – 3.5in spheres that trigger an atomic bomb – would be created per year by 2030.
The Los Alamos proposal, which aims to increase plutonium core production at the nuclear facility thirtyfold from 2013 levels, leaves various environmental, fiscal, and political questions unanswered. Los Alamos, which the CRS report cites as the only plausible place for the slated nuclear expansion, happens to have a staggeringly poor history of safeguarding war-grade nuclear materials. A federal study last month found the nuclear facility unprepared to respond to emergencies; environmental violations abound; and a former employee was recently sentenced to a year in federal prison for trying to sell nuclear secrets to the Venezuelan government.
The plan, which has already been quietly adopted in broad terms by the House and Senate armed services committees as part of the 2015 Defense Authorization Act, is expected to contribute an estimated $355bn for nuclear weapons development over the next decade. The spending would seem to stand in stark contrast to President Obama’s stated position on nuclear weapons.
Obama has previously indicated a strong commitment to cutting the nuclear stockpile from 5,113 warheads in 2009 to 1,500 by the year 2016. In a 2009 speech in Prague, cited by the Nobel committee as the primary reason for awarding him the peace prize…
… James Doyle, a former scientist in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Division at LANL, said that the scale of the proposed project lacks supporting research, particularly in the quantity of cores required. “I’ve never seen the justification articulated for the 50-80 pits per year by 2030,” Doyle said.
Doyle, a 17-year veteran of Los Alamos, was dismissed on July 8 for publishing an article in support of nuclear disarmament that had been approved prior to publication by the laboratory’s classification department. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the State Department have since classified the article, despite the fact that the media review process at the lab prior to publication identified no classification breaches. (The article remains available to the public even after the classification.)
Doyle believes that the timing of his ouster was connected to the congressional push for nuclear weapons maintenance. “I think the laboratory would like to review for message, too,” he said.“I would speculate that the message of my article was in opposition to the labs’ message when searching for funding for the plutonium pit project.”
Doyle believes that the government should turn its focus from weapons component production to a strategic plan for eliminating nuclear weapons by the year 2045. “I think there are plenty of people at the lab who share my view that are now even less likely to write an article like that now this has happened to me,” Doyle said.
… Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group, a nuclear watchdog group, said that the reason the pit proposal has progressed, despite monumental cost to the taxpayer, comes down to the priorities of the for-profit corporations that now run all the country’s nuclear laboratories since they were privatized in 2006. That includes Los Alamos National Security, a private limited liability corporation that manages and operates Los Alamos National Laboratories.
“The business model of the nuclear weapons labs is to blackmail the government into continuing excessive appropriations,” said Mello. “The nuclear weapons labs are sized for the Cold War, and they need a Cold War to keep that size.”
For the complete article:
Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2014 to 2023
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