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"Forget the Rest" blog

For Immediate Release 9/3/13

Secretary Moniz Visits New Mexico Nuclear Weapons Labs in Usual Secrecy
No Hope or Change on Offer

Contact: Greg Mello, 505-265-1200 office; 505-577-8563 cell

Albuquerque -- Today Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz is visiting Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories (LANL and SNL, respectively). 

The Department of Energy (DOE) is important in New Mexico, spending $4.5 billion annually in the state. 

So far, the Obama Administration, the Energy Department under Drs. Chu and Moniz, and the members of the New Mexico Democratic congressional delegation have not yet announced any policies or programs, or any aspirations for programs, capable of making a truly significant difference in greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel dependence, or the economic prospects of sunny, windy (but dry) New Mexico. 

Neither have these parties announced any truly significant management reforms at New Mexico's nuclear weapons laboratories or elsewhere in DOE's privatized nuclear weapons complex, which has remained on the Governmental Accountability Office's "Watch List" (for possible fraud, waste, and abuse of taxpayer funds) for 20 years.  Repeated DOE Inspector General recommendations for deep structural reforms have been ignored. 

In June, the Obama Administration announced the most costly 25-year nuclear warhead program -- $275 billion -- since the end of the Cold War.  The costs presented in that report are widely considered to be too small, in the Administration and on Capitol Hill, and the overall plan is widely thought to be too ambitious to be achievable.  A second report (pursuant to section 1043 of the fiscal year 2013 Defense Authorization Act), encompassing delivery systems and their cost -- at least $200 billion -- has been presented to Congress but is still secret.  Thus the total cost for modernizing nuclear weapons over the next 25 years is in the neighborhood of one-half trillion dollars, exclusive of deployment.  There are no plans for significant reform of this program, DOE's largest, or for significant reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, exceeding 4,500 warheads in size. 

At Los Alamos, secret plans for additional underground plutonium warhead core ("pit") factory buildings proceed while paradoxically the main plutonium facility (PF-4 at Technical Area 55) is expected to remain partially shut down through the end of the year due to mismanagement of nuclear criticality safety.  Dr. Moniz has not yet announced that he will thoroughly vet alternatives to the new plan (which is likely to cost billions of dollars) or include a new environmental impact statement (EIS) in his deliberations.  Despite the centrality of PF-4 in all of his department's plans for plutonium at LANL, Dr. Moniz has not yet committed to making PF-4 structurally sound, per DOE regulations. 

Dr. Moniz is meeting privately with laboratory officials, the Governor, and our congressional delegation, continuing the drift toward administration of New Mexico's future, rather than democratic processes. 

It is very likely that the news media will frame any resulting stories within the frames provided by this small set of interest-conflicted actors, despite decades of expert advice otherwise, nationally and locally.   

The New Mexico delegation (minus our two senators, who are in Washington tracking the politics of a possible direct military attack on Syria by the United States), and the Governor, are, like Secretary Moniz, also not offering any serious or significant program for energy transition or economic development in New Mexico. 


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