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Nuke forum set for Duke City

Doomsday ForumPosted: Friday, June 17, 2016 10:15 pm | Updated: 8:48 pm, Sat Jun 18, 2016.

By Rebecca Moss
The New Mexican

About 20 top federal defense and intelligence officials, senior national laboratory officials and representatives from international defense organizations will converge on Albuquerque early next week to speak at a conference on nuclear weapons.

Sherman McCorkle, a community volunteer helping to organize the Strategic Deterrent Coalition Symposium, said it centers on “the critical importance of maintaining a safe and secure and effective nuclear deterrent.”

The Tuesday conference, with talks on the modernization of nuclear weapons and global defense through an international lens, comes as the federal government moves forward with a controversial plan to ramp up production of plutonium pits — nuclear weapons triggers — at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Greg Mello, director of the Los Alamos Study Group, a nuclear watchdog group, dubs the event a “Doomsday Forum” in a flier advertising “teach-ins” his group is offering to raise awareness about the increasing nuclear footprint in New Mexico.

“Top military & nuclear officials coming to NM to promote nuclear weapons,” the flier reads. “Tired of NM being a nuclear & military colony? Join our teach-ins, learn, & empower yourself!”

During a sparsely attended teach-in Friday in Santa Fe, discussions addressed the science and policies surrounding plutonium pit production, the environmental impacts of nuclear weapons production at Los Alamos, various tools in the nation’s nuclear arsenal and why nuclear weapons have so much political support, including from New Mexico’s congressional delegation.

Congress has mandated an increase in production of the grapefruit-size plutonium pits to maintain the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. But watchdogs are wary of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s ability to safely carry out the mission, and a recent inspection report from the president’s nuclear facilities advisory board warned that the lab’s plutonium facility has fire-safety issues that render it unfit to endure an earthquake.

Some people who attended Friday’s teach-in asked what these activities would mean for Los Alamos and surrounding communities, and raised concerns about radioactive waste and contamination from the production process.

Carol Miller of Ojo Sarco, a public health activist and politician, said the defense sites in New Mexico take advantage of the state’s economic strains, emphasizing job creation. Miller was a presenter at the teach-in, representing the Peaceful Skies Coalition, a group opposed to military training flights because of the operations’ impact on communities in New Mexico and Colorado.

The Los Alamos Study Group and The University of New Mexico’s Peace and Justice Studies Program will hold their own event on nuclear weapons proliferation Tuesday afternoon at The University of New Mexico. And Mello said he expects protesters to gather for demonstrations against the nuclear defense conference.

“We need to wake up,” Mello said. “The precursors of war are all over.”

If you go

• Demonstrations against the Strategic Deterrent Coalition Symposium in Albuquerque will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the opening reception of the conference at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, 601 Eubank Blvd. SE and at 9 a.m. Tuesday at UNM’s Student Union building.

• The Los Alamos Study Group and UNM’s Peace and Justice Studies Program will hold a “teach-in” at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the UNM Student Union Building, Lobo rooms A and B.

Correction, June 18, 2016

This story has been amended to reflect the following correction: An earlier version incorrectly identified Carol Miller of Ojo Sarco as a Green Party politician. Miller is a former member of the Green Party who ran in congressional races but has been an independent for the past 10 years, including a 2008 bid as an independent candidate for New Mexico's Congressional District 3 seat. The error was made in editing.

Contact Rebecca Moss at 505-986-3011 or rmoss@sfnewmexican.com.


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