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The construction of an expensive new plutonium pit facility has been abandoned. Will it be replaced a collection of smaller buildings?

By Russ Wellen

Thanks in large part to lawsuits filed by the Los Alamos Study Group, last year the Obama administration halted the construction of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The research for which it was earmarked was  on plutonium pits, which is where the chain reaction of a nuclear weapons occurs. Even if you believe in nuclear weapons, the need for new pits is nonexistent because they’re noted for their longevity. Read the rest of this entry »

Nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation require action on two fronts: the local and policy.

By Russ Wellen

It’s sometimes lost on the arms control community that halting the spread of nuclear weapons begins at home. The disarmament community, on the other hand, has long understood the importance of going local. These days, no one embodies that more than the Los Alamos Study Group. For instance, it was instrumental in letting the air out of the CMRR-NF balloon. The CMRR-NF (Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility) is a building that the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico seeks to construct. It’s intended to carry out design work on plutonium pits — the living, breathing heart of nuclear weapons.

Among the LASG’s efforts to halt the CMRR-NF have been sustained lobbying on Capitol Hill and two separate lawsuits that it filed against the Department of Energy on the grounds that the planned facility was environmentally and seismically un-safe. Thanks to the LASG and a sputtering economy, it’s now unlikely that the CMRR-NF will ever see the light of day. Read the rest of this entry »

By Russ Wellen

As regular readers know, we’ve been tracking the progress of the design and construction of a new nuclear facility (the CMRR-NF) at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. As we posted yesterday … Nuclear Pit Boondoggle at Los Alamos Temporarily Scuttled due to a combination of the economic climate and the efforts of the Los Alamos Study Group (LASG), which has been educating the public, lobbying Washington, and filing two suits to halt the CMRR-NF on environmental grounds.

But sociologist Darwin BondGraham, who is on the LASG Board of Directors, is in no mood to gloat about the victory. In an elegiac article for Counterpunch titled Starving the Real Beast, he writes

The war machine has begun to eat itself for the sake of preserving hyper-inequalities resulting directly from the less progressive tax code instituted a decade prior, and the multitude of shelters capital now hides behind. Read the rest of this entry »

By Russ Wellen

“In crisis lies opportunity” is more than just a cliché (and we’re not just talking about Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine.)  For instance, what could be a better time than the recess-depression in which we’re mired to rethink the whole concept of a growth economy, which has become unsustainable in the face of climate change and dwindling resources? At the very least, it’s a chance to trim our defense budget. In fact, it might not be foremost in the minds of most Americans, or even of much consolation, but cuts to our nuclear-weapons program constitute a silver lining to our economic crisis.

If you’ll recall, earlier this year, the New START treaty was held hostage by Senate Republicans under the direction of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ). By way of ransoming it, the Obama administration forked over a proposal to spend $88 billion during the next decade on nuclear-weapon modernization. (As if to show the futility of that approach, while it was ultimately passed, Kyl still didn’t vote in favor of New START.) That figure represents a 20 percent increase above funding levels proposed during the Bush administration. Read the rest of this entry »

By Russ Wellen

As those who read Focal Points regularly know, a facility intended to provide technical support for the production of the plutonium pits for nuclear warheads is under construction at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The pit — which, one ventures to guess, makes the warhead the fruit of our nuclear-weapons program — is where the chain reaction occurs. To Focal Points’ surprise, the New York Times addressed the facility in an editorial on October 29 titled The Bloated Nuclear Budget, which began:

Twenty years after the end of the cold war, the United States still has about 2,500 nuclear weapons deployed and 2,600 more as backup. The Obama administration, in an attempt to mollify Congressional Republicans, has also committed to modernizing an already hugely expensive complex of nuclear labs and production facilities. Altogether, these and other nuclear-related programs could cost $600 billion or more over the next decade. The country does not need to maintain this large an arsenal. … especially when Congress is considering deep cuts in vital domestic programs. … President Obama [should speed up] already negotiated reductions in deployed weapons and committing to further cuts, unilaterally if necessary. Read the rest of this entry »

By Russ Wellen

Republicans never met a nuclear weapon they didn’t like, right? Generally, that’s true, but neither are they immune to infatuation with another program that happens to be at odds with nuclear weapons as the national-security policy of last defense. All of a sudden Republicans’ mania for cost-cutting might override the special place they hold in their hearts for “our nuclear deterrent,” as they euphemize nuclear weapons.

On June 15, at the Washington Post, Walter Pincus provided as good an introduction as any to what transpired.

. . . lawmakers are cutting into the funds that the Obama administration had pledged for [nuclear] upgrades and modernization. The House Appropriations subcommittee that approves funding of the weapons complex, run by the National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA), just whacked almost $500 million from the weapons program. A slice of $100 million came out of a $200 million pot that is supposed to finance early steps in the coming year to build a new facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

What’s strange about the $100 million is that

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) had pushed for funding for [the above-mentioned facility, known as] the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility [CMRR-NF] — expected to cost $5 billion or more — as one of his demands of the Obama administration. Read the rest of this entry »

By Russ Wellen

Regular readers are aware of how alarmed we are by the construction of a facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico intended, in large part, to help produce something known as plutonium pits. Before examining the latest development in attempts to halt it, first some background on the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) from recent posts.

1. Plutonium pits are the living, breathing heart of a nuclear weapon, where the chain reaction occurs. In other words, mad science at its most extreme.

2. The CMRR-NF’s projected cost, adjusted for inflation, may be greater than all the work done on the Manhattan Project in New Mexico during World War II.

3. The land the building will occupy is seismically, uh, challenged (subject to seismic shocks as great as those experienced at Fukushima). Read the rest of this entry »

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