This Week’s Featured Interview:
Plutonium pits are the triggers necessary to detonate nuclear weapons. The United States currently has an estimated stockpile of approximately 3,800 active warheads — 1,800 deployed with approximately 2,000 held in reserve. Additionally, there are approximately 1,750 retired warheads are awaiting dismantlement, giving a total inventory of approximately 5,550 nuclear warheads.
Congress has mandated that we begin producing 80 new plutonium pits per year… though it begs the question: WHY??? And how have they gotten away with not yet performing a comprehensive Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) on the full project at both sites where the pits are to be manufactured – the Savannah River Site in South Carolina near Georgia, and Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. This PEIS would comprehensively analyze the full range of health, safety and environmental justice impacts of splitting the production of pits at two sites across the country.
To learn more about this situation and the complex set of issues it entails, we spoke with two of the principals in this lawsuit:
- TOM CLEMENTS serves as the Director of Savannah River Site Watch and has worked on nuclear issues for Greenpeace International, Friends of the Earth, the South Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club, and other NGOs.
EMAIL: [email protected]
- LESLIE LENHARDT is Staff Attorney for the South Carolina Environmental Law Project. Previously, from 2007 to 2018, she was in private practice with her focus on environmental and administrative litigation as well as regulatory matters.
Numnutz of the Week (for Outstanding Nuclear Boneheadedness):
“Health” and “exposure to radiation” don’t usually go hand-in-hand… but then, with some of the other crazy things people are believing these days, is it any wonder that in some places, people think it’s a good idea?
- World Nuclear Survivors Forum 2021
- Kings Bay Plowshares 7
- Code Pink petition asking for the elimination of nuclear weapons from the Biden Budget.
- Where Do We Stand with Radiation and Fracking?
- Nuclear Weapons and Reproductive Justice
- Vox video on the Church Rock uranium tailings pond spill on Navajo Nation land on July 16, 1979:
Nuclear boondoggle as the dictionary explains a boondoggle is a wasteful and worthless project undertaken for political corporate or personal gain. Typically a government project funded by taxpayers. If that’s not a description of the push to make more plutonium pits for more nuclear weapons, when we already have more than 1500 deployed and another 2000 to back them up, I don’t know what is, but Congress has decreed that facilities be built or expanded at both the Savannah river site, S R S in South Carolina and Los Alamos national labs in New Mexico. So that’s what the new stirs and their supporters are pushing ahead on. And they assure us that it’s an important step. We must take for our national defense and it’s well-worth the taxpayer’s money, which goes directly into their pockets, but then a different kind of expert, a genuine one, crunches the numbers on just one pit production facility at the Savannah river site. And he tells you,
They presented an estimate of $11 billion to convert the plutonium fuel the Mox plant to a PIP plant as usual. That’s a low balled figure, and we’re going to continue to see cost escalations and schedule delays. This Mox plant, the plutonium fuel plant that was canceled on construction alone. $8 billion was spent. So even if they stick to the 11 billion for a new PIP plant, which will make the contractors happy, that’s almost $20 billion for a single building in the United States. And it could be one of the most expensive buildings in us history.
And that’s before it makes a single plutonium pit. Well, when someone is knowledgeable as Tom Clemens, director of Savannah Riverside watch points out the stinking thinking that the nuclear industry is using to trick us into yet another profit swilling nuclear mess. There’s no escaping the fact that it puts us smack in the middle of that awful seat that we all share.
Claire hot seat. What are those people thinking? Nuclear hot seat. What have those boys been braking clear, hot. See the Ms. Sinking our time to act is shrinking, but nuclear Hotsy. It’s the bomb.
Welcome to nuclear hot seat. The weekly international news magazine, keeping you up to date on all things nuclear from a different perspective. My name is Leiby Halevi. I am the producer and host as well as a survivor of the nuclear accident at three mile island from just one mile away. So I know what can happen when those nuclear so-called experts get it wrong. This week, a look at a lawsuit brought against the department of energy and the national nuclear security agency by two environmental groups. This is to force them to do a programmatic environmental impact statement on proposed nuclear pit production facilities at Savannah Riverside in South Carolina, and by extension the Los Alamos national lab in New Mexico. We’ll talk with Tom Clemens, director of Savannah, Riverside watch and attorney Leslie Linhart of South Carolina, environmental law project or scalp. We’ll discuss the lawsuit where it stands now and what it hopes to achieve.
We will also have nuclear news from around the world numnuts of the week for outstanding nuclear bone headedness, and more honest nuclear information than the late Stephen Sondheim ever chose to write about in any of his musicals. All that coming up in just a moment today is Tuesday, November 30th, 2021. And here is this week’s nuclear news from a different perspective, starting off here in the United States with some good news. This from the Kings bay plow share seven and word is that all prison sentences are complete and all seven have finished their home confinement after prison terms, the King’s bay plow shares are a group of seven Catholic peace activists who broke into the Kings bay Naval submarine base in Georgia on April 4th, 2018, and carried out a symbolic act of protest against nuclear weapons. Patrick O’Neill one of the seven and the former guest on nuclear hot seat said the military industrial complex is moving full speed ahead on a path that could lead creation to doom and worse.
All of this madness has the full support of all three branches of government and the church to reverse climate change. We must abolish war to abolish war. We need humanity and especially people of faith to reject violence and war making more information, and a copy of their press release is available at the website, nuclear survivors, plural.org from New Mexico comes word that the waste isolation, pilot plant or whip has received its 13,000 nuclear waste shipment with plans for many, many more whip is the only approved repository in the country for plutonium contaminated transuranic waste, which is low and mid level radioactive waste, not the high level radioactive waste that comes from nuclear reactors to get that waste to the WIP facility from nuclear sites, the department of energy around the country, driver’s logged about 15 million miles on open highways through communities carrying radioactive waste that you didn’t know whether it came through your community or not, but the odds are, it probably did.
The website also factors into this week’s featured interview. So stay tuned for that. President Joe Biden’s pledged to limit the role of nuclear weapons is facing growing resistance from Pentagon officials and their hawkish allies who are arguing to keep the status quo in the face of Chinese and Russian arms buildups Biden’s top security advisors will soon review the conditions under which the U S might resort to using nuclear weapons among the options are adopting a no first use policy or declaring that the sole purpose of the arsenal is to deter a nuclear conflict and not use them in response to a conventional war or other strategic assault, like a cyber attack attempts to limit the nuclear military industrial complex is push for more and more nuclear weapons. Again, you’ll hear about this on today’s interview is difficult to enforce, but code pink has put together a petition on eliminating nuclear weapons from the Biden budget entirely.
It points out that the house appropriations committee is a special committee that could strip funding for nuclear weapons out of the budget. So if you wish to have a voice in this, we will have a link up to their [email protected]. Under this episode, number 5 45. Also under this episode, we’ll have links to two additional articles, nuclear weapons, and reproductive justice, which features much on the work of Mary Olson of the gender and radiation project. And the second article on fracking and radiation, which points out that high levels of radiation documented in fracking, wastewater from many shale formations raises special concerns in terms of impact to groundwater and surface water measurements of radium in fracking, wastewater in New York and Pennsylvania have been as high as 3,600 times. The regulatory limit for drinking water as established by the U S environmental protection agency. Check out the article for further information over to Japan and Fukushima, where in mid January, a delayed survey by robots of the damage.
Number one, nuclear reactor will begin TEPCO Tokyo electric power company originally planned to start the robot survey of the reactor in 2019. But Hey, that’s nuclear never on time, never on or under budget. The submersible robots will find and examine nuclear debris or deposits of a mixture of molten fuel and reactor parts inside the containment vessel. The survey is expected to take six months also in Fukushima TEPCO is still planning to release more than 1 million tons of water that has been contaminated with radioactive tritium from the nuclear facility in 2022 or 2023. And Fukushima farmers fear that the government’s planned release of water could revive concerns about contamination. And again, hit the price of their produce on doing a decade of slow recovery from the nuclear disaster. Also expressing concern our fishermen and farmers from China and South Korea, neighboring countries, the water remains radioactive because to date, there is no known way to remove tritium from water in China.
In August. One of the nuclear reactors at the facility in Thai shin was halted for maintenance pending the outcome of an investigation into fuel damage. The facility is operated by China general nuclear power group and French state controlled EDF. The decision to stop the reactor was taken after EDF said in mid June, it was examining a potential issue at the nuclear power station linked to the buildup of inert gases, U S news network. CNN reported that the U S government was looking into reports of leaks at a potential radiological threat, the commission for independent research and information on radioactivity or CRI rad. A French association created in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster, said in an email to Francis nuclear safety authority, that it had been in contact with a whistleblower about the possible cause of the accident and the whistleblower whom it described as a French engineer who works in the nuclear industry and has access to detailed technical information about the Tai Shan reactor and had linked damage found on the fuel assemblies to what he called, quote abnormal vibrations.
These vibrations could in turn be associated with a design flaw in the EPR pressure vessel, which raises the question where else has this particular reactor design been either built or is it planned to be built? Nuclear vulnerability takes many forms. And this is a report from Marine biologist, Tim, dear Jones, a previous multiple interviewee on nuclear hot seat. He says that unexpected, heavy freezes have been bringing the Arctic ocean supply routes to a standstill and the Russian nuclear icebreaker fleet is under stress. Arctic industrial, urban and nuclear sites have been running low on supplies and they cannot, at this time be reached at least one of the vessels frozen in or turned back is carrying equipment destined for the academic Loman SAV floating nuclear power station in PVAC details of the significance of the equipment on board to the nuclear power station are not available.
Deliveries have now been rescheduled for early January when it is proposed that the 33 year old ice strengthened nuclear power container ship seven more put rescued from decommissioning and breaking by Vladimir Putin will attempt to resupply these destinations in Italy at Basilicata in the Southern part of that country. Locals are fighting back against citing a radioactive waste dump there 18 years after they first stopped one from coming to their region in 2003, between November 13 and 27 and unprecedented and dramatic 15 days of protest had unfolded in that area, culminating in the defeat of a plan by the Italian government then led by Silvio Berlusconi to dump all of Italy’s high level radioactive waste in a single site at Terraza in salt rock at a site, just in 2003, the ranks of protesters had swelled to 100,000. And after the 15 days of protest, the radioactive waste dump was canceled or rather potentially postponed because once again, the Italian government has fingered Basilicata as a place quote, ideally suited in quote to a high level radioactive waste dump.
After the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Italy showed a stunning boat of more than 80% of its citizens, opposed to the continued use of nuclear power that now stands as 93% of Italian saying they oppose a nuclear restart. The USN China may be facing off over the Marshall Islands. The us is refusing to engage the Marshall Marshalese on claims for environmental and health damage caused by dozens of nuclear tests. It carried out in the 1940s and fifties, including a huge thermonuclear blast on bikini atoll. The dispute has some us lawmakers worry that China might be willing to step into the breach, adding to the bruising competition for geopolitical dominance between the two superpowers in November 10, democratic and Republican members of the house of representatives wrote to president Joe Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan about the U S compact talks with the Marshall’s Micronesia and polo. They said it is distressing that these negotiations do not appear to be a priority.
There have been no formal meetings since this administration began. Even as our international focus continues shifting to the Indo-Pacific. The lawmakers said that China is all too ready to step in and provide the desperately needed infrastructure and the climate resilience investments that is sought by these long-time partners. Meanwhile, China has expressed willingness to engage with the Marshall Islands stating we welcome efforts to boost economic relations and improve the quality of life between the sides. However, this is based on the one China in which Taiwan is viewed as part of China and by extension, perhaps. So would the Marshall Islands and now for the latest in outstanding nuclear bone headedness
There is a tunnel in west Germany where people pay to deliberately inhale, radioactive radon gas in an effort to, as they say, relieve chronic pain, the treatment is not regulated. And to date has not been proved effective, but you know, people believe what they’re going to believe. Now, radon is a colorless odorless, radioactive gas and exposure to radiation is cumulative over one’s life. Coming from the environment, dental x-rays medical tests and treatments and whatever that radio active MIS is that was secretly dumped somewhere near your home. Any level of exposure can lead to cancer and a long list of other potential illnesses. It all adds up and not in a good way, but given the kinds of things that people believe these days and how gullible they are, think of the world of commercial opportunities that this opens up. You could turn any radioactive site into a treatment center just by giving it another name and charging big bucks.
So-called spent fuel pools at every nuclear reactor with the fuel not really being spent. It’s still there. It’s just sequestered. You could turn any of those into radioactive thermal baths or take mud baths in what’s left over from the church rock uranium tailings pond spill from 1979 and has not yet been cleaned up. The possibilities are as endless as the half-life of plutonium. And that’s why at Cura dub the company that runs the tunnel in Germany and all those poor gullible people who are going there and setting a really bad role model for the rest of the world. You are this week’s no,
We’ll have this week’s featured interview in just a moment, but first it’s the holiday time have you had a Krista Kwanzaa salsa Rama mass. It’s the season that brings good cheer and we’ll have a full sing along at another time, but yep. Let’s face it. It’s the holidays again. And despite yet, another COVID variant looming and supply chain problems and Hanukkah coming. So dang early this year, all of our holiday good cheer means absolutely nothing to the nuclear industry for them. It’s Christmas all year round. And we, the taxpayers are deep pocket Santas. They pour millions of dollars into their PR propaganda to support and thus get back billions upon billions of dollars for their nuclear Ponzi schemes and boondoggles all while making more, more, more radioactive waste with not a thought in their pretty little heads as to how to safely store the deadly stuff for a quarter of a million years or more sane people who are opposed to nukes need to know the facts in order to take meaningful steps to stop them before it’s too late.
And that’s why nuclear hot seat is here. We go. After the nuclear story, we know where to look the questions to ask and what the nuclear double-talk, the other sides fuse out really means. Then we report back to you, the ongoing ever evolving nuclear truth. This is what the industry would rather, we, the people not hear about let alone understand, and mainstream reporters don’t know how to ask the right questions. And that’s why the best way to celebrate whatever holiday you’re celebrating is with the donation to nuclear hot seat. It will help us keep going and we make it easy. Go to nuclear hotseat.com, click on the big red donate button and help us with a donation of any size. Know that however much you can help. I’m deeply grateful that you’re listening and that you care. Now, here is this week’s featured interview. Congress has tasked the U S nuclear establishment with producing 80 new plutonium pits.
A year. Plutonium pits are the core and triggers for nuclear weapons. Meaning that Congress wants two facilities. One of the Savannah Riverside in South Carolina, only 25 miles away from Augusta Georgia and the Los Alamos national lab in New Mexico to bump up and get into production. So what’s the impact on people in the environment? Are those pits needed or are they the pits? Do we need nuclear weapons at all? Or is this just another nuclear boondoggle to suck up taxpayer funds while providing nothing but more ongoing nightmares? Today’s guests can explain at least the legal side of things. They are principles in a lawsuit against the department of energy, the DOE and the national nuclear safety administration, or N N S a. What they are asking is at minimum that these agencies provide environmental accountability and the proposed production of these pits. Tom Clemens serves as director of Savannah Riverside watch, and previously worked on nuclear issues for Greenpeace international friends of the earth and other environmental NGOs.
Leslie Lenhart is staff attorney for the South Carolina environmental law project or scalp. She previously was in private practice with her focus on environmental and administrative litigation, as well as regulatory matters. A few more acronyms to sort out before we get started note, when they mentioned P E I S it refers to the programmatic environmental impact statement and NEPA N E P a stands for national environmental policy act. The existing law. We spoke about the current lawsuit and its implications, not only for Savannah river site, but Los Alamos on Monday, November 29th, 2021, Tom Clements and Leslie Lenhart. Thank you for joining me today on nuclear hot seat. Thank
You. Great to be here. Thank you.
Let’s start out with an orientation to the Savannah river site. What is it and why was it created?
The Savannah river site is a department of energy facility. It was actually established by the atomic energy commission back in the early 1950s to produce plutonium for us, nuclear weapons, as well as tritium gas, which goes in all the nuclear weapons and five nuclear reactors were built in a matter of years. And these were really military reactors operated by this precursor to the department of energy. And Savannah river site is 310 square miles, and about 5,000 people were moved out of the site. It’s fully located in South Carolina. It’s just across the river from Georgia. And about something like 25% of the workers live in Georgia. And the current worker population is about 11,500. And at the height of the cold war, that was up to about 25,000 all handling the nuclear materials for nuclear weapons, as well as the bi-product nuclear waste, which filled a 51 high-level waste tanks with high-level nuclear waste to by-product of separating the plutonium tritium and other isotopes.
I take it that they are having the same problem as every other nuclear site in the United States, that there is no place to put this waste. So they’re stuck with it onsite.
Yes, some of the waste law circle low-level waste is actually disposed of entrenches on the site. The problem at Savannah Riverside is what to do with the nuclear waste. There’s all sorts of nuclear waste. Some of it has been disposed of historically onsite, mostly so-called low-level nuclear waste, but what arguably is, is the most problematic waste, the high level nuclear waste, which was originally in 51 high-level waste tanks, million gallon tanks that is being removed from the tanks and vitrified mixed with glass in large containers, but there’s no place for those containers to go under law. It’s high-level nuclear waste, but there is no high level nuclear waste repository. And that repository was the same place the commercial spent fuel was supposed to go. So while it’s good, the high-level waste has been removed from the tanks. There is no place to take this stuff. So right now it’s stuck in South Carolina
Has all the waste onsite been created at Savannah Riverside, or does any of it come from other sources?
Yeah, that’s a good question about where the waste is from. Some of it has been created at other sites. Most of it was created at Savannah Riverside in producing the nuclear weapons materials. Disposable of it was an afterthought when they were producing the materials, but Savannah Riverside receives spent or irradiated nuclear fuel that comes from research and test reactors around the United States and also internationally. And that high level nuclear waste that’s stored in a cooling pool until it’s reprocessed. And there’s other waste that comes to the site from other places. And probably the largest hunk of that is material from the nuclear Navy radioactive components that were used in Naval reactors for ships and submarines comes to Savannah Riverside and tell you the truth. I know very little about that. They don’t really like to talk about it, but it’s disposed of in those low level waste trenches, I mentioned in large part,
And are those trenches lined or are they somehow contained? Or they just dig a hole, dump it in and cover it up and hope for the best.
Yeah, these are online trenches that they put large boxes that are tens of square feet in size. They just stack them on top of each other and bury them. And the design of the trenches is perhaps better now in the past, they received all sorts of materials and they have kept those trenches off with impermeable membranes. But how long are those going to last and that’s to stop the radioactive material from getting in the ground water and a curiosity about some of those older trenches that are capped off is they receive materials from sites where nuclear weapons accidents occurred in North Carolina in Greenland, in Palamarez Spain’s. So a lot of soil was scooped up, put in barrels, brought to the Savannah river site, and actually the equipment that dug up those places where nuclear weapons had been dropped, but not detonated in accidents is also at Savannah Riverside.
Tom, what can you tell us about this foreign waste that we have in addition to our home grown variety?
Yeah, it’s a little bit complicated, but the United States has provided uranium fuel, whether it be highly enriched uranium, which is the weapons grade material or low enriched uranium for research in test reactors and also medical isotope production reactors by providing that there’s been some commitment to take the irradiated or spent fuel back. These three actors are all over the place and that comes by ship because they can’t fly. It comes in through the port of Charleston, South Carolina, generally there’s some that has come in to Idaho national lab on the west coast, through California, but those shipments really aren’t happening now. So that material comes into Savannah Riverside, there’s low level nuclear waste from the U S nuclear Navy when they retrofit reactors or test reactors. And there’s also a looming shipment of German high-level nuclear waste that they want to bring in. I think we may have defeated that with the greens now, taking over the environment ministry in Germany. I think there’s a possibility that these graphite fuel balls that were in a special kind of gas cooled reactor are going to stay in Germany for disposal. And occasionally I hear about other materials coming in, including plutonium that’s come from Japan and Europe. So there’s a lot of things that are coming into Savannah, Riverside that are being disposed of in the United States.
I want to hone in on a current set of legal actions that have been going on, and these all regard plutonium pit production. First of all, Tom, again, what is a plutonium pit?
Well, the plutonium pit, which is the reason that plutonium was produced at Savannah. Riverside is a hollows fear that initiates the nuclear explosion and all us nuclear weapons. This was the, one of the challenges of the Manhattan project is to design a hollow sphere that would implode all at the same time in a uniform way to cause the nuclear explosion, which is an uncontrolled nuclear criticality. The pit is about three kilograms. The earlier pits were more. And I think there’s even some that are less than that, but that’s classified. The first pit was for the Nagasaki bomb and a precursor to that, which was actually tested before the Nagasaki bomb. And those are produced at Los Alamos as part of the Manhattan project. And then the large scale production of pits took place at the Rocky flats plant, which is outside of Denver, near Boulder, Colorado.
And that site may have produced a thousand pits for year at the height of the cold war. And it was shut down around 1990 due to environmental contamination and other reasons. So right now we’re left with the Los Alamos national lab north of Santa Fe that produces is authorized to produce 20 pits per year, but now they’re moving to produce 30 of them per year in Savannah, Riverside. They are trying to produce 50 pits for year. It’s never been done at Savannah river, but I’m sure we want to talk about it more, but it’s really a poor reason for bringing the project to Savannah. Riverside is basically for jobs and to spread the money around the DOE sites.
Why is there this sudden push for creating 80 new plutonium pits per year when we already have such an enormous arsenal?
Well, I don’t think it’s been fully explained. There are over 15,000 pits and storage and department defense DOE would claim these for older design weapons. They need new design pits, but what are they for they’re for new nuclear weapons. They’re not to maintain the old nuclear weapons, all the initial many years of pit production at Savannah river, if that happens in Los Alamos would be for new nuclear weapons sits for one weapon. That’s an Intercontinental ballistic missile to replace an earlier weapon. It’s called the ground-based strategic deterrent and there’s a submarine launched missile that would be for the second warhead. And then I guess they would want to replace all the pits and all the weapons. If you do the math, it looks like that’s what they want to do, but they haven’t explained it well. They haven’t said why they want really analyze, reusing old pits if they really need these nuclear weapons. And we’re all hearing more about a arms race with China and it’s really for weapons to face off against China.
There have been many lawsuits against SRS through the years. And in late June, a lawsuit was launched against the us department of energy and the national nuclear security administration alleging a violation of the national environmental policy act, claiming that the agencies failed to conduct the necessary hard look into their plans to more than quadruple the production of plutonium pits, nuclear bomb cores. As we’ve heard by 2030, it was filed by the South Carolina environmental law project on behalf of nuclear watch, New Mexico, Savannah Riverside, Tom Clemens, Tri-Valley communities against a radioactive environment and the Gullah Geechee sea island coalition. Talk us through that lawsuit. Leslie, if you would please and let us know, what are you trying to do? And what are the legal actions that have ensued from it?
The lawsuit is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against NNSA and DOE for asking a court to require that they conduct what’s called a programmatic environmental impact statement. We’re asking the court to order that they do either a new or supplemental P E I S is what we call it in the lawsuit to evaluate not only the increase in the number of pits, but also that the production will take place in two places, Los Alamos and Savannah river site. At one time, the agencies have conducted NEPA analyses over many years in a piecemeal fashion relating to just survey on our river, just Los Alamos. They have many NEPA evaluations that are way out of date that haven’t considered recent developments that Tom can really kind of dig in more and explain that piece of it. We believe and know that they need to take the hard look at the environmental impacts of the entire project.
And what has happened since we filed the lawsuit in June is that the defendants DOE and NNSA have filed a motion to dismiss. The main reason they filed the motion to dismiss is, is their contention that the plaintiff’s lacks standing, which means in simplistic manner, that they don’t have a sufficient stake in the issues and the lawsuit to be able to bring it, which we felt very strongly was a very meritless motion. And we responded and they have replied, which is all kind of a standard procedure in federal court. And so at this point, we’re waiting either for a hearing on the motion to dismiss or a ruling from the judge. And this case was filed in the district of South Carolina for obvious reasons. SRS is located here. So that’s kind of the, just, you know, there’s obviously as Libby, as you know, I mean, there’s, there’s a tremendous amount of history leading up and, and various, I mean, many, many documents that we refer to that, as I said, were piecemeal evaluations throughout, you know, many years, but that’s really all we want is for them to do this evaluation. So it’s not unreasonable. I mean, obviously EIS is involved process, but it’s a limited relief that we’re asking for. And they have just decided to come out and try to get the case thrown out, probably because they’re concerned about merits of our case.
It sounds like they’ve not done their due diligence about any safety claims or lack of danger claims that they might be making about this. Is this a standard kind of response that you get from DOE N N N S a, I mean, has this happened before?
To my knowledge, it has. I mean, you know, in, in any situation when you have environmental groups who bring an action, even if, even if it’s not related to an energy issue or a nuclear issue, that’s one of the first things that an agency will do. If they have any kind of inclination to allege the groups don’t have this interest that needs to happen, its constitutional standing to bring these clients. That’s not unusual now in terms of DOE and NNSA cases, Tom has been involved with IRS and Los Alamos and nuclear watch, New Mexico have all been involved in lawsuits. And I don’t know that that’s every case, but it’s not particularly unusual.
I’m mostly familiar with the cases that some of the groups you mentioned, nuclear watching New Mexico Tri-Valley cares. And another group that’s a member of our coalition called the Alliance for nuclear accountability that works around the white 12 planet, Oak Ridge, Oak Ridge, environmental peace Alliance. They have particularly brought lawsuits and on the NEPA issue, national law and policy act, and they have certainly been challenged, but they have won lawsuits. And even on the Pitt issue back many years ago in which we a site in, in our filing. So the Christian nominal peace Alliance recently won a lawsuit about a new nuclear weapons facility at Oak Ridge. Now in an essay has basically ignored that and is continued building the, the facility. But our groups that work on DOE nuclear she’s had have won lawsuits. We’ve lost some, but some of the principle ones have been won by those organizations. And we forced, for example, in an essay to post it’s a analysis and ratings of tractors every year, they were keeping it all secret. And that has to be posted now
Nuclear war New Mexico is one of the groups that is involved in this filing. They have, as you’ve stated their own concerns about Los Alamos national lab or Lanel that’s the other site where nuclear pit production is being increased. Does this lawsuit in any way cover any of the actions in New Mexico with Lanel or is this a completely separate set of issues?
It does. It does what the NEPA P at EIS would do would be to analyze and receive comments from members of the community on those kinds of issues, environmental safety issues, the risks that are already have already been documented accidents Lanel accidents at LA Los Alamos releases of nuclear material. And so they would be required to address and analyze other alternatives and other ways to address those problems. Now they have looked at Los Alamos in some fashion, but this is a much bigger picture that has impacts producing at both sites. You have storage issues at the web facility. And so it trickles down to, to all of the plaintiffs. You know, the Gullah Geechee community for example, is a coastal native community in South Carolina and all along the Southeast coast. And they could potentially with as a result of the safety issues, suffer consequences. But to answer your question, yes, this, this evaluation, this relief that we’re asking for would require them to evaluate those things Atlanta to
They did a, what’s called a supplement analysis regarding Los Alamos. They haven’t prepared a new environmental impact statement document, which Leslie mentioned it’s, it’s a higher level document to analyze potential impacts. And one of the other plaintiffs, as you mentioned, is Tri-Valley cares that’s in Livermore, California and Livermore designs, nuclear weapons, and the group out there Travali cares has found evidence that there would be plutonium shipments between Los Alamos and Livermore that have not been covered in any environmental documents. And Leslie mentioned with the waste isolation pilot plant, that’s where all the plutonium pit waste would go along with other plutonium waste from the department of energy. That site has been operating for quite a number of years, but the documents that they did prepare on Los Alamos and SRS did not even review the massive amount of plutonium waste that would go to the waste isolation pilot plant in Southern New Mexico, nor did their analysis to review those low-level waste streams, which I, I kind of mentioned before that would go to probably commercial sites or could go to the DOE site in Nevada. They don’t review the impacts that other department of energy sites like the Kansas city plant that makes all the non-nuclear components. So there’s some gaping holes in the analysis that they have done. And thus the lawsuit that was brought for our groups by the South Carolina environmental law project
With your mentioning whip, it’s my understanding that it was designed to hold low and perhaps medium level nuclear waste, not the high level plutonium waste that is under discussion with the pit production.
Well, actually whip was designed to hold what’s called transatlantic waste, and that is a plutonium related materials, but there’s some people that want to take highly radioactive waste, which is defined by law to those underground salt mines. But the capacity of it is kept by law and its permit only runs through 2024 from the state regulator. So there’s a move to extend the licensing of that, but the volume is kept by federal law and they’re already, what’s called oversubscribed with all the plutonium waste from all the DOE sites and the new amounts of waste from pit production. So department of energy has a real problem with the volume at the waste isolation, pilot plant. And I think that’s one reason they didn’t want to cover it in any environmental documents related to BIP production. So our PEIs lawsuit would hopefully require a review of the environmental impacts of transport of the plutonium to whip and its disposal there. Plus transport a plutonium between all the sites that would be handling it.
Where do things stand now with the lawsuit and what kind of timeline are you looking for for any kind of expected response?
I didn’t point this out earlier, but the motion to dismiss was filed instead of an answer. So if that, if that motion hadn’t been filed, they would’ve had a certain amount of time to file their answer, responding to each claim in the lawsuit. But since they filed this motion that has been delayed. So where we are now is as the motion has been briefed by both parties, we have submitted the memos and then it’s up to the judge to do one of two things, either schedule a hearing or just issue a ruling. And she has discretion as to when she responds or issues a ruling. So I can’t say for sure how long we’re going to wait, you know, a month or two, maybe three, I would just kind of issue a guess. And then once that ruling is handed down one way or the other after hearing or not, and we prevail, the agencies have to produce the administrative record, which has all the documents that they determine are relevant to the case that takes a long time, then their chances to challenge the record. They I’m sure will not give us all the documents we want and we’ll fight about that. So, you know, we’re talking next year, maybe even into 2023, it’s not going to be a quick process.
And during this time, are they still moving forward with whatever they need to do to prepare the site for additional plutonium pit production?
Currently they are not prohibited from issuing the documents, the approval documents that need to happen. There’s a critical decision. I think that was just recently issued that Tom can speak to more specifically, but one of the options that we would have is to follow our own motion for a preliminary injunction, which we have not made a decision on. We’re still evaluating where they are, how long it’s going to take. And when it, when it becomes kind of a critical question and an eminent problem. And so we haven’t made that decision yet, but that is one way that we could stop them from proceeding until the case heard. Did you have something to add there?
Yeah. A couple of things, the Los Alamos is proceeding to produce 30 pits by the year 2026. The law says 80 pips by 2030. Now in the case of Savannah Riverside, which would produce 50 or more pits by 2030, Savannah, Riverside is not required by law. There is no law requiring a PIP production site at Savannah river site. They would produce the 50 or more pits by 2030, but DOE has already admitted before congressional panels that that date of 2030 is already delayed by up to five years. So the law says 2030, but they’ve already said it’s delayed up to five years. I think it can be longer, but they are proceeding with the design of a facility that was canceled that was designed to make plutonium fuel out of surplus plutonium. That project was canceled after $8 billion was wasted. The courts allowed its termination in 2018.
So DOE then came up with the idea to turn it into a fit facility. And it was really to keep the money flowing to contractors. That’s the main motivation here. The estimate of the new hip plant, Leslie mentioned a what’s called a critical decision. They reached that back in June, that which allowed the design of the facility to go forward and they presented an estimate of $11 billion to convert the plutonium fuel the Mox plant to a PIP plant. And I think as usual, that’s a low balled figure and we’re going to continue to see cost escalations and schedule delays. And I would just add one more thing that this Mox plant, the plutonium fuel plant that was canceled on construction alone, $8 billion was spent. So even if they stick to the 11 billion for a new PIP plant, which will make the contractors happy, that’s almost $20 billion for a single building in the United States.
And we’ve done a little bit of looking and it could be one of the most expensive buildings in us history. And this is totally on needed. The 8 billion was wasted and we’re poised to waste more. But let me add up from a non-lawyer perspective, the internet essay said we were challenging. The 80 PIP per year amount has been set by Congress. And there has been some attempt to change that was set in 2015. We’re not challenging the 80 PIP per year limit. We’re challenging that they haven’t done the proper environmental documents and they basically stick their case on that. We challenged the 80 pit per year amount. We have not challenged that, but they doubled down on that and they’re filing on November 15th. So it’s going to be interesting to see how the court reacts to the internet says claims.
I think Tom was right to mention the, there one of their contentions that the congressional and date is out of their control to increase the PIP production, but really, and truly there’s really no real basis because the claim we’re talking about is an evaluation of not only the increase, but the increase in relation and in the context of the splitting up of the production to two different sites. So we’re not challenging. We can’t challenge the congressional mandate to do the increase. We kind of feel like that was a, I mean, both claims are meritless, but that one is particularly so
They had since 2018, when they announced this May, 2018 to prepare the programmatic environmental impact statement, they’re the ones that have delayed this. We’re not trying to delay anything that they have done. We’re trying to make sure they meet the law and they should have announced in May, 2018 that they would do a programmatic environmental impact statement that it would probably be over with by now, but they just did this piecemeal approach that Leslie mentioned. And I think that was a big mistake on their part. So we’ll push forward and hopefully the judge will rule in our favor.
And one more thing, I mean, keep in mind that these groups have written letter after letter, after letter requested meetings with the secretary have really tried every angle to try and get some communication started with them and they have ignored every single letter. So this is not coming out of the blue for them. We’ve really begged and pleaded and these groups have as well. And they just have ignored us
If people want more information or would like to be of assistance in some way, where would you suggest they go? And what do you suggest that they do?
A copy of the complaint is on our website. It’s www.scelp.org. They can review the complaint. And, you know, at this point we would love to hear from folks who would be directly impacted or that live in the facility, live in the area. And they can certainly email me at Leslie Les, L I E scalp.org. And just keep in monitor. We will know that if there are folks who feel like they can bring some expertise to the table, our plaintiffs are extremely well-educated and live and breathe these issues. So we feel confident about their ability to be supportive. We welcome anybody who wants to offer assistance.
I would plug the scalp website of people typed in S CLP and pits. They will find the page with the filings on it, but it also a wealth of information about the pit issue and things that we have done since original filing there’s articles and news releases. They’re also the groups that are involved, including Savannah Riverside, watch there’s information. And one thing I’m doing now that this is not directly related to the lawsuit representative, Adam Smith is the head of the house armed services committee. And he is expressed skepticism about this increase in pet production, particularly with the ability of the Savannah Riverside to pull it off though, it’s not part of the lawsuit. I’m encouraging people to write to representative Adam Smith questioning this 80 pit per year amount and the ability of both sites to produce pits. So actually I just got a bunch of letters into representative Smith over the past couple of weeks from Jackson brown and James Taylor concerts down here in South Carolina,
We will stay in touch with you and continue to cover this issue on nuclear hot seat for now. I want to thank you, Tom Clements and Leslie Lenhart for all the work that you are doing and for being my guest this week on nuclear hot seat.
Thank you for having us. Thanks very much. Tom
Clemens, director of Savannah Riverside watch and attorney Leslie Lenhart, who is a staff attorney for the South Carolina environmental law project. We will have links up to both of those sites and information on this lawsuit on our website, nuclear hot seat.com under this episode, number 5 45
December 2nd and third peace boat in partnership with the international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons, or I can is hosting an online forum with communities impacted by nuclear weapons around the world. It’s called world nuclear survivors forum 2021, and it’s live streaming will be available afterwards in a recorded form. And we’ll provide you with a link up to nuclear survivors.org during the forum nuclear survivors, including from uranium mining production testing use and waste, we’ll be sharing their stories and more about their various realities and what we can do for nuclear disarmament. It will ask that we take action for nuclear justice and a world free of nuclear weapons. It will also bring these participants together ahead of the first meeting of the state’s parties for the UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, which will take place in March, 2022. The treaty is the first international treaty to include an obligation for states to provide assistance to survivors of nuclear weapons, use and testing and begin to clean up nuclear contaminated environments.
The event is free, does not require registration. And if you want to learn more, go to nuclear survivors.org. Of course, we will have a link up on our website, nuclear hotseat.com under this episode, number 5 45. There’s a video up on YouTube that has been there for a year, so it’s not new, but it’s new to me. It’s entitled how the U S poisoned Navajo nation. And it is about the church rock uranium tailing spill, which took place on July 16th, 1979, less than four months after three mile island, but nobody paid attention. It’s a relatively short video, only 12 minutes, but it will give you the background. You need to understand exactly how far back the history goes of compromising and damaging indigenous communities. We will have a link up on the website, just click on it. You can get there. And a funny story that made me smile for Thanksgiving.
I always go to a particular friend of mine and, and she was speaking with a cousin of hers who lives in Oregon, right before Thanksgiving day in describing the people who were going to be attending a relatively small group this year because of COVID. She mentioned me and said, oh, I think you would find her interesting, because she does a podcast. He asked the name and she said, nuclear hot seat. And he proceeded to freak out. He said, I listened to that show. You mean, you know, and he went on to rave about the show and what it means to him to be able to hear it every week. That really made me smile to know that the show is being heard in places where I can’t even predict. So my thanks go out to Robin’s cousin Paul in Oregon for this unanticipated and gratefully received boost during the holiday season.
As for the rest of you, I’m glad you’re listening as well on whatever form you can find it, be it podcast or broadcast, or from the website, your enthusiasm and support keeps me going. This has been nuclear hot seat for Tuesday, November 30th, 2021 material for the show has been researched and compiled from nuclear-news.net own renard.wordpress.com beyond nuclear.org, nears.org. The international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons, or I can w.org code pink.org, nuclear survivors.org, urban dictionary.com. politico.com Kings bay plow shares seven.org, outrider.org, Harold standard.com NHK dot O R dot J P money dot U S news.com daily star.co.uk reuters.com laughing, squid.com, Honolulu star, advertiser.com. The bulletin.org, cnbc.com and the captured and compromised by the industry. They are supposed to be regulating nuclear regulatory commission. If you would like to get nuclear, hot seat delivered via email every week, we make it easy. Just go to nuclear hotseat.com. Scroll down for the yellow box and sign up for a weekly email link to the latest shows we will not sell or otherwise disseminate your information.
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