Thursday, October 28, 2010

Model Resolution to Use to Force DOE, NNSA, and LANL Compliance With the Law

I have decided to post a draft resolution to those who recognize that “something is not quite right here”, when DOE, NNSA, and LANL insists that the “CMRR is needed”, despite a tenfold increase in cost. No business man would stay in business if he did not reevaluate his investment strategy when the price of his preferred investment had increased tenfold. To give a scale to what is at stake here,  the  Sunday, Oct 17, 2010 Parade insert that accompanies most NM papers had a picture of Hoover Dam on its cover. That lead story reported:
At a cost of $108 million (or $1.7 billion in today’s dollars), the Hoover Dam was a mammoth construction project. Some 6 million cubic yard of rock were dug up, and 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete poured….
Current estimates of concrete for the CMRR (mostly to mitigate the problem of building a plutonium facility on top of a seismic fault) are for 10% of that concrete; dollar costs are more than double, and already approaching three times the cost of Hoover Dam. If the current rate of cost increases continue, the facility will cost thirty times what Hoover dam costs. 

At what point does the public, DOE, NNSA, and LANL say ENOUGH. This project is absurd?

While there is evidence that even Secretary Chu recognizes the absurdity of “continuing construction” w/o such an evaluation, it is not clear whether the DOE intent is to follow the law. We have a procedure in place to protect the American Public from major waste by requiring an Environmental Impact Statement that mandates honestly defining the purpose of an investment, making the effort to list and study all reasonable alternatives – including BOTH what would happen if the project was not enacted as well as at least one alternative that is outside of the “jurisdiction of the lead agency”.

So until I hear that Secretary Chu acknowledges that this project is too different (the tenfold increase in costs, by itself, is enough to be too different) I will not be convinced that effort is not continuing to feather the nuclear weapons industries nest, rather than do what’s best, as the law mandates.  So Secretary Chu, what is it –“Follow the law and do what the law requires”, or “Look for loopholes to continue to protect the nuclear weapons industry”, as the late Stewart Udall warned us about.

So here is a draft resolution, to use as a model for each governmental or business organization to pass, to stop this hemorrhaging of funds that makes us poorer and less secure.


The ______________________ hereby supports halting any and all work on the proposed CMRR Nuclear Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory until a new and full Environmental Impact Statement with scoping is completed by the Department of Energy.
WHEREAS, our community is within the impact area of the proposed $4 to $6 billion dollar plutonium processing plant (known as the CMRR Nuclear Facility) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) we therefore have serious concerns regarding adverse effects on the quality of our air, soil, water and the health, welfare,  and economic well-being of our citizenry; and
WHEREAS, a serious accident during operation, or spill during transportation of nuclear material or waste associated with the proposed plutonium plant could affect our community very adversely, including in ways for which our first responders  and hospitals are not trained or equipped to respond.
WHEREAS, Economic impact studies have not been done on the effects of said plutonium plant on tourism, which is a critical source of income for our community, and on the real estate market; and
WHEREAS, NEPA requires public notice and comment of proposed plutonium processing plant, and recognizing  no such due process has been given to the pueblos or any of the communities of Northern New Mexico ; and
WHEREAS, The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) states that an EIS is to serve as an important contribution to the selection of the best alternative, and “will not be used to justify decisions already made”;
WHEREAS, the cost of the CMRR has increased at least ten-fold and the scale and impacts of the project have greatly expanded as well;
WHEREAS, prudent fiscal management and NEPA mandates that cost and economic well being must be considered in designing and selecting alternatives, and a more than ten-fold cost increase makes it highly unlikely that the current alternative is still the most cost effective one,
WHEREAS, only a full and complete new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) would provide the public with enough information about the current proposal, one which only marginally resembles the proposal under which a 2003 EIS was undertaken, 



Just checked the National Environmental Policy ACT

It uses "needs" only ONCE, in relation to "cultural needs".

I can forgive sociologists and anthropologists using "needs", but not economists, engineers, or "hard" scientists. "Purpose" on the other hand, appears NINE times.

The Council of Environmental Quality, the agency writing the implementing regulations for an Environmental Impact Statement [EIS], unfortunately does use the word "need" seven times, but mostly (all but twice) in conjunction with "purpose and need" .

So could we please talk about "purpose" rather than "need"?

And follow NEPA in defining purpose broadly enough, so that NOT ONLY nuclear weapons, or weapons in general, are options for addressing the broader purpose (security?) as the act MANDATES?

Sec. 1502.14 (c)  Include reasonable alternatives not within the jurisdiction of the lead agency.

This clause was inserted to avoid "feathering one's own nest only", precisely what appears to me the intent of DOE, NNSA, and LANL in trying to avoid doing an EIS by proposing an SEIS suffice.

After all

This section is the heart of the environmental impact statement. Based on the information and analysis presented in the sections on the Affected Environment (Sec. 1502.15) and the Environmental Consequences (Sec. 1502.16), it should present the environmental impacts of the proposal and the alternatives in comparative form, thus sharply defining the issues and providing a clear basis for choice among options by the decisionmaker and the public.

Chu Asks for New Review of Lab

Possible good news:

John Fleck at the Albuquerque Journal reports:

Chu Asks for New Review of Lab 

The head of the Energy Department has launched another review of a proposed multibillion dollar plutonium lab, along with a similar project in Tennessee, amid concerns about the projects' costs.
        Energy Secretary Steven Chu has asked for an independent committee of experts with "no stake in the outcome" to review the need for the two projects, according to an agency statement.
        The proposed Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement building at Los Alamos would replace a 50-year-old lab that works with plutonium. Federal officials have repeatedly argued that the building is vital for the lab's nuclear weapons work. It is years behind schedule, and its current price tag of at least $4 billion is already far over its original budget, despite the fact that design work has not yet been completed.

Read more here.

I am pursuing how sincere and objective this effort is and will report back when (and if ) I learn more about whether this truly is an " independent committee " with " "no stake in the outcome".

We have been arguing long and hard of the desirability of reviewing "the need" for the CMRR.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must report that I did my graduate work in economics at UCLA under Armen Alchian.  If one learns nothing else from Armen, one realizes that "needs" is a term that has value only if one does not wish to discuss the merits of a sale, but tries to frame the discussion in such a way as to preclude other options from being considered.

So...... until DOE Secretary Chu stops using the term "needs", paint me more than dubious.

I should also disclose that my late father worked in weapons design for most of his career, including various stints at RAND "studying nuclear weapons effectiveness."



by Walter Pincus  Tuesday, October 19, 2010; A13 

Outside of the nuclear weapons communities, little notice was paid last week to the announcement that authorization had finally come through to begin dismantling the last of the minivan-size B-53s, the most powerful thermonuclear bombs ever deployed in the active U.S. stockpile.
A terror weapon if there ever was one, the 10,000-pound B-53 was designed to deliver an explosion of nine megatons. That is the equivalent of 9 million pounds* of TNT, or 600 times the power of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
Believe it or not, the last 50 B-53s were not retired from the active stockpile until 1997, and even then some were held as a "hedge" in case a new threat emerged.

*The equivalence was 9 million tons, not 9 million pounds. Note the corrrection at top of article

Rest here    B-53 at Wikipedia    My comments to Walter’s article are here:

Fact sheet on Pantex Plant from Nukewatch New Mexico   Pantex Plant at

The B53 also played a prominent role in Project Chariot, and the book “The Fire Cracker Boys”.  In reading what Wikipedia had to say about the book, I need to state That I read the 1995 version,  the Wikipedia entry  asserts was been reissued in  2007  as The Firecracker Boys: H-Bombs, Inupiat Eskimos, and the Roots of the Environmental Movement). [ I just ordered the 2007 version]
Project Chariot was an attempt by Ed Teller to find a use for his pet project – the second generation thermonuclear high yield weapon, built over the objections of many including J. Robert Oppenheimer to build harbors, settling on “a site at the mouth of the Ogotoruk Creek near Cape Thompson, approximately 30 miles southeast of the Inupiat Eskimo village of Point Hope.”

A large thermonuclear Bomb was to blast the core depression, followed by three small bombs to excavate the entrance channel.  There were two reasons for this proposal: one to find a peaceful use for this device under the Plowshare Program – atoms for peace, and two, to circumvent an expected ban on nuclear testing – to find a way to continue testing by claiming “we are not testing, we are building harbors”. That fooled no one but the American public.

Project Chariot is important as it gave rise to NEPA, and the work done by the few University of Alaska scientists who opposed this ( all four were fired, but much later three were awarded honorary doctorates – one died in a very mysterious way during the height of the opposition), an event not attended the then President Wood) is considered by many to ne the very first Environmental Impact Statement ever performed, although it was not called as such.

The book itself actually started in 1987 from a grant to a movie for public television, but the worry that it “would antagonize … university president Wood”- and restrict U.S. government grants caused “the station to try to find a way to withdraw funding”.  The result was the book. I can highly recommend it as a window into the mindset of the various factions during the late 1950’s to 1960’s.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Steve Clemons & Ali Jalali Discuss Afghanistan, Iran & US on PBS NewsHour

Steve Clemons & Ali Jalali Discuss Afghanistan, Iran & US on PBS NewsHour

from Steve Clemon's Blog at TWN.:

I had the opportunity tonight to chat with PBS NewsHour Chief Anchor Jim Lehrer and former Afghanistan Interior Minister and National Defense University professor Ali Jalali about the solvency of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai given the acknowledgment that he is accepting "bags of cash" from Iran. Interestingly, at a press conference Karzai also acknowledged that his government was getting similar bags of cash from the United States -- which White House spokesman Robert Gibbs denied.
I thought that this was a very good exchange -- and was able to surface some of the key themes from the recently released Afghanistan Study Group Report.
Here is the transcript from the exchange as well.
-- Steve Clemons
Nice job Steve.   There is also a video clip for those (like me) who missed it live,

Until I figure out how to embed a direct video link, i'll have to redirect, in this case here:

Hmm.  Folks remember the bags of cash, the biggest cash withdrawal in the Feds history, in three planeloads, to Iraq?  I once calculated the equivalence of 10 dumptruck of shrink wrap bricks of  $100 bills, each brick $160,00 to $1.6M went to Kirkuk. When the distributing agent was asked who picked it up, he could not remember either the name or what he looked like. He was not even certain that it did not go to those we were fighting.

Remember my letter to then Sen. Bingaman on that one, Steve?



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Treasury AIG and Timothy Geithner

Seems like creative accounting, of discounting losses by moving "future profits" forward has rubbed off on the Treasury Department.  Read it here:

Treasury Hid A.I.G. Loss, Report Says

How Did the Banks Get Away With Pledging Mortgages to Multiple Buyers?

via Yves Smith's BLOG Naked Capitalism, by Washington’s Blog:
"I’ve repeatedly documented that mortgages were pledged multiple times to different buyers. See this, this and this."

Rest here, and the answers from "some of the leading experts on mortgage fraud – L. Randall Wray (economics professor), Christopher Whalen (banking expert with Institutional Risk Analytics), and William K. Black (professor of economics and law, and the senior regulator during the S & L crisis)"

Los Alamos Study Group, plaintiff v. US DOE et al, defendent

For those not familiar with the attempt to force NNSA and LANL into complying with NEPA.  the August press release by the plaintiff, the Los Alamos Study Group [LASG], is a good place to start. Then one can go to the LASG home page, and fill in the blanks, the attempt by NNSA/DOE to circumvent the National Environmental Policy Act, by offering a Supplement to the 2003 Environmental Impact Statement. the attempt to squash the suit, the response to the squash, etc. The complaint is here.

Do read what is required under NEPA  Council of Environmental Quality Regulations [CEQ-Regs], especially PART 1502--ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT 

Sec. 1502.1 Purpose. eg states:
An environmental impact statement is more than a disclosure document. It shall be used by Federal officials in conjunction with other relevant material to plan actions and make decisions. 
Sec. 1502.14 Alternatives including the proposed action.
This section is the heart of the environmental impact statement. Based on the information and analysis presented in the sections on the Affected Environment (Sec. 1502.15) and the Environmental Consequences (Sec. 1502.16), it should present the environmental impacts of the proposal and the alternatives in comparative form, thus sharply defining the issues and providing a clear basis for choice among options by the decisionmaker and the public. In this section agencies shall:
(a) Rigorously explore and objectively evaluate all reasonable alternatives, and for alternatives which were eliminated from detailed study, briefly discuss the reasons for their having been eliminated. (b) Devote substantial treatment to each alternative considered in detail including the proposed action so that reviewers may evaluate their comparative merits.
(c) Include reasonable alternatives not within the jurisdiction of the lead agency.
(d) Include the alternative of no action.

Monday, October 25, 2010

On the State of Department of Defense Account

Winston Wheeler's account of the Pentagon Black Hole at the Huffington Post.
Quite literally, the Department of Defense (DOD) does not know what happens to the money the taxpayers give it. This has been true for decades. The money gets spent; it's gone (they're pretty sure), but the prices DOD paid, when -- if ever -- the purchases were delivered, where everything is now, and a lot more are all quite unknown to the Pentagon. This incomprehensible condition has been documented in hundreds of reports over three decades from both the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department's own Inspector General (DOD IG). The studies are routinely sent to Pentagon managers and Congress. Once or twice a year, there will be a hearing on Capitol Hill; both Republicans and Democrats will declare themselves oh-so shocked; the DOD witnesses will say they are getting close to fixing it; outraged press releases flurry over Washington DC; a few press articles are written, and on very rare occasion, a scapegoat might get fired. Then, everyone goes back to sleep, and nothing happens. 

On the State of Teaching Economics of War and Peace;

Teaching the Economics of War and Peace

from Economists for Peace and Security

At present, even within defense and security institutions, virtually no training opportunities exist in this field, no possibilities for students, security personnel, the NGO community, or other interested parties to receive an informed overview of the economic causes and consequences of defense expenditure, how economic theory helps illuminate, formulate, and evaluate policy options.

Santa Fe Council of International Relations – Responding to a Steve Clemons Challenge

This post was written partially in accepting a challenge by Steve Clemons in his post

where he stated:

Complaining and whining about government and spending and better leadership is easy -- but actually developing sensible, workable policy frameworks and alternatives is hard. But it's what we have to do.

So what I suggest to Larry Wilkerson in his upcoming SFCIR event (and to Richard Rhodes in future book promotion events):

Be clear and honest in terms of describing what attendees can expect by attending.

And to the SFCIR I suggest:

How about hosting an event where the topic of "eliminating nuclear weapons" is actually discussed, by those that see their elimination as a serious alternative? That have actually worked to eliminate, rather than promote, nuclear weapons? An obvious participant would be Greg Mello, of the Los Alamos Study Group, whose group has filed a lawsuit against DOE, NNSA to force compliance with NEPA, and stop construction of the CMRR until an EIS has actually been performed. I would also like to be on that panel. And unlike the last panel’s insistence on a one sided viewpoint, I would even be willing to include one of the SFCIR panelists, Steve Younger. Other nuclear abolitionists in the Santa Fe area might include Scott Kovacs and Joni Arends.

The person [Nicholas Thompson, the grandson of Paul Nitze] who wrote the NYTimes review of Twilight wrote:

Though subtitled “Recent Challenges, New Dangers, and the Prospects for a World Without Nuclear Weapons,” Rhodes’s new book doesn’t really deliver on that last phrase…


How do we reduce the number of nuclear states? Will the United States ever commit to unilateral reductions and hope that Russia, and then everyone else, follows? Will weapons eventually have to be handed over to the United Nations? Should the international community centralize authority over all civilian nuclear power, since that is the habitual cover for bomb makers? There are unfortunately few people working on these questions, and the world’s shunning of the topic means that “The Twilight of the Bombs” probably doesn’t actually describe a real twilight.

BTW, Paul Nitze (the Hawk in Nicholas Thompson’s book “The Hawk and the Dove” ) wrote the famous NYTimes OpEd “ A Danger Mostly to Ourselves” where he advocated:

The fact is, I see no compelling reason why we should not unilaterally get rid of our nuclear weapons. To maintain them is costly and adds nothing to our security.”

Strange that the panel could not find the path to eliminating nuclear weapons that the once super hawk saw so clearly.

But the composition of the panel and Upton Sinclair’s observation- “"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it” – clears that up.

We should have expected an effort to “sell” a vested interest product- the CMRR- to the public and try to counter the LASG lawsuit.

Richard Rhodes and Panel Discuss Elimination of Nuclear Weapons"- NOT

For those following nuclear weapons there was this recent forum, marketed by the Santa Fe Council of International Relations

with the Headline:

"Richard Rhodes and Panel Discuss Elimination of Nuclear Weapons"

which actually turned out to be a marketing effort for "nukes forever", why we can't ever eliminate them, and how we should be thankful for the technical expertise on "our side" protecting us from "them". Lots of talk about how to look for the bogeyman under every bed, and not a clue that what matters and keeps us safe is what is in out hearts, or how to translate that concept into workable operations.

The panel reminded me of the story of a drunk looking for his keys on his lit porch, rather than down the dark driveway,where the keys were dropped, "because he can see better there".

from the LANL site:

Expert panel
The panel, consisting of the author and former Director Browne; Damon Giovanelli, former Lab director of Physics Research; Terry Hawkins, acting director of the Lab's Office of Counterintelligence; and Steve Younger, former director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, will discuss the future of nuclear weapons. The discussion, facilitated by Jay Davis, president of the Hertz Foundation and a National Security Fellow at the Center for Global Security Research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, will address issues, such as:
  • the nuclear threat to the U.S.
  • vulnerabilities of Western society
  • challenges and risks to the U.S. and her allies as the stockpiles declines
  • possible international initiatives.

Nothing here about "exploring world without nukes" - but then what do you expect from a panel loaded with those making a living from nuclear weapons, and excluding those that think one needs to look and understand what is in one's heart rather than in one's hidden armory? That is clueless that love is an art, and more about developing the capacity to love others, rather than making yourself "lovable" in the romance market. Are they aware that three of the ten editors in my Erich Fromm Book, the World Perspective Series, were giants in the development of the first atomic weapon- Neils Bohr, I.I. Rabi, and J. Robert Openheimer?

Do they tell the public of the nuclear abolitionists among those early scientists? Of Hans Bethe's admonition, the open letter to weapons scientists, written in 1995:

"I call on all scientists in all countries to cease and desist from work creating, developing, improving and manufacturing further nuclear weapons and, for that matter, other weapons of potential mass destruction such as chemical and biological weapons."

Do these panelists think themselves smarter that Bethe? Than Joe Rotblat? Than Leo Szilard? I.I. Rabi?

At least LANL was honest whereas the Santa Fe Council of International Relations was not. Or was the Council merely duped?

"America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." was clearly not on the table

I for one would have liked to have known that this was to be a LANL marketing effort for the CMRR before driving down from Taos and spending $20.00

“There is nothing comparable in our history to the deceit and the lying that took place as official Government policy in order to protect [the nuclear arms] industry.
P. 294 in Dan O’Neill “The Firecracker Boys”.

"More and better bombs. Where will this lead . . . is difficult to see. We keep saying, 'We have no other course'; what we should say is, 'We are not bright enough to see any other course.” -- David Lilienthal, former AEC Chairman

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." -- Upton Sinclair

“For as one’s thinking is, such one becomes, and it is because of this thinking that thinking should be purified and transformed, for were it centered upon truth as it is now upon things perceptible to the senses, who would not be liberated from his bondage?”
– Maitri Upanishad

"When a pickpocket meets a saint, all he sees are his pockets" --- Sri Ramakrishna