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On Stopping the CMRR-Nuclear Facility, Nuclear Policy, and the Future of New Mexico

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Message willem malten

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Like so many other 'atom projects' the CMRR-Nuclear Facility is now on its way to the dustbin of history. The CMRR-NF was to be built in Los Alamos, but in the latest Obama budget it will be indefinitely deferred (for at least 5 years).
Despite what Donald L. Cook (deputy administrator for defense programs for the NNSA) may declare in the NYT  ("It's really important to understand that we have not canceled the project") in reality it is very unlikely that this ill considered project will ever be erected, or rather, be sunk into the earth. 

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Cook, as in k ooky. 

Like Mr. Cook, some in the NNSA and NM congressional staff are also trying to put a brave face on all this, and tell people that CMRR-NF is just delayed. Careful analyses however, points at a different reality. This is not the first time that our representatives and so-called public servants have tried to deceive the public. For one, if the project was still alive in any form, why would the budget for this facility be exactly zero, nil, zilch and nada, in the year 2013 ?  
The mission of the CMRR-NF nuclear facility was always veiled in a fog, changing, like guests in a hotel, depending upon the political winds in Washington. The private contractor Bechtel, a privately held secretive corporation who now controls the Lab, would love to pour large amounts of concrete and mould it into a bunker, presumably to provide employment for their employees/managers just back from "rebuilding" Iraq. 

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 Udall: ignorance is bliss.

However,  any informed attempt to pierce the veil, to suggest the real mission of the CMRR-NF and expose the advanced planning and imminent execution of construction of CMRR in 2011, was met  with stone faced denials of medium level lab employees, and absolute ignorance from the NM congressional staff. Senators Bingaman and Udall always protect their own political interests, which always  totally coincide with maximum funding for the laboratories, Sandia and Los Alamos. They were singularly uninformed and unhelpful to their constituents.  Ahhhh, the joys of a corrupt 'colonial' 'patron' system reigning under the massive New Mexico sky. 

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   koo koo, que ? Dr. Chu 

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 Bingaman, on his way out.

When the axe fell on the CMRR-NF in Obama's 2013 budget, no one representing NM in Congress would admit to have seen it coming, their reactions were hovering between disenchantment and delusion. Despite numerous attempts by the Los Alamos Study Group to meet with Senators Bingaman and Udall and Representatives Heinrich, Lujan and/or their staff, to try to inform them of the facts behind the lawsuit that was being brought against the CMRR-NF, LANS, the DOE, Dr. Chu, and the NNSA, LASG had more success in reaching out in other ways, penetrating both sides of the aisle in Congress (yes conservatives and republican, tea- whatever included), the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) and the White House itself. 

Slowly but surely people in power started seeing the absurdity of the CMRR-NF --it went from being an "absolute priority" to "something we could do without" within a matter of one year. After hundreds of meetings, op-eds, blogs, and publications, people in the highest levels of government started seeing it our way. Three times members of the LASG, including Mello, Malten, and Lindberg participated in the NPT hearings at the UN, New york City, and brought the CMRR-Nuclear Facility to the attention of the international diplomatic corps and expose the real mission of this Nuclear Facility: new 'modernized' bombs and a production facility to make them.   

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Rocky Flats, an example of how not to do things....

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START ? No Way Indeed, among other things the CMRR is a replacement for the notorious  Rocky Flats Facility near Denver -- enabling LANL to ramp up production capacity to between 50-80 pits (plutonium bomb cores) per year.These would be used in newly minted bomb designs which would give "meaning" to the START treaty just signed by Medvedev and Obama. Under pressure by the hawks (like Senator Kyl, Az.) this so-called "disarmament treaty" ironically gave the green light to renewed investments in nuclear weapons: Obama pledged to spend 85 some billions over the next ten years, just in NNSA for warheads and not counting even larger sums in the Dept of Defense (DOD) to appease the war mongers in congress. Yes Machiavellian power politics are involved here, taking most of the disarmament community for a ride. Now we must all "claw back" these foolish promises, which turned out to be more than even most Republicans in Congress ever wanted to spend. 

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McMillan: yes pits, after all
The Los Alamos Study Group (LASG), concluded that one of the true reasons for CMRR-NF was exactly that: pit production and weapon modernization. We took a lot of flak for this.The Labs and their representatives wraped themselves in all kinds of guises to tell us that we were wrong: the highly classified mission of Los Alamos CNRR-NF was so sensitive and secret that its mission was hidden, agreed, but we could rest assured that we were wrong in that the CMRR-NF would have something to do with Pit Production. This lie was incessantly parroted by our Senatorial staff Udall and Bingaman. However, now that funding for the facility is zeroed out, lab Director Charlie McMillan tells us:"Regarding future program needs, our message to the government and to members of Congress has been clear: without CMRR, there is no identified path to meet the nation's requirement of 50 to 80 pits per year," which betrays the fact that that was CMRR's irreplaceable mission after all: making pits. 

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pits...we have about 23000 of them
The  Associated Press had gotten the story out first (" Obama budget puts Los Alamos facility on hold").NNSA had always maintained that its chosen-but-changing CMRR was its only option, and a terrifically urgent national security need.  Now it's not an option, and not needed --  at all. The stunned reaction of the New Mexico delegation, and a good New-Mexico-oriented overview was featured in the Albuquerque Journal ("Sandia Wins, LANL Loses In Fed Nuke Proposal").

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CMRR-NF design drawing....hey....
what half a billion buys these days... But lets not talk about the past: Already $560 million or so, has been spent on what is in the NNSA's words is soon to be "a substantially complete design". Apparently it must be really good --even last year the laboratory raked in millions of dollars in bonuses for their "excellence". How come I am not so impressed? The design, though highly secretive, is apparently still so rudimentary that the decision whether the building will be seventy five or 125 feet  into the ground has yet  to be made. Give me a break. I would like to propose a peer review of the design that is already made and cost the taxpayer over half a billion dollars.

Restarting the CMRR-NF in 5 years will never happen-- it is like finishing the Tower of Babel. And if I am wrong, and CMRR-NF is started up again, there is still no way that the NNSA can rely on an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) which, by that time will be at least 15 years old, or a supplemental SEIS (completed in 2011), which was a scam in the first place. This is the very essence of the lawsuit that LASG has brought against DOE, etc. to begin with: there has to be a new applicable EIS with real alternatives before you can proceed with any design let alone put spates in the ground for a new Nuclear Facility. 
There is still a 165 million or so dollars for design purposes in the pipeline --already appropriated -- --and the NNSA, wants to scoop that up, as if nothing has happened in the face of the almost certain abandonment of the CMRR-Nuclear Facility Project. 

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we can use  money better than that I would say this.  The Laboratory already shed some crocodile tears, and has announced 400-800 "voluntary lay-offs' (political ?) and despite this wants to spend another 165 million dollars to finish a design that has become obsolete. The lab's requested budget for the current fiscal year, at $2.2 billion, is $300 million lower than the previous year, and no growth is expected in future budgets, according to its official news release.  "This compounds an already difficult set of FY12 budget challenges and raises questions about whether we can meet the pace of the modernization path outlined in the 2010 Nuclear Posture review...... I want to stress to you that this decision has nothing to do with the performance of the Lab,"  said McMillan , who noted that the rest of FY2012 would be used "to wrap up and close out design work on the (CMRR) facility."

There are a lot of voices now which question the legitimacy of nuclear weapons at all for any type of military mission. Some in the military want to scale back to as few as 300 nuclear weapons or so. The sophisticated critics point at our complicity in proliferation worldwide by our investments in modernization, and the loss of credibility that comes with that. Others point at the dire fiscal reality that forces choices between real priorities --whether they are social or military, and the CMRR-NF is but a low hanging fruit. In the best scenario taking the CMRR-NF off the table should be "imagined" as a grand gesture towards non proliferation and a de-emphasis on the illegal practice of "nuclear diplomacy" (threatening Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Iran for instance) towards meaningful nuclear disarmament worldwide (including Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Iran for instance). It could lend a better angle to the new START treaty: going towards real dis-armament; a worldwide conference on nuclear disarmament at the UN and an update of the NPT Treaty could be next.

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Bread....not Bombs, with Hibakusha                                                                                                     Finally this: as I mentioned, there are 165 million dollars in the pipeline for finishing the design of the CMRR-Nuclear Facility-- a boondoggle bunker that doesn't even have an applicable EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) and will never be built. This money should immediately be re-directed and shifted from the "final design coffers" (of LANS and the NNSA) --to a public engineering and investment program which could easily put thousands of people to work and transform NM into an green energy haven, with lots of windmills and solar cells, alternative tourism and sophisticated high altitude and desert farming --totally outside of the now anyways privatized and apparently struggling Los Alamos lab. 

Our congressional representatives and staff should petition the DOE and the Obama administration and demand to redirect those funds, as I mentioned --165 million, already in the pipeline-- into a civil engineering and employment program for Northern New Mexico that employs and benefits the people that are now being unemployed in Los Alamos, Espanola, San Ildefonso, White Rock, Santa Fe, Taos, and so many other communities in Northern New Mexico.

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San Ildefonso, on whose ancestral lands Los Alamos Laboratory was built, will feel the impact of lay-offs.
 Here in a historical photograph
--in the future there could be large photovoltaic arrays motoring up true sovereignty
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Willem Malten studied sociology and anthropology in Amsterdam. Afterwards Willem participated in the Tassajara Zen Monastery. In the last 25 years Since 1984 Willem has run the Cloud Cliff, a medium size bakery and restaurant in Santa Fe, and (more...)
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