Los Alamos has a starring role in a shift in U.S. nuclear policy that’s two presidential terms in the making. Nuclear watchdog groups in the state are concerned about the United States’ evolving nuclear agenda, which will see a sharp increase in plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). LANL recently released its $13 billion expansion proposal to accommodate increased pit production at the site. The expansion is part of a wider push across the country to ramp up the nuclear warhead manufacturing machine, according to Greg Mello, executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group.
“We’re on the cusp at the moment of awakening the wolf in the domestic dog,” Mello told NM Political Report, adding that nuclear facilities across the country have increased production shifts and doubled staffs. “Everyone is hiring like crazy,” he said.
All week, we look for stories that help New Mexicans better understand what’s happening with water, climate, energy, landscapes and communities around the region. Thursday morning, that news goes out via email. To subscribe to that weekly email, click here. Here’s a snippet of what subscribers read this week:
• Writing for Searchlight New Mexico, April Reese took a look at health concerns from expanded drilling in the northwestern part of the state. • MyHighPlains.com investigates PFAS contamination from Cannon Air Force Base.
Last week, a United Nations group signed a draft treaty to prohibit the development, manufacturing and testing of nuclear weapons. When President Donald Trump pulled the United States back from global climate change action earlier this year, that move was met with outrage from many, including elected leaders, across the country. The international action banning nuclear weapons has received far less attention, including here in New Mexico where many communities have been wedded to nuclear weapons research, production and waste since World War II. Today, the U.S. and Russia together control more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. Eight countries have tested nuclear weapons, and currently, the United States remains the only one to have deployed nuclear weapons outside of tests.
I’ll admit I took a break from the news over the holiday—a break from writing it and a break from reading it. Now that I’m catching up on what happened around New Mexico, I thought I’d share some of the most important environment news from the past couple of weeks. Because maybe some of these things slipped through your news feed, too. Jobs, jobs, jobs
The Carlsbad Current-Argus reported that Halliburton announced that it’s looking for 200 workers in the Permian Basin as it anticipates ramping up production. According to the story, the energy industry is planning to expand drilling in southern New Mexico and Texas, thanks to a rise in oil prices and increased political support.
Without the nuclear deal with Iran, the Middle Eastern country would be able to have enough enriched material to build a nuclear weapon within months, while the deal means the country would not be able to build any nuclear weapons according to Senator Martin Heinrich. And the only “concrete alternative” to the deal would be a military strike and another war in the troubled region, Heinrich said. this would lead to a nuclear-armed Iran in “just a few years.” “This agreement represents the best chance to make sure Iran never obtains a weapon and the best chance for Congress to support American diplomacy—without taking any options off the table for this or future presidents,” he said. Heinrich spoke on Wednesday about his support for the deal negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry on the Senate floor.
This story was originally published and produced by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Standing next to a 12-foot nuclear bomb that looks more like a trim missile than a weapon of mass destruction, engineer Phil Hoover exudes pride. “I feel a real sense of accomplishment,” he said. He and fellow engineers at Sandia National Laboratories have spent the past few years designing, building and testing the top-secret electronic and mechanical innards of the sophisticated B61-12. Later, when nuclear explosives are added at the federal Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas, the bomb will have a maximum explosive force equivalent to 50,000 tons of TNT – more than three times more powerful than the U.S. atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, 70 years ago this August that killed more than 130,000 people.
The two members of the U.S. Senate from New Mexico, both Democrats, support a deal on nuclear weapons with Iran announced by President Barack Obama Tuesday morning. “Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region,” Obama said in remarks on Tuesday morning. “Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.” The agreement came after negotiations between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a former member of the Senate, and a representative from Iran. Britain, China, France and Russia—which make up the other four members of the United Nations Security Council permanent members—as well as Germany were also involved. The deal has already been heavily criticized by Republicans, including those running for president.