Critical LANL Action Tonight Plus What You May Have Missed During Holidays

Critical Los Alamos Study Group Meeting tonight to discuss the shameless effort to ram through-without a plan or review-a vast expansion of LANL’s role in the cold war, with risks everywhere and our politicians blindly forging on.

Three brief notes before a Los Alamos Study Group guest post below about the proposed expansion of LANL and what you can do about it. This is a huge deal and only by organizing, with LASG in the lead, can we have any hope of influencing this process. The budget and political will is there to make this expansion happen despite the lack of a plan and that is absolutely frightening. We have so much to do to address the climate crisis and poverty, can we please just stop this military industrial complex and devote those resources to making life better here on earth? Read on.

In Brief: Mark your calendars: Jan 21, Noon (but arrive 90 minutes early, as it will be packed), Opening of 2020 Roundhouse Session. Plus, at 6pm at 1420 Cerrillos, join Retake for a planning and strategy meeting. We will discuss our priority bills, our strategy and how you can best advocate at the Roundhouse or from home. This is a critical meeting, especially for a short, 30 day session.

In Brief: A Most Interesting Article on Lyla June Johnston, Activist Challenging Speaker Egolf

She Chose Planting Corn Over Attending Harvard. Why?

One of our supporters sent along an article by Charles Eisenstein focused on Lyla June Johnston and her decision not to attend a prestigious Harvard graduate school program. Johnston is the indigenous activist who is challenging Speaker Brian Egolf in their race to represent House District 47. The article, The Woman Who Chose to Plant Corn, profiles Johnston and illustrates just how different she is from the politicians and insiders who play the game. Instead of playing the game, she chose to plant corn. Click here to find out what that choice represented then and what it suggests about the character and qualities of candidate Lyla June Johnston. A must read.

In Brief: Retake Legislative Alerts to Resume on Monday

As most all of you know, last legislative session Retake launched a Statewide Rapid Response Network. If you were signed up for the Network, you received nearly daily alerts that provided you with all you needed to know about Retake endorsed bills that were due to be heard in committee the next day. The alerts included bill number and title, a brief summary and speaking points, along with contact info for legislators who would be hearing the bill.

After the session we heard from scores people about just how important and helpful those alerts were. The three comments below typify those comments.

You have been invaluable as THE resource for the most current and credible info on bills and actions to take.”

Terry Eisenbart, Corrales


It was truly a feat of organization and communication. Thanks for taking us along on the ride. I have never been more involved in the legislative process. “

JoAnn Benenati, Gallup


Retake Our Democracy’s Action Alerts during the Roundhouse legislative session were clear and thorough and made it easy for so many people living distant from Santa Fe to be engaged. As a result, the Las Cruces Progressive Voters Alliance participated in the legislative process like never before.”

Don Kurtz, Las Cruces

Last year, we wanted to ensure that as many people as possible were being updated on bills and their progress through the legislature, so we often repeated information from the alerts in our blog. This likely resulted in hundreds of people receiving the same information twice. Often.

In 2020, we are no longer going to include alert information in this blog. So, if you want to keep current on the legislature in 2020, you need to sign up for the Statewide Rapid Response Network. When you do, you will also be able to sign up to be involved in the 2020 June primary and other forms of activism. But if you just want to get the alert, you just have to provide your contact information and info on you State House and Senate District. It is very easy. To sign up for the Network, click here and then click “Join” in the upper right corner of the banner.

From now on, the blog will be used to engage and educate, presenting information like what follows below. The Statewide Rapid Response Network will be used to organize and activate advocacy, particularly at the Roundhouse during legislative sessions. To be effective advocates, you need to subscribe to this blog to understand the issues more deeply. To know when to act and to have the info needed to act, you need to be subscribed to the Network. Thanks.

LANL Is Expanding Its Role in the Cold War & Is Planning to Move Some Operations to Santa Fe: Los Alamos Study Group Has Other Plans

Why Is This Important?

On January 2 from 5pm-8pm, at the First Christian Church in Santa Fe  (map), Los Alamos Study Group (LASG) will facilitate an important workshop focused upon advocacy in the face of growing concerns about LANL’s escalating role in the cold war, mounting concerns about their plans (or lack of plans) for addressing contamination and leaks, and possible expansion into Santa Fe’s midtown project. These factors are coming together to make this a very important gathering. I hope several Retake folks can attend as both Roxanne and I have a critical leadership team meeting at the same time, a meeting where we will begin identifying our priority bills for the 2020 session.

As LASG and Retake have stated before, we in New Mexico have a uniquely powerful role to play in U.S. nuclear weapons policies. The flip side: because of their powerful separate sovereignty and political weight, our twin nuclear weapons laboratories play an outsize role in limiting political discourse and our political representation, no matter who is elected.

These labs and their military industrial allies hold New Mexico back in every way, keeping us anchored in a bizarre alternative universe where the Manhattan Project and the Cold War never ended, one where the military-industrial-intelligence complex enjoys unquestioned respect and obedience, to our ongoing cost. They help lead our political class into believing any number of self-serving fantasies about how our economy and environment can be “fixed” with technologies not yet invented (but just wait, we are working on it!) so nobody has to really and truly face and address the social, economic, and environmental realities around us.

It is truly amazing how many people who — as Thoreau remarked, do not believe in moonshine in other matters –yet who do not understand that Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is and always will be supported solely for the sake of developing and maintaining nuclear weapons — not just mostly, but almost entirely.

Equally amazing is that otherwise intelligent people think Santa Fe should, or even could, become some kind of “high-tech” or “innovation” mecca, an arty sort of “Silicon Santa Fe.” The “rising tide” they hope for will magically “lift all boats” as the “impact” of those high wage jobs “trickles down.” Obviously it won’t.

California, a highly “innovative” state, now has the highest poverty rate of any state, factoring in cost of livingInequality matters, massively. And regardless of all that, LANL has nothing to do with “innovation.” It is a highly-specialized, bloated, bureaucratic, secret bomb lab that is trying to become the nation’s all-around plutonium processing and manufacturing center despite its impossible location, topography, geology, and other characteristics. Greedy — yes. Inherently corrupt — yes. Unmanageable — yes. Safe — never. Smart — no.

This Isn’t the View of Just a Handful of Anti-War Activists

In 2017, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), after consulting with a large number of experts current and retired, formally decided that LANL’s main plutonium facility (PF-4) could never be an enduring plutonium warhead core (“pit”) factory (pp. 47-48). You might want to read that again.

If there was to be a factory at LANL, it would have to be built from scratch, at great cost (a “greenfield” option). So-called “modules” — plutonium workshops built underground near PF-4 to get around safety regulations based on public exposure — wouldn’t work either, a plan which the Government Accountability Office (GAO) had already ripped. apart.

At least two plutonium “modules” are still however required by law; See page 1058 and more recently here again. No plan, governmental oversight bodies closing the doors on apparent options due to safety or simple impossibility, one would think LANL would have to rethink their plans.

What happened then? Powerful New Mexico Senators Heinrich and Udall  went into action in spite of the NNSA’s findings, and the entire New Mexico delegation got legislation passed that would, they hoped, shore up LANL’s pit-making role.

Fast-forward to this month, when Congress passed the requested funding, a blank check without any written plan, for pit factories at LANL (smaller and quicker, with round-the-clock production required using 1,000 to 1,500 additional plutonium and waste-handling workers) and in South Carolina (larger and later).

In a future post, LASG will go into this in much more detail for a national and international audience, but the key takeaway right now is that these plans for LANL require dramatic changes and expansion, which will — according to LANL — encompass and affect the entire region as well as the communities of Los Alamos and White Rock.

And What Is The Plan? No Plan, No Problem. What Could Go Wrong?

Reaction to LANL Nuclear Expansion Plans

But what are these plans, exactly? The plans that will affect the entire region? They are entirely secret, and that is how they will remain until there is sufficient public outcry.

Amazingly, as of mid-November 2019, there were no actual completed plans for pit production at LANL, according to a bevy of NNSA spokespersons, only “LANL proposals.” Despite legal requirements otherwise, no firm plans were submitted to Congress (as we kept hearing all year), only a request for a blank check — which a pusillanimous Congress provided.

Why Does NNSA Have No Final Plans?

At bottom, it is because NNSA’s and LANL’s evolving plans, such as they are, are full of contradictions, uncertainties, and technical and political embarrassments. What would be the environmental impacts of these plans? In detail, nobody knows. LASG could make a long list of what to expect, to be sure, and that is something that with your help we will produce. What alternatives are there for LANL? Same.

We hope you will join LASG TONIGHT to discuss the situation and develop advocacy plans. Together, we are quite powerful. Please come, and please tell your friends.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne….if anyone from Retake attends, please send a note on what transpired and what actions are planned. We will share with you on Saturday an update on the evolving plans for the 2020 legislative session. So much for a respite.

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1 reply

  1. Thank you for this post, Paul and Roxanne.

    We do have to fight this proposal because it is bad for all of us in a thousand ways. First step, as Joanna Macy’s paradigm says, is “holding” actions – stopping further damage. We can stop nuclear weapons expansion with that proverbial stitch in time.

    We also can and should advocate for the positive change we want to see. A member of Extinction Rebellion quotes Buckminster Fuller: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

    Then let’s push for the positive version!

    To advance nuclear non-proliferation and eventual disarming, we must have reliable technology and programs for detecting nuclear arms development anywhere on Earth. Los Alamos National Laboratory already has a group which monitors nuclear-weapons development.

    So in keeping with Buckminster Fuller’s truth, let’s turn LANL around 180º and make it a premier force AGAINST nuclear proliferation. Let’s put any new funding toward combating nuclear weapons proliferation!

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