Thursday, September 29, 2011

This Story Just Couldn't Wait

I'm currently working on the October issue of The Sunflower newsletter, which will be published on October 3. As with every issue of The Sunflower, this one is filled with important stories on key nuclear issues. But this story is so extraordinary, so brazen, that I just couldn't wait until Monday for people to read it.

Thanks to my colleagues in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, Tom Clements of Friends of the Earth and Ralph Hutchison of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, for breaking this story.


The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) have announced a plan to increase tritium production by 50% at the Watts Bar "civilian" nuclear power plant. Tritium is a key component of nuclear weapons, boosting the explosive power of fission and thermonuclear weapons.

In the announcement of the proposed 50% increase in production, NNSA also admitted that current tritium production is releasing three to four times the amount of tritium into the Tennessee River as originally estimated. NNSA also admits that tritium demand has been less than they originally expected.

Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, said, "Our use of commercial nuclear facilities to produce nuclear materials for weapons has sent a powerful, clear and dangerous signal to the rest of the world. It has undermined our efforts to constrain weapons production activities, crossed a once-impermeable boundary [between civilian and military facilities], and diminished our security."

Hutchison also said, "With the likely prospect of additional arms control agreements, and budget constraints leading to calls for a reduction in the bloated US strategic reserve (the 5,000 or so warheads we keep in the garage in case we ever use up our 1,500 deployed warheads and need more), the need for tritium will continue to decline. Still these agencies are proposing a 50% increase in production!"

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