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The Alliance Challenges the Growing U.S. Nuclear Threat

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The Snake River Alliance recently returned from its 27th annual “DC Days” with the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA), a national network of organizations working to address issues of nuclear weapons production and nuclear waste cleanup. The Alliance helped found the ANA and values the opportunities to connect and collaborate with colleagues around the country on these nationwide challenges.

weapons v cleanup chart

Rampant spending on nuclear weapons robs money from efforts to protect public health and the environment

We are very grateful to you – our members – for the many donations that allowed us to prepare for a successful DC Days and send two staff members and two board members to participate in an action-packed week with long-lasting implications. The week began with an incredibly informative training, including an analysis of current cleanup issues led by our nuclear program director, Beatrice Brailsford. With more than 50 advocates participating, we then had three days of meetings with more than 80 leading members of Congress, committee staffers, and top administration officials with responsibility for U.S. nuclear policies. As Idaho’s nuclear watchdog, the Snake River Alliance had the opportunity to meet with Sen. Crapo and Rep. Simpson, as well as staffers for Sen. Jim Risch, other members of Congress from districts and committees dealing with DOE weapons and waste sites, the Environmental Protection Agency, and high-ranking officials in the DOE, including the head of its environmental management program, the head of its NEPA policy and compliance office, a senior advisor to the secretary of energy, and the current and designated heads of the nuclear energy office.

So what were we saying in these meetings? Our central message was that the exorbitant spending on nuclear weapons programs is not increasing our nation’s safety but is diverting money from cleanup obligations, damaging the environment, and undermining the nation’s non-proliferation goals. The ANA’s policy recommendations are laid out in ANA’s newly published report, The Growing U.S. Nuclear Threat, which is available on the front page of our website.

This was my first DC Days, and it really drove home the fact that there is a feedback loop between what goes on in Idaho and what goes on in Washington. Cleanup decisions, such as how to address and remove the waste that has been dumped here for decades and pressures on Idaho to bring more in, are affected by taxpayer spending on nuclear weapons and the subsidies to the commercial nuclear industry. It’s all connected, and I am glad the Snake River Alliance and the ANA are here to advocate for responsible nuclear policies.

Kerry Cooke, former Executive Director and current Board Member, agrees: “It was amazing to be in the company of a group of expert citizen lobbyists from every part of the country. And it was sobering to learn that so many bad ideas – new plants to produce parts for nuclear warheads, billions of dollars earmarked for nuclear weapons systems, inadequate funding to clean up DOE sites – are alive and well in Congress. It is critical to the Alliance’s mission that we are there in DC, advocating for sanity on nuclear spending.”

Board Member Vicki Watson said, “It was an incredible experience…one that taught me a great deal about our Congress and how lobbying works.  It was also an exhausting experience . . . 81 meetings were planned.  The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability provided top-notch training and materials to help us provide our messages in a concise and professional manner.  I was able to meet with Rep. Simpson and Sen. Crapo personally as well as the EPA and the Senate Committee on Armed Services, among others.  I was pleased that the elected officials and their staffs listened to the Alliance’s concerns.”

The Snake River Alliance thanks you and asks for your continued support as we keep working towards the goals we shared at DC Days, including:

  • Additional funding for safe and secure storage of transuranic waste at DOE sites in light of the fire and radiation release at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico;
  • Opposing authorization or funding of consolidated storage for spent nuclear fuel;
  • Advocating for sufficient funding for cleanup to meet all state and federal legal milestones and a prioritization of cleanup funding over unnecessary nuclear weapons modernization proposals; and
  • Accountability and increased regulation of DOE managers and contractors for massive cost overruns, schedule delays, safety concerns, and conflict of interests.

You can access the ANA report, The Growing U.S. Nuclear Threat, for more details on these policy issues and recommendations. Please share freely, and of course contact us with any questions!

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