Birthplace of Atomic Bomb, New Mexico Remains Center of Massive U.S. Nuclear Arsenal

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New Mexico continues to play a key role in maintaining the nation’s largest nuclear arsenal. New Mexico’s long history of uranium mining on Native American lands provides fuel for the front end of the nuclear industry. It also stores much of the radioactive waste from nuclear weapons and power plants. Despite government rhetoric about cutting out nuclear weapons worldwide, funding for nuclear weapons programs within the Department of Energy is nearly 50 percent above the historic average of the Cold War.

Chuck Montano, former investigator and auditor at Los Alamos National Laboratory who faced retaliation after he blew the whistle on wasteful spending and fraud at the lab. Montano is now a board member with Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety. Coghlan suggests that the expanded nuclear weaponry in the United States is having an unfavorable impact on not only on national but also international nuclear weapons policies. The for-profit Bechtel Corporation and the University of California have been central to both the development and the ongoing continuation of these nuclear weapons programs. Montano spoke about his background in fraud and audits in the laboratory, and how the Department of Energy would water down or dismiss his findings in order to not tarnish the reputation of the University of California. After reporting about excessive spending, unallowable costs, downloading of classified information, and inadequate control over the access of classified information; the laboratory situated him behind a cubicle with no assignments for nine months.

Taxpayers, no doubt, are affected by the fraud, waste, and abuse going on at Los Alamos National Laboratory. With whistleblowers like Montano being punished for speaking out, who will be at the front line of identifying risky practices that might contaminate the environment or expose workers to high risk, health and safety issues? Whistleblower protection is critical, especially for facilities like the Los Alamos National Laboratory, because of the nature of the work that’s done and the kind of materials that they work with.

Title: “Birthplace of Atomic Bomb, New Mexico Remains Center of Massive U.S. Nuclear Arsenal”
Authors: Amy Goodman, Jay Coghlan, Chuck Montano
Source: Democracy Now: October 1l, 2012

Student Researcher: Natasha Martinez, Sonoma State University
Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips, PhD. Professor of Sociology, Sonoma State University