Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cherith Brook Advent Newspaper Now Online

We recently released our Advent 2010 newspaper. Be sure to read it and let us know what you think.

Also, below is an article from that paper.

The New Kansas City Nuclear Weapons Plant

Contrary to President Obama’s rhetoric about a future nuclear weapons-free world, the U.S. is rebuilding the nuclear weapons complex of the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous agency the National Nuclear Security Administration. This includes a new facility for expanded production of plutonium pits (the nuclear weapons cores or “primaries”) at Los Alamos, NM; a new facility at Oak Ridge, TN to manufacture highly enriched uranium thermonuclear “secondaries”; and a new Kansas City Plant that will manufacture and/or procure the thousands of nonnuclear components that transform nuclear weapons into deliverable weapons of mass destruction.

Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies (FM&T) LLC manages and operates the Kansas City Plant for the NNSA. Out of the eight U.S. nuclear weapons complex sites, the Kansas City Plant (KCP) is the most productive, producing and/or procuring 85% of all nuclear weapons components both by type and quantity. It specializes in a wide range of nonnuclear components, such as radars, guidance systems, arming, firing and fusing sets and reservoirs for tritium (a radioactive isotope of gaseous hydrogen used to boost the destructive power of nuclear weapons). KCP boasts that it ships 5,000 nuclear weapons components per month. Honeywell FM&T has said that the Plant’s workload is the heaviest it has been in 20 years, expected to last until 2015. This is astonishing given that a little over 20 years ago was the height of the Cold War nuclear weapons build-up under President Reagan.

KCP was originally built to manufacture Pratt and Whitney fighter planes engines during WWII. In 1949 the Atomic Energy Commission commissioned the Bendix Corporation to build non-nuclear weapons components at KCP with Plant ownership formally transferred to the federal government. Through a series of subsequent mergers and hostile takeovers the Bendix Corporation became AlliedSignal in 1983 and eventually Honeywell in 1999. Since then the Plant has been managed and operated by Honeywell FM&T, whose contract NNSA just extended for five years without competitive bid.

The new plutonium and HEU facilities mentioned above are now estimated to cost U.S. taxpayers up to $5 billion each. The new KCP is different since it is being built and operated by the private developer CenterPoint Zimmer (CPZ) LLC eight miles south of the existing Plant in the NW quadrant of Hwy 150 and Botts Road (groundbreaking occurred this last September 8). This limited liability corporation is composed of the Kansas City magnate Zimmer Real Estate Services and Chicago-based CenterPoint Property Trust. Zimmer just “happened” to own the 165 acres that the federal government chose as the site for new Plant.

In a very convoluted financing scheme, CPZ sold the site’s land to the KCMO’s Planned Industrial Expansion Authority (PIEA) for $5 million. But in July 2008 the PIEA declared that the 165-acre site was “blighted,” despite the fact that it was being actively farmed for soybean production. Still, this didn’t prevent CPZ from selling the land to the City for an estimated $26,000 an acre, when regional farmland typically sells for $2,000 to $4,000 an acre, one very tidy profit for “blighted” land!

The PIEA declared the site “blighted” so that construction of this new federal nuclear weapons production plant could be subsidized by KCMO municipal bonds. The Missouri state government created Planned Industrial Expansion Authorities to counter urban/industrial blight and spur economic development. The PIEAs’ charter is to recommend to city councils whether or not tax abatements and/or bonds should be implemented to fight blight. The enabling legislation that created the PIEAs declares that Missouri municipal governments can act positively on a PIEA recommendation only when “the development of such area or areas is necessary in the interest of the public health, safety, morals or welfare of the residents of such city.”

KCMO is closing many hospitals and schools and laying off workers, but nevertheless managed to issue nearly $700 million in municipal bonds to subsidize a new federal nuclear weapons production plant. [$10.6 million is being used to improve utilities and the Hwy 150/Botts Road intersection, which will also benefit CenterPoint Zimmer’s NAFTA intermodal transportation center on the other side of Hwy 150 at the former Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base.] The KCMO Council approved municipal bonds in the name of saving 2,100 jobs in the local nuclear weapons industry (with one admirable dissenting vote-of-conscience by Councilman Ed Ford). The nuclear weapons industry is arguably immoral, with for example the Vatican declaring, “Nuclear weapons are incompatible with the peace we seek for the 21st century. They cannot be justified. They deserve condemnation.” Further, the nuclear weapons industry has adversely affected the health of hundreds of workers at the old Plant.

Local Kansas City citizens should ask why the KCMO municipal government is not prioritizing sustainable green jobs, instead of subsidizing a hopefully shrinking industry whose purpose is to produce weapons of mass destruction? With respect to the public health of Kansas City citizens, according to U.S. Dept. of Labor statistics, 1,993 former KCP workers or their survivors have filed health claims seeking compensation, of which only 211 have been paid to date.

The KCMO municipal government will own the new KCP after construction. As far as I know this is globally unprecedented to have a city own a federal nuclear weapons production plant. The PIEA will then lease it to a CenterPoint Zimmer Holding LLC, who as sub-landlord, will lease it to the private developers CenterPoint Zimmer LLC. CPZ will then sub-sublease the new Plant to the federal General Services Administration (GSA), who acts as landlord for numerous federal properties (including the old KCP in the Banister Federal Complex). GSA will then sub-sub-sublease this new federal nuclear weapons production plant to the NNSA. Got that? It’s way convoluted.

Because the new KCP is being built and operated by “private developers” who stand to profit many time times over, this new federal nuclear weapons components production plant is not included in the NNSA’s annual Congressional Budget Requests. It is therefore outside of typical Congressional review and appropriations, and perhaps would have been rejected. It is a very sweet deal for Centerpoint Zimmer, who first sold the land to the PIEA; then is subsidized by municipal bonds sales to build the Plant; is granted a 20-year lease-to-purchase by the PIEA in which it pays the bonds back with guaranteed income from the NNSA; and after that owns the Plant outright.

During this 20-year term the NNSA will pay $1.2 billion in lease costs, not a good deal for the American taxpayer. Leaving aside the question whether the new Plant is needed to begin with, the NNSA has repeatedly justified it by claiming it will save $100 million in operational costs compared to the old Plant. But a report by the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that lowering security requirements at the Kansas City Plant to reflect the simple fact that it does not have large inventories of nuclear materials would save $37 million annually. A new Plant is not needed for that.

Moreover, after a first round of bidding by private developers for the project went bust, according to one report “Based in part on specific cost-cutting advice from CenterPoint, the solicitation was restructured.” This perhaps means that the contract was hallowed out in order to make a second round of bidding successful. In any event, CPZ was awarded the contract, but NNSA started asking Congress for around $100 million in “transition costs” for moving to the new Plant in each fiscal year 2009-2015, despite earlier claims by NNSA that the new KCP would not cost the federal government any up front money.

Finally, leasing is more costly over the long term than constructing and owning a facility outright. The GAO found that the break-even point of construction costs vs. lease costs for the new KCP is 22 years. However, the new Plant could be operational for 40-60 years, and therefore the federal government could pay another $1.2 to $2.4 billion in lease costs to the private developers. Life Extension Programs for existing nuclear weapons are already scheduled to last until at least 2042, for which the Kansas City Plant is the main supplier of components.

The NNSA wrote in its recent Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan that “because the new facility will be leased, there will be no capital investment and NNSA will not be burdened by costs for legacy disposition should the mission ever be discontinued.” The “legacy” of the old Plant is one of serious contamination with cancer-causing volatile organic compounds (mostly industrial solvents) and PCBs, for which NNSA has formulated no comprehensive cleanup plan. NNSA plans to be fully operating in the new Plant in a couple of years while in effect abandoning the old Plant. The Kansas City municipal government is counting on reusing the existing Plant for local economic development, which probably cannot take place without comprehensive cleanup costing more than $250 million. Kansas City subsidies for a new nuclear weapons production plant reward the federal government even as the federal government ignores its moral responsibility to protect its citizens and their future economic prosperity through full environmental restoration of the old Plant. The federal government should be cleaning up its nuclear weapons complex, not building it up!

For much more information, visit and
See NukeWatch NM’s interactive map on the nuclear weapons complex at
Please support these local organizations working on Kansas City Plant (KCP) issues: Physicians for Social Responsibility-Kansas City, PeaceWorks Kansas City and the Cherith Brooks Catholic Workers House.

Jay Coghlan
Executive Director
Nuclear Watch New Mexico

December Work Day & Other Appeals

Our Second Saturday work day is already upon us so put it on your calenders for December the 11th, from 9-1 pm, and we will eat together to finish our day.

We will be working on the following projects:

Deck Work
Mortar Work
Electrical projects
Tiling projects
and of course there will always be work to do in the clothing closet!

Hope to see you all here!

Few other requests......

We are looking to get a wood stove to help heat the shower space for our friends who come to showers.  If you have one you would like to donate, please let us know.

As many of you know, a prized possession for those who come to showers is a hooded sweatshirt.  So, for the up coming Christmas, we are hoping to make 40 gift bags for our shower friends,which will include a hooded sweatshirt.  We would like to be able to get new, sturdy hoodies, and hope to get some that are fair trade.  If you have new hooded sweatshirts you would like to donate, or if you would like to send money for the purchase of fair trade sweatshirts, we and our showers friends would be very grateful.  Thank you very much.