Rural Alliance



Four organizations which show how tightly the web of anti-nuclear protest against Yucca Mountain is woven are exemplified by Rural Alliance, Citizens Against Nuclear Waste In Nevada (CAN-WIN), Southwest Research Center (SRIC) and Institute for Environmental and Energy Research (IEER).


This organization is a spinoff of the Nuclear Waste Task Force created by Judy Treichel, her friends Marla Painter and Abby Johnson, with the support of Citizen Alert. Marla Painter, who along with Treichel was a board member of Citizen Alert in the mid 80's, is now RAMA's executive director. Abby Johnson is RAMA's newsletter editor and also a Citizen Alert alumni. According to Treichel's Nuclear Waste Task Force log:

7/28/1988 - I met with Abby Johnson . We took care of some loose ends for the task force and discussed her possibilities for working with Marla in rural areas of the state. . . At 3:00 on 7/28, I met with Marla Painter at Foresta Institute. She submitted a proposal for organizing in rural Nevada. I felt that it would greatly enhance the success of the task force.

But was Rural Alliance created to provide objective informational outreach on Yucca Mountain, or did it have a different purpose? According to RAMA's newsletter, RAMA Resources:

"RAMA is an informal working alliance of rural organizations and individuals in the United States who are adversely affected by the U.S. military, including the Department of Energy. RAMA's goal is to change the way the U.S. military operates by making military installations responsive to environmental, public health, economic, and human rights concerns." [ RAMA Resources (Winter 1993)]

RAMA lists itself as a "project of the Tides Foundation", a politically correct philanthropy which in 1992 "made 845 grants totalling $5,464,700 to some 500 organizations in 42 states and 8 countries." Besides Rural Alliance, among the Tides Foundation's anti-nuclear grantees are the Southwest Research and Information Center and the Rocky Mountain Institute, both of which have been active in the opposition to Yucca Mountain.

Despite the Tides sponsorship, RAMA owes its existence to Judy Treichel and Marla Painter who in 1989 were organizing a front in Northern Nevada for protest against Yucca Mountain. It was Nuclear Waste Task Forces resources which supported RAMA's startup. Consequently, claims that Rural Alliance is an independent entity uninvolved with NWTF and the state are diversionary. In fact, a flow chart drawn by Judy Treichel in 1988 and presented in her bid proposal to NWPO shows just how tightly incorporated Rural Alliance has been in the state's anti-nuclear hierarchy:

Hidden in this chart are clues which show how the Nuclear Waste Task Force promoted a rather activist agenda hidden beyond Yucca Mountain. Rural Alliance was created not to provide informational outreach, but to actively oppose not only the repository, but military activities nationwide. Tod Bedrosian was brought on by the Task Force to organize further political opposition. Listing the League of Women Voters as a neutral organization in the flow chart hides the fact that Abby Johnson was then the president of the League of Women Voters and a co-founder of the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force with Judy Treichel. From Treichel's 1998 log, we see Johnson was instrumental in founding RAMA and is now listed as RAMA's newsletter editor. Citizen Alert's motives are already well known.

Whether RAMA is a part of NWTF, a part of Citizen Alert, an independent entity or a part of the Nuclear Waste Project Ofice is difficult to tell. For example, in 1993 RAMA submitted a letter to the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Task Force on Radioactive Waste Management (TRWM) investigating levels of trust within the DOE, but failed to indicate its connections to the Nuclear Waste Task Force:

It is remarkable that this task force (TFRWM) was formed to study the public trust and confidence issue, one of the many problems facing the Department of Energy (DOE) in the management of nuclear waste. The report's most striking finding is that no one - not even nuclear industry representatives - trusts the DOE. We certainly agree with that conclusion. [Letter to Task Force Radioactive Waste Management, March 10, 1993]

RAMA's lack of trust in the DOE is evidently absolute, the organization has operatives opposing Los Alamos, WIPP, Savanah River, Hanford and other military reservations. In fact, RAMA appears to be primarily anti-military but uses toxic waste issues to pursue its pacifist agenda.

Abby Johnson, RAMA's newsletter editor, also wrote a letter to the TFRWM, but did so as a consultant to Nye County Nevada (which surrounds Yucca Mountain) without admitting her ties to RAMA. Clearly, a small cell of activists centered in the Nuclear Waste Task Force, the Rural Alliance for Military Accountability and Citizen Alert have leveraged their input into nuclear waste issues far beyond their limited numbers.

RAMA is currently pursuing the DOE and military's use of depleted uranium issue. Grace Bukowski, who works for both Citizen Alert and Rural Alliance, was the principle author of "Uranium Battlefields Home and Abroad", issued by RAMA in 1993.

"Amid Kuwait's war litter lies the unseen danger of radiation from uranium-tipped shells used to knock out hundreds of Iraqi tanks. It was the first time DU shells had been used in combat by U.S. and British forces. Radioactive Depleted Uranium debris left behind by the allied coalition in the Persian Gulf War have almost certainly contaminated the air, water, land and food chain of the region." [Bukowski, Grace; Uranium Battlefields Home and Abroad, ural Alliance for Military Accountability, 1993, p2]

Whether the vast desert regions of Iraq and Kuwait were irreparably contaminated by the low-level radioactivity of depleted uranium shells is debatable. Depleted uranium environmental damage must also be contrasted with the huge amount of pollution caused by the Kuwait oil fires. While Bukowski points to legitimate health concerns about depleted uranium exposure by U.S. soldiers, she does not address the question of how many U.S. (and even Iraqi) soldiers would have died if depleted uranium shells had not decimated the Iraqi tank battalions and led to an early conclusion of the war.

A discussion of depleted uranium links back to Yucca Mountain because Marvin Resnikoff of Radioactive Waste Management and Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research are two of the technical advisers for the Uranium Battlefields book. Both these gentlemen have worked for the Nevada Nuclear Waste Project Office and both have made careers out of opposing nuclear technology on all levels. The mixing of heartfelt anti-nuclear pacifism with scientific objectivity on the waste disposal issue has proven difficult.

The question all this raises is whether the state of Nevada has in effect sponsored the creation of a anti-military, anti-nuclear activist organization with tentacles stretching across the nation. RAMA lists as its field office a phone number and mail box in Questa, New Mexico. This turns out to be near the nuclear laboratories at Los Alamos, New Mexico, and also serves as an office for opposition to the Waste Isolation Pilot Project in Carlsbad. Since Rural Alliance was originally part of the NWTF's anti-Yucca Mountain campaign, and the NWTF represents the state of Nevada, it appears Nevada has supported a covert operation in another state to affect that state's dealings with the federal government. Whether this is legal or not, it is unlikely New Mexico will be pleased to find they were infiltrated in such a manner. Other states and governmental entities may find they have been similarly influenced.


Led by Tom Polikalas, this group also has a strange pedigree. Derived in part from a former group, Nevadans Against the Dump, the name CAN-WIN is a derivative from a similar group which existed in New Mexico (New Mexicans Against Nuclear Waste In New Mexico). CAN-WIN for a short while seemed to be the pet of a number of Nevada's influential politicians, taking special attention from Las Vegas mayor Jan Laverty-Jones and former Governor Greant Sawyer. Both these illuminaries were present to give kickoff speeches at a special press release for CAN-WIN.

"Some people ask me how I can get involved. Most thinking citizens in Southern Nevada feel about this (Yucca Mountain) as deeply as I do. They're deeply concerned. And every day they come to me and say to me, what can I do? And I have nothing to tell them. Now we have a group. [Grant Sawyer, Channel 3 interview, 3/3/92]

The curious thing about Grant Sawyer's presence was that as head of the Nevada Commission on Nuclear Projects, he is overseer of $50 million in federal grant monies to NWPO, but is here engaged in helping inaugurate a political action committee to derail the federal government's site characterization in Nevada. Mayor Jones is also a member of the Commission, so apparently any legalities in this were not sufficient to bring this matter to anyone's attention.


Run by Arjun Makhijani, a transplant from Bombay, India, this institute is a curious cross between a scientific consulting firm and an antiwar protest group. Makhijani's technical credentials are respectable, doing a PhD on controlled nuclear fusion at the University of California at Berkeley in 1972. Although the anti-nuclear movement consults with Makhijani regularly, some of his views are inconsistent with the goals of the environmental movement. At a Citizen Alert "Town Hall" meeting, March 16, 1993, Makhijani called for seabed disposal of nuclear waste and burning excess weapons-grade bomb material in existing reactors. He called the nuclear waste issue a "Messy problem with no good solution", which would not seem to rule out the possibility that Yucca Mountain might still be the best of many poor solutions. Indeed, in a paper prepared for NWPO under Judy Treichel's guidance, Makhijani stated:

"We should emphasize that on-site storage is not a long-term solution, and cannot take the place of a long term method of managing nuclear waste, such as that envisioned for an appropriately structured repository program.

There are a number of difficulties with on-site storage that make it less than ideal:

* The need for continuous maintenance, monitoring and surveillance, which cannot be guaranteed for the hazardous life of the waste.

* The need for security to prevent access to wastes by intention or accident; and

* The lack of assurance that the storage facilities used today will themselves be safe for the very long term. In addition, interim storage facilities are not without potential safety or environmental problems. For example, spent fuel casks may be subject to the release of gaseous radionuclides due to rough handling, and at some nuclear sites there may also be concerns from seismicity hazards." [ DOE contract DE-FG-08-85-NV10461, High Level Dollars, Low Level Sense, Arjun Makhijani, Scott Saleska]

Among those listed in the credits of High-Level Dollars, Low-Level Sense are Steve Frishman of the Nevada Nuclear Waste Project Office and Don Hancock of Southwest Research and Information Center (see above). Co-author Scott Saleska appears to also have ties to the Safe Energy Communication Council and Ralph Nader's Public Citizen. This again demonstrates the existence of a large, long term professional anti-nuclear network which mixes the nuclear waste issue with protest against the nuclear weapons complex. It also shows how NWPO, through funding of Makhijani and others, became involved in nuclear weapons complex issues, beyond its mandate.

In a report called "Facing Reality, The Future of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex", in part funded by the Tides Foundation (benefactor of Rural Alliance), Makhijani (IEER), Hancock (SRIC) and others from the Military Production Network, called for a major downsizing of America's nuclear weapons production complex. "The Complex should be designed to support a future arsenal in the range of zero to 3,000 at most, subject to further revision downward." [p4]

While members of this group have every right to advocate a zero nuclear weapons position, the difficulty for Yucca Mountain has come when representatives from this network, such as Makhijani, have imposed a anti-weapons agenda on the practical science of creating a geologic nuclear waste repository to hold spent-fuel from peaceful commercial endeavors. Linking energy policy to weapons policy thus threatens to derail energy production, without reference to the merits of the underlying science.


Southwest Information & Resource Center, headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has been one of the prime coordinator's of the anti-Yucca Mountain campaign. Its lead spokesman is Don Hancock, who as been active also in the Don't Waste U.S. movement Close proximity to Los Alamos and the Waste Isolation Pilot Project in Carlsbad New Mexico has spawned in SRIC an activist anti-nuclear environmental group whose roots stretch back to the mid-1970's, in many ways paralleling the history of Citizen Alert in Nevada. In fact, the National Nuclear Waste Task Force and the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force seem to be a joint SRIC and Citizen Alert effort, hiring Caroline Petti (now at EPA) as their lobbyist.

The main publication of Southwest Research is the Workbook, a journal of alternative publications centered around anti-nuclear and Gaia type articles. The most active writer on the WIPP and Yucca Mountain situation appears to be Don Hancock. Among his Workbook articles are:

Getting rid of the Nuclear Waste Problem: the WIPP stalemate

The Wasting of America: Target / Nevada - Target / New Mexico

Nuclear Waste: Another Washington Scandal

How Not To Find A Nuclear Waste Site

The Nuclear Waste Legacy: How Safe Is It?

New Mexico is where the first shot in the transportation "perceived risk" battle has been fought with the award of $300,000 to the Komises of Albuquerque for claimed loss in property value due to proximity to a WIPP route. Don Hancock appears to feel that the transportation "perceived risk" problem will stop any possible implementation of a MRS facility on the Mescalero Indian reservation in New Mexico as well [McNeil Lehrer, PBS, Sept. 1, 1994]. As in Nevada, it appears a relatively small group of activists have found ways to strangle the national nuclear waste policy.