Last month the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP), the nation’s highest classification authority, released a number of top-level government memoranda that shed additional light on the so-called NUMEC affair, "the story that won't go away—the possibility that in the 1960s, Israel stole bomb-grade uranium from a US nuclear fuel-processing plant.”
You are hereNuclear
By John LaForge
In 2008, the Obama Administration made eye-popping headlines by announcing a 10-year, $80 billion nuclear weapons development program. In 2009, Mr. Obama promised to pursue a “world without nuclear weapons,” but that was then.
By 2010, new warhead plans had grown to an estimated $355 billion, decade-long cash cow that amounts to a cool $1 trillion over 30 years. The colossal expense has already been generally adopted by the House and Senate in military authorization bills -- according to the Sept. 22 New York Times.
One of three new production sites just opened -- a $700 million non-nuclear parts plant run by Honeywell in Kansas City, Missouri. The other factories include a uranium fabrication complex at the Y-12 site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and a plutonium processing works at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico. The latter two programs have run up such enormous cost increases that even the White House has blinked.
Plans for LANL’s plutonium production -- originally expected to cost $660 million -- expanded into a $5.8 billon golden goose. The project was suspended in 2012, and engineers went to work at cost cutting. At Oak Ridge, the uranium processing “canyon” rocketed from a $6.5 billion proposal to a $19 billion war contractor’s wet dream. The White House halted the scheme this year, and the lab is reworking plans for fixing its 60-year long nuclear meth habit.
New H-bomb production is advertised as “revitalization”, “modernization”, “refurbishment” and “improvements”. The buzz words are used by corporate weapons contractors and their congressional lapdogs who speak of the “40-year-old submarine warhead” (known as the W-76), or who feign concern over “fires, explosions and workplace injuries” that are “deplorable” because the equipment “breaks down on a daily basis”, the Times reported.
The War System always neglects to mention that 15,000 plutonium warheads are currently maintained at Pantex, Texas and are good for 50 years, according to The Guardian, Sept. 29. The trillion dollar nuclear bomb building plan is to produce up to 80 new warheads every year by 2030.
The military currently deploys almost 5,000 nuclear warheads -- on submarines, land-based missiles, and heavy bombers. This, even though Pentagon Chief Chuck Hagel signed a report (before he was appointed to his current job) that found that only 900 nuclear warheads were “necessary.” Hagel’s report recommended abolishing 3,500 warheads now in ready reserve, saying warhead numbers are much larger than required.
Independent observers, watch dogs and think tanks have argued for decades that the arsenal can be drastically reduced and made less dangerous: a) by not replacing retired warheads; b) by taking deployed warheads off “alert”; and c) by separating warheads from missiles and bombs. This separation would lengthen warning-to-launch times, thus easing international tensions and ending the terrifying likelihood of accidental or unauthorized launches.
Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group, which bird dogs the Cold War lab, says the reason new H-bomb production is being considered at all is simply private greed. For-profit corporations now run all the government’s nuclear weapons labs, ever since they were privatized in 2006. Mello says, “The nuclear weapons labs are sized for the Cold War, and they need a Cold War to keep that size.”
Further, in a report leaked last year, the Navy itself questioned the need for producing any new warheads. (The Navy controls at least 1,152 warheads spread across its 14 Trident submarines.) And James Doyle, a 17-year veteran scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (who was fired this past July 8 for independently publishing a scholarly article defending nuclear disarmament), told The Guardian, “I’ve never seen the justification articulated for the 50-to-80- pits per year by 2030.”
Jay Coghlan, of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, was shocked by the President’s double talk, telling the Guardian, “Obama’s proposed 2015 budget is the highest ever for nuclear weapons research and production. And at the same time, they’re cutting non-proliferation budgets to pay for it.”
The $1 trillion doesn’t include a few hundred billion more for new nuclear war-fighting systems like:
· The $80 billion cost of building 12 new ballistic missile submarines to replace the Navy’s Trident fleet. Sen. Richard Blumenthall, D-CT, told the New London Day Sept. 23, “The essence here is this boat will be the strongest, stealthiest, most sustainable of any in the history of the word.” “Sustainable”? Well yes; like bankruptcy or suicide.
- The Air Force’s $44 billionplans for a new nuclear bombercalled the Long-Range Strike Bomber Program (LRS-B). The Air Force reportedly wants 80-100 of them at roughly $550 apiece. The chilling rationale for these billions was provided by Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, Chief of Global Strike Command, who said Sept. 16 at in Washington, DC, “It will be essential as we move forward to have a bomber force that can penetrate any place on the globe and hold any target on the planet at risk.”
- The planned replacement of 450 Minuteman 3 ICBMs known as the “Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent” -- set to be deployed in existing silos after 2030 -- that a RAND study said would cost between $84 and $219 billion.
John LaForge writes for PeaceVoice,is co-director of Nukewatch—a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group—andlives at the Plowshares Land Trust out of Luck, Wisconsin.
By Dave Lindorff
The US corporate media are awash in fevered articles and news stories about a Russian “invasion” of Ukraine, as though it was 1938, with German troops marching into Sedetenland and Austria. But let’s step back and look at what’s going on, calmly and rationally.
IPB to award MacBride Peace Prize to the people and government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands
The International Peace Bureau announced today that it will award its annual Sean MacBride Peace Prizefor 2014 to the people and government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, RMI, for courageously taking the nine nuclear weapons-possessing countries to the International Court of Justice to enforce compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty and international customary law.
The tiny Pacific nation has launched a parallel court case against the USA at the Federal District Court. RMI argues that the nuclear weapons-possessing countries have breached their obligations under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) by continuing to modernize their arsenals and by failing to pursue negotiations in good faith on nuclear disarmament.
The Marshall Islands were used by the USA as testing ground for nearly 70 nuclear tests from 1946 to 1958. These tests gave rise to lasting health and environmental problems for the Marshall Islanders. Their first-hand experience of nuclear devastation and personal suffering gives legitimacy to their action and makes it especially difficult to dismiss.
The Marshall Islands are presently working hard on both court cases, whose final hearings are expected in 2016. Peace and anti-nuclear activists, lawyers, politicians and all people seeking a world without nuclear weapons are called upon to bring their knowledge, energy and political skills to build a powerful constituency to support this court case and related actions to ensure a successful outcome.
It is certainly not the case that the RMI, with its some 53,000 inhabitants, a large proportion of whom are young people, have no need of compensation or assistance. Nowhere are the costs of a militarized Pacific better illustrated than there. The country is burdened with some of the highest cancer rates in the region following the 12 years of US nuclear tests. Yet it is admirable that the Marshall Islanders in fact seek no compensation for themselves, but rather are determined to end the nuclear weapons threat for all humanity.
The world still has some 17,000 nuclear weapons, the majority in the USA and Russia, many of them on high alert. The knowhow to build atomic bombs is spreading, largely due to the continued promotion of nuclear power technology. Presently there are 9 nuclear weapon states, and 28 nuclear alliance states; and on the other hand 115 nuclear weapons-free zone states plus 40 non-nuclear weapons states.Only 37 states (out of 192) are still committed to nuclear weapons, clinging to outdated, questionable and extremely dangerous ‘deterrence’ policies.
IPB has a long history of campaigning for disarmament and for the banning of nuclear weapons (http://www.ipb.org). The organisation was, for instance, actively involved in bringing the nuclear issue before the International Court of Justice in 1996. The International Peace Bureau hopes to help draw attention to the aim of the various court cases on this issue by awarding the Sean MacBride Peace Prize to the people and government of the Marshall Islands. IPB sincerely hopes that the Marshall Islands initiative will be a significant and decisive step in ending the nuclear arms race and in achieving a world without nuclear weapons.
The prize ceremony will take place in Vienna in early December at the time of the international conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and in the presence of the RMI’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Tony de Brum and other dignitaries. Since its inception in 1992, many eminent peace promoters have received the Sean MacBride Prize, although it is not accompanied by any financial remuneration.
To learn more about the lawsuits and the campaign go to www.nuclearzero.org
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Greenpeace USA has released a major new report on an under-discussed part of President Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan and his U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carbon rule: it serves as a major endorsement of continued coal production and export to overseas markets.
Ever since the horrors of submarine warfare became a key issue during World War I, submarines have had a sinister reputation. And the building of new, immensely costly, nuclear-armed submarines by the U.S. government and others may soon raise the level of earlier anxiety to a nuclear nightmare.
U.S. Conference of Mayors Adopts Bold New Resolution Calling for Constructive Good Faith
U.S. Participation in International Nuclear Disarmament Forums; Commends Marshall Islands for
bringing lawsuits against U.S. and 8 other Nuclear-Armed States
The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), the non-partisan association of America’s big cities, on June 23, 2014 unanimously adopted a sweeping new resolution Calling for Constructive Good Faith U.S. Participation in International Nuclear Disarmament Forums at its 82nd annual meeting in Dallas, Texas. According to USCM President Kevin Johnson, Mayor of Sacramento, California, “These resolutions, once adopted, become official USCM policy.”
Recalling that “August 6and 9, 2015 will mark the 70th anniversaries of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed more that 210,000 people by the end of 1945,” the resolution notes that “the people of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) continue to suffer from the health and environmental impacts of 67 above-ground nuclear weapons test explosions conducted by the U.S. in their islands between 1946 and 1958, the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima-sized bombs detonated daily for 12 years.”
On April 24, 2014, the RMI filed “landmark” cases in the International Court of Justice against the U.S. and the eight other nuclear-armed nations, claiming that they have failed to comply with their obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and customary international law to pursue negotiations for the global elimination of nuclear weapons, and filed a companion case in U.S. Federal District Court. In its resolution, the USCM “commends the Republic of the Marshall Islands for calling to the world’s attention the failure of the nine nuclear-armed states to comply with their international obligations to pursue negotiations for the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons, and calls on the U.S. to respond constructively and in good faith to the lawsuits brought by the RMI.”
Over the past three years there has been a new round of nuclear disarmament initiatives by governments not possessing nuclear weapons, both within and outside the United Nations. Yet the U.S. has been notably “missing in action” at best, and dismissive or obstructive at worst. The USCM resolution documents the dismal U.S. record and calls on the administration to participate constructively in deliberations and negotiations regarding the creation of a multilateral process to achieve a nuclear weapons free world in forums including the Third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons to be held in Vienna, Austria in December 2014, the UN Conference on Disarmament, and the May 2015 NPT Review Conference.
The USCM also “calls on the President and Congress to reduce nuclear weapons spending to the minimum necessary to assure the safety and security of the existing weapons as they await disablement and dismantlement, and to redirect those funds to meet the urgent needs of cities.”
Recalling the U.S. commitment under the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to pursue negotiations in good faith on the elimination of nuclear weapons, the resolution notes that “forty-four years after the NPT entered into force, an estimated 16,400 nuclear weapons, most held by the U.S. and Russia, pose an intolerable threat to humanity, and there are no disarmament negotiations on the horizon” and that “the U.S. and the eight other nuclear weapon possessing states are investing an estimated $100 billion annually to maintain and modernize their nuclear arsenals while actively planning to deploy nuclear weapons for the foreseeable future.”
The resolution states that “according to the General Accounting Office, the U.S. will spend more than $700 billion over the next 30 years to maintain and modernize nuclear weapons systems,” and that “this money is desperately needed to address basic human needs such as housing, food security, education, healthcare, public safety, education and environmental protection.”
Reflecting current international tensions, the resolution warns that “the U.S.- Russian conflict over the Ukraine may lead to a new era of confrontation between nuclear-armed powers, and nuclear tensions in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and on the Korean peninsula remind us that the potential for nuclear war is ever present.” The resolution “urges President Obama to engage in intensive diplomatic efforts to reverse the deteriorating U.S. relationship with Russia.”
Expressing its “deep concern” about the U.S. failure to engage in recent intergovernmental and United Nations nuclear disarmament initiatives, the USCM “calls on the U.S. to participate constructively and in good faith in the Third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons to be hosted by Austria in Vienna, December 8 – 9, 2014” and “in urgent commencement of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament for the early conclusion of a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons,” and “to press the other nuclear weapon states to do likewise.”
The USCM “calls on the U.S. to demonstrate a good faith commitment to its disarmament obligation under Article VI of the NPT by commencing a process to negotiate the global elimination of nuclear weapons within a timebound framework, under strict and effective international control, at the May 2015 NPT Review Conference, and to press the other nuclear weapon states to do likewise.”
The USCM also “calls on its membership to Proclaim September 26 in their cities as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and to support activities to enhance public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination.”
The resolution notes that Mayors for Peace, with over 6,000 members in 158 countries, representing one seventh of the world’s population, continues to advocate for the immediate commencement of negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons by 2020, and that “Mayors for Peace, with members in the U.S. and Russia; India and Pakistan, and Israel, Palestine and Iran can be a real force for peace.” The USCM “expresses its continuing support for and cooperation with Mayors for Peace,” and “encourages all U.S. mayors for join Mayors for Peace.”
The resolution was sponsored by Mayor Donald Plusquellic of Akron, Ohio, past President of the USCM and a Vice-President of Mayors for Peace, and 26 co-sponsoring mayors from cities in Virginia, North Carolina, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Florida, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Maine, California, Minnesota, and New Mexico.
Mayors for Peace is an international association, founded in 1982 by the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The United States Conference of Mayors is the national non-partisan association of cities with populations over 30,000.
Full text of the resolution, with the complete list of co-sponsors: http://wslfweb.org/docs/
More information about the U.S. Conference of Mayors: www.usmayors.org
# # #
(APN) ATLANTA -- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is close to finalizing plans to accept highly radioactive commercial spent nuclear fuel from Germany to be deposited at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, according to news reports that were buried deeper than the plutonium itself.
However, it is not only Germany that is sending, or has sent, nuclear waste to SRS, but also Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Canada, and perhaps other countries not yet known, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.
Atlanta Progressive News can report that South Carolina’s Savannah River Site is quietly becoming the world’s nuclear dumping ground, and de facto nuclear waste storage site, despite the facts that frequent rain and an overlapping earthquake zone make the site extremely dangerous, especially to our water supply.
There is no long-term storage plan for the waste in the U.S., with the Yucca Mountain proposal on the rocks, as it were, and with a temporary nuclear waste storage site in New Mexico having been closed to new shipments indefinitely.
SRS is already quietly storing plutonium brought in from other countries, and is now also planning to import 23,000 liters of liquid high-level waste from the Chalk River Laboratories in Canada, which would end up in the already stressed high-level waste tank system, according to an SRS Watch news release.
Shipments of foreign plutonium appear to have been secretly brought in via Charleston, South Carolina, in February and March 2014 of this year, according to an article by the Ottawa Citizen, dated March 29, 2014.
The article has a photo of PNTL transport ship Pacific Egret, noting that the ship carried guns and cannons, and that the ship--which originated in Italy with sensitive nuclear material-- disappeared from an online marine tracking system after entering Canadian waters:
Italy and Belgium have announced the transfer of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) to the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site. The Italy and Belgium imports are admitted to in two respective statements posted to the White House’s website, just days before the Ottawa Citizen report:
Meanwhile, according to Reuters and other reports, Japan will transfer HEU and plutonium to the U.S., but that the destination is not known. However, based on the closure of the New Mexico facility, it is highly reasonable to suspect that the Japanese shipment will also be dumped at SRS.
At the National Security Summit at the Hague on March 24 and 25, 2014, a priority item on the agenda was to reduce the amount of dangerous nuclear material in the world. They issued a statement that countries should repatriate highly enriched uranium (HEU) to its country of origin, thereby reducing the number of locations that terrorist groups could target to obtain it.
With the U.S. being the country of origin for much of the world’s nuclear material, this means all our nuclear chickens are coming home to roost.
After the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, the U.S. and Sweden announced the successful removal of plutonium (PU) from Sweden to the U.S.
According to the White House fact sheets, this is the first shipment of plutonium to the U.S. under the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), and can be a model for other countries seeking to permanently dispose of nuclear material. This was probably the model at the 2014 NSS that Italy and Belgium used to ship their nuclear waste to SRS.
A powerful agency inside the DOE, called the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is responsible for getting nuclear material out of the other nations’ inventories and transporting it to the U.S.
However, SRS is not acknowledging that other countries’ nuclear waste is coming to them for public relations reasons, Clements said.
"They are claiming it’s for nonproliferation but the Germans don't know what to do with this unusual kind of spent fuel. On the German side, it is nuclear dumping and on the U.S. side the primary motivation is to make money for the SRS to continue operating the so-called H Canyon reprocessing plant,” Tom Clements, Director of SRS Watch, told APN.
"The SRS already has more nuclear waste than it knows how to deal with… We should not be putting more nuclear waste into the waste system at SRS,” Clements said.
The German nuclear waste will come in canisters containing graphite pebble fuel elements from a closed facility that operated from 1967 to 1988. The U.S. provided the HEU to Germany between 1965 and 1988.
Construction on SRS began in 1951 and H Canyon began operations in 1955. The 310 acre site is over sixty years old and holds millions of gallons of high level nuclear waste already from reactors that produced plutonium for nuclear weapons from 1953 to 1989.
Clements’s group claims that while it is unclear if such unusual high-level nuclear waste can even be processed at SRS, there is no disposition plan for the waste. Though DOE claimed that the material would be disposed of safely, there is no disposal plan for such high-level nuclear waste, so it is essentially being sent to SRS for long-term storage or dumping.
"My fear is we are turning South Carolina and Georgia into a long term nuclear waste dump for other people's problems… What do you do when it leaks off site? Historically, every one of these sites have leaked. You can't call Germany up and say, 'Come and get your waste, it’s now half way down the Savannah River.' Once we take this stuff, it’s ours forever and some of these isotopes stay in the environment for more than a thousand years… and plutonium hangs around for 240,000 thousand years," Arnold Gundersen, Chief Nuclear Engineer of Fairewinds Energy Education, told APN.
"It does not belong in Georgia or South Carolina because it rains here and the best place for plutonium is in a place where it does not rain much like the New Mexican desert," Gundersen said.
SRS sits on an earthquake fault and the largest aquifers in the South. They have had problems with old storage tanks leaking and contamination at the facility. The soil is sandy with rainy, swampy conditions that are vulnerable to waste seepage.
Until this year, the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico was the nation's only permanent repository for the U.S. government's stockpile of nuclear waste.
But then on Valentine's Day this year, one of the canisters blew up and contaminated the entire underground cave system. It is uncertain, at this time, when or if it will reopen to receive thousands of drums of waste from around the country waiting to come to WIPP.
The explosion is blamed on the wrong kind of cat litter being used to absorb radioactive material. They switched from clay to organic cat litter, which caused the explosion.
"We are wasting money and increasing the risk of a terrorist accident if we build that MOX plant at SRS. Plutonium fuel cost more than uranium fuel and there's plenty of uranium on the planet. So we are taking other people's plutonium to keep a MOX plant running and no one wants to buy the output from it," Gundersen told APN.
Plutonium is a man made element derived from the transformation of uranium through fission. Plutonium, Pu-239, has a half life of 24,100 hundred years; that's the time it will take for half of the plutonium to radioactively decay. Radioactive contaminants are dangerous for ten to twenty times the length of their half-lives, meaning that if plutonium gets into the environment, it will be dangerous essentially forever. If ingested into the body, it causes DNA damage in tissue, and cancer.
The use of MOX fuel does not get rid of plutonium; instead it becomes part of the lethal soup of ingredients termed "high level nuclear waste." There are no safe long-term storage for nuclear waste, only interim storage solutions for waste that will remain hazardous for thousands of years.
"When I hear plutonium in the environment, it becomes a problem not only for the next generation - we were not even a [human] species a quarter of a million years ago - we might be a new species before this stuff completely disintegrates from the environment,” Gundersen said.
Citizens living downstream from the site have complained for years of high levels of cancer and death in their community, which they attribute to the SRS and Plant Vogtle's nuclear reactors across the river on the Georgia side.
“The DOE is more interested in jobs this year and totally forgetting about the environmental costs for the next 300 or a thousand years. It’s unfair to the people of Georgia and South Carolina to make some money now and pollute the Savannah River for a thousand years,” Gundersen said.
"Why we have to take it [nuclear waste] from Germany, Belgium, or Italy makes no sense. They can put it underground just as easily as we can, but their populations are more environmentally sensitive than we are. We are becoming the dumping ground for nuclear waste," Gundersen said.
According to SRS Watch, the import may be a violation of the International Convention on Nuclear Safety, as well as the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.
A public meeting on the the issue, “Environmental Assessment for the Acceptance and Disposition of Used Nuclear Fuel Containing U.S.-Origin Highly Enriched Uranium From the Federal Republic of Germany,” is scheduled for Tuesday, June 24, 2014, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the North Augusta Community Center, 495 Brookside Drive, North Augusta, South Carolina 29841.
To submit written comments: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-06-04/pdf/2014-12933.pdf
The public is encouraged to attend the June 24 meeting and make comments on both the proposed import of the German waste and also the trend of SRS to accept foreign nuclear waste and plutonium.
For more information on this subject visit www.srswatch.org
By Alice Slater
The Marshall Islands have sued nine nuclear nations to compel compliance with the Nonproliferation Treaty, which requires the elimination of nuclear weapons. We speak with Rick Wayman, director of programs and operations at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Rick is a graduate of Marquette University’s College of Business Administration and has a Master’s Degree in Non-Profit Management and Political Advocacy from the School for International Training. Rick began working full-time on nuclear weapons issues with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the UK before moving to California in 2007 to join NAPF. Learn more at http://nuclearzero.org
Total run time: 29:00
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Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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By John LaForge
“No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.” — Lily Tomlin
Ontario Power Generation (OPG) — which owns or leases 20 nuclear reactors across Ontario — would save loads of cash by not having to contain, monitor and repackage leaky above-ground radioactive waste storage casks. Last Sept., I testified in Ontario against the company’s plan to deeply bury some of this waste next to Lake Huron.
OPG officially plans to let its waste canisters leak their contents, 680 meters underground, risking long-term contamination of the Great Lakes — a source of drinking water for 40 million people, including 24 million US residents.
The Bruce reactor complex — the world’s biggest with 8 reactors —is on Huron’s Bruce Peninsula and is the storage site for radioactive waste (other than fuel rods) from all of OPG’s 20 reactors. Digging its dump right next door would save the firm money — and put the hazard out of sight, out of mind.
OPG’s public statements make clear that it intends to poison the public’s water. First, the near-lake dump would be dug into deep caverns of porous limestone. The underground holes are to “become the container” OPG testified last fall, because its canisters are projected to be rotted-through by the waste in 5 years. (On April 13 the Canadian government was shocked to learn that OPG grossly understated the severe radioactivity of its waste material, some of which, like cesium, is 1,000 times more radioactive than OPG had officially claimed. (See http://www.freep.com/article/
Second, OPG’s callous poisoning plan was broadcast in a December 2008 handout. Radioactive contamination of the drinking water would not be a problem, OPG says, because, “The dose is predicted to be negligible initially and will continue to decay over time.”
The ‘expert’ group’s report says it’s possible that as much as 1,000 cubic meters a year of water contaminated with radiation might leach from the dump, but calls such pollution “highly improbable.” (Emphasis on “predicted” and “improbably” here: The US government’s 650-meter-deep Waste Isolation Pilot Project in New Mexico was predicted to contain radiation for 10,000 years. It failed badly on Feb. 14, after only 15.)
OPG’s pamphlet goes further in answer to its own question, “Will the [dump] contaminate the water?” The company claims, “…even if the entire waste volume were to be dissolved into Lake Huron, the corresponding drinking water dose would be a factor of 100 below the regulatory criteria initially, and decreasing with time.”
This fatuous assertion made me ask in my testimony: “Why would the government spend $1 billion on a dump when it is safe to throw all the radioactive waste in the water?” Now, what I thought of then as a rhetorical outburst has become “expert” opinion.
‘Experts’ unworried about drinking industrial radiation
On March 25, the “Report of the Independent Expert Group” was issued to the waste review panel. The experts are Maurice Dusseault, Tom Isaacs, William Leiss and Greg Paoli. They concluded that the “immense” waters of the Great Lakes would dilute any radiation-bearing plumes leaching from the site.
Dusseault advises governments and teaches short courses at the Univ. of Waterloo on oil production, petroleum geomechanics, waste disposal and sand control.
Paoli founded Risk Sciences International and the company’s web site notes his position on Expert and Advisory Committees of Canada’s National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy.
Isaacs, with degrees in engineering and applied physics, works at the plutonium-spewing Lawrence Livermore National Lab, studying “challenges to the effective management of the worldwide expansion of nuclear energy.” Of course, hiding the effects of radioactive waste from public scrutiny is one of his industry’s biggest challenges.
Leisshas degrees in history, accounting and philosophy, and has taught sociology, eco-research, risk communications and health risk assessment at several Canadian universities.
So what level of expertise do the experts bring? None of them have any background in water quality, limnology, radio-biology, medicine, health physics or even radiology, hazardous nuclides, health physics, or radiation risk.
As plumes of Fukushima radiation spreading into the Pacific continue to show, the poisons spread from the source and can contaminate entire oceans. (See: http://www.ibtimes.com/
Canada’s expert group’s opinion on how radioactive waste might spread and be diluted in Great Lakes drinking water is inane and meaningless; its cubic meter estimates and risk assessments nothing but fairy tales. You could call the report a rhetorical outburst. – John LaForge writes for PeaceVoice,is co-director of Nukewatch—a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group—andlives at the Plowshares Land Trust out of Luck, Wisconsin.
Canada’s expert group’s opinion on how radioactive waste might spread and be diluted in Great Lakes drinking water is inane and meaningless; its cubic meter estimates and risk assessments nothing but fairy tales. You could call the report a rhetorical outburst.
– John LaForge writes for PeaceVoice,is co-director of Nukewatch—a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group—andlives at the Plowshares Land Trust out of Luck, Wisconsin.
Just a few hours ago, the Republic of the Marshall Islands filed lawsuits against all nine nuclear-armed nations. All nine were named in applications to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, while an additional lawsuit was filed against the United States in U.S. Federal District Court in San Francisco.
The courage of the Marshall Islands in filing these lawsuits is admirable. The people of the Marshall Islands were subjected to 67 nuclear weapon tests by the United States from 1946-1958. The tests caused untold suffering that continues to this day through cancers, displacement and death.
Dear President Obama,
During the closing session of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 25, 2014, you cited a number of concrete measures to secure highly-enriched uranium and plutonium and strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime that have been implemented as a result of the three Nuclear Security Summits, concluding: “So what’s been valuable about this summit is that it has not just been talk, it’s been action.”
A Special Report today on the issue of ending Marijuana Prohibition and the massively destructive War on Drugs, by TCBH! collective journalist Linn Washington, Jr. and three students in his Temple University journalism class:
Marijuana: Facts and Falacies, by Linn Washington
By John LaForge
The corporate media is focused on the question of how or if Iran could ever break out of its promise under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to eschew nuclear weapons, to use reactors only for civilian purposes. So many headlines refer to sanctions imposed against Iran that millions of people mistakenly think Iran has a nuclear arsenal. It doesn’t.
Meanwhile the Congress in January fully funded production of a new B61 thermonuclear gravity bomb, a program dubbed “Life Extension.” This year’s $537 million is the down payment on the 12th version of the B61 that the millionaires in DC agreed should get $11 billion over the next few years.
Dubbed the “solid gold nuke” by critics, the 700-lb. H-bomb is running $28 million apiece at the moment. That much gold bullion is only worth $16 million.
The program to replace today’s B61s with a new “mod12,” is being condemned by our allies in NATO, by Congressional budget hawks and of course by the entire arms control community. Even former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright has said the bombs are “practically nil” in military value. (Gen. Cartwright only is partly right: Since it seems the Department of Defense is in the business of producing suicides by the thousands, among veterans and active duty soldiers, the suicidal mission of deploying B61s across Europe — for detonation there — seems a perfectly ghastly fit.)
“This decision represents the triumph of entrenched nuclear interests over good government. The B-61 is no longer relevant for U.S. national security, but continues to rob billions of dollars from programs that would make America safer,” President Joe Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund told Hans M. Kristensen for the Federation of American Scientists.
Kristensen reported March 12 that the Pentagon has decided that the new B61 will begin its deployment in Europe next year.
This 300-to-500 kiloton “variable yield” thermonuclear device has 24 to 40 times the destructive power of the US bomb that killed 170,000 people at Hiroshima in 1945. Still, this machine’s threat of meaningless, genocidal, radioactive violence is called “tactical.”
Rush to Deploy New H-bomb Before It’s Killed by Public Opposition
The Air Force budget makes it appear that the older B61s will all be replaced — in Turkey, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany — by 2020. This rush job is being hustled through the military-industrial-complex in a very big hurry because the broad international condemnation of the program is gaining depth and breadth.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., along with Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., and Rep Jared Polis, D-Colo., tried to curtail the program last year. Five NATO partners — Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Norway — asked four years ago that all B61s be removed permanently from Europe. In Germany, every major political party has formally resolved to pursue final withdrawal of the 20 remaining B61s at Buchel AFB.
Major US allies in Europe informed Gen. Cartwright’s critical opinion. High-level European politicians have been saying the B61s are “militarily useless” since the end of the Cold War. In a widely published op/ed in 2010, former NATO secretary-general Willy Claes and three senior Belgian politicians said, “The US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe have lost all military importance.”
Still, Kristensen reports, “integration” of the new B61 is supposed to take place on Belgian, Dutch, and Turkish F-16 jets and on German and Italian Tornado fighter-bombers soon.
Another reason for the rush to deploy this perfect candidate for dumb bomb retirement is that Germany is considering replacing its Tornado jets in short order. All the expense of refitting its current Tornadoes to carry the “more accurate” and “more usable” B61-mod 12 would be wasted. New B61 production could also be made expensively moot by progress in arms control.
The “nuclear sharing” arrangement with the five technically non-nuclear NATO partners glaringly contradicts, in Kristensen’s words, “the non-proliferation standards that member countries are trying to promote in the post-Cold War world.” In its 2012 posture review, even NATO’s ministers pledged to work for a world without nuclear weapons.
So as the White House and its Secretary of State wag fingers at Iran, we and our NATO friends openly violate the binding promise made in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty “not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly.”
Maybe Iran can arrange for some sanctions to be imposed on us.
– John LaForge writes for PeaceVoice,is co-director of Nukewatch—a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group—andlives at the Plowshares Land Trust out of Luck, Wisconsin.
Your doctors are worried about your health―in fact, about your very survival.
No, they’re not necessarily your own personal physicians, but, rather, medical doctors around the world, represented by groups like International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). As you might recall, that organization, composed of many thousands of medical professionals from all across the globe, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for exposing the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons.
Well, what seems to be the problem today?
Obama's A-bomb Budget:
At The Hague, Obama Decries the Nuclear Threat;
At Home His New Budget Stokes the Atomic Furnace
By Dave Lindorff
Let us pause to honor Charles Fury.
Susi Snyder, PAX
Some news from the Netherlands, which is gearing up (and shutting down!) to host 53 heads of State and Government next week for the Nuclear Security Summit.
To draw attention to a significant lack of nuclear security in our little country, this week, four Dutch activists entered the secured zone of Volkel Airbase and managed to take a picture of one of the SW3 bunkers in which American B61 nuclear bombs are kept. The activists were arrested and remain detained.
The note says: In this bunker are two nuclear weapons. Back to the USA.
The activists of “Disarm” in a statementexplain they want to raise attention for the fact that the Netherlands continues to store nuclear weapons and that these weapons should be given back to US president Obama when he visits the Netherlands next week for the Nuclear Security Summit(NSS).
The breaking into the secure area of Volkel Airbase is remarkable and a repetition of similar actions by Belgian activistsin the past years. The actions have raised questions about the security of the bases and the nuclear bombs that are stored in these locations.
The timing, so short before the NSS is no coincidence. The activists want to raise awareness for the fact that the NSS will talk about security of nuclear materials but not those nuclear materials that are used for military purposes.
The timing is interesting for another reason as well. Only last week, the US announced it expects the costs for securing the deployment of its nuclear weapons in Europe will doublein the coming year. Perhaps without even realising it, the activists seem to prove that indeed, security of the base is not enough to prevent unauthorised people approaching the bunkers in which bombs are stored that can detonate with a force 28 stronger than the one that devastated Hiroshima.
The action feeds a growing debate in the Netherlands on the rationale for the continued deployment of nuclear weapons on Dutch soil, against the long term majority opinion in the population and in Parliament.
The activists are currently still detained. It is not yet clear if they will be indicted.
PAX has also been active, and trying to raise concerns about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons in a series of events, media appearances and more-
We issued a press statement, and have a bunch of events planned (and already ongoing) these weeks:
The forgotten topic of the NSS
Delegations from all over the world are gathering on 24 and 25 March at the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in The Hague to talk about nuclear security. They will hold discussions on how to prevent nuclear terrorism and how to secure nuclear materials. However, what they won’t do is talk about nuclear weapons. Dutch peace organisation PAX thinks this is inconceivable. ‘If we are talking about terrorism, if we are talking about (in)security, we cannot leave out nuclear weapons.
PAX recently published the report ‘The Rotterdam blast’, in which PAX outlines a realistic scenario on what would happen if a nuclear bomb would explode it in Europe’s largest logistic and industrial hub: the port of Rotterdam. The Rotterdam scenario is a good example of nuclear insecurity and fits into the NSSagenda. In a promotion videofor the NSS Rotterdam is mentioned as a transit point for smuggling of nuclear materials, but no one talks about the risks associated with nuclear weapons.
PAX thinks the absence of nuclear weapons on the NSS agenda is a missed opportunity. Susi Snyder from PAX: ‘We will participate in several events during the NSS to put this topic on the agenda. For example, on 23 March I will speak at the Border Sessionsin The Hague. I am going to talk about the dangers and consequences of nuclear weapons and the urgent need to outlaw nuclear weapons.
Another speaker at the Border Sessions is research journalist Eric Schlosser, author of the book ‘Command and Control’. Schlosser researched aground-breaking account of accidents, near-missesand near-accidents with nuclear weapons. ‘All the more reason to talk about nuclear weapons during the NSS’, according to Snyder.
Snyder continues: ‘People often think that no rational person would ever use a nuclear weapon. However, recent history shows that political developments are unpredictable and many governments are unstable. In addition, there are real terrorist threats. If there are no nuclear weapons, they can not be used. That is why PAX is calling for a nuclear weapons free world.‘
Here are some more links on what we’ve been up to and are planning:
The Nuclear Knowledge Summit (see more here: http://www.knowledgesummit.
Border Sessions (see more here: http://nss.bordersessions.org/
Bike Around the Bomb: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ Symposium : Engineers for nuclear security: https://afdelingen.kiviniria. Movies that Matter: Countdown to Zero (23 March): http://www.moviesthatmatter.
Bike Around the Bomb: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/
Symposium : Engineers for nuclear security: https://afdelingen.kiviniria.
Movies that Matter: Countdown to Zero (23 March): http://www.moviesthatmatter.
Fasting can be a way of mourning, of cleansing, of meditation, of focus.
On Tuesday, March 11, the third anniversary of the beginning of the disaster at Fukushima, we will abstain from food from dawn to dusk. Our purpose is tied to the atomic disaster that continues to threaten life on Earth.
The three melt-downs, four explosions, scattered fuel rods and continual gusher of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean at Fukushima have torn a deadly hole in the fabric of our ability to survive on this planet.
Its corporate perpetrators were repeatedly warned by tens of thousands of citizen activists not to build these reactors in an earthquake zone that has been washed by tsunamis. Not only did they build them, they took down a natural 85-foot-high sea wall in the process that might have greatly lessened the damage of the tsunami that did come.
The disaster that has struck Fukushima has much about it that’s unique. But it’s just the tip of the radioactive iceberg that is the global atomic reactor industry.
There are other reactor sites threatened by earthquakes and tsunamis. Among them is Diablo Canyon, whose two reactors could be turned to rubble by the multiple fault lines that surround it, spewing radiation that would irradiate California’s Central Valley and send a lethal cloud across the U.S.
There are other reactors threatened by suicidal siting, such as the triple reactor complex at South Carolina’s Oconee, downriver from a dam whose failure could send also send a wall of water into multiple cores.
Throughout the world more than 400 rust bucket reactors are aging dangerously, riddled with operator error, shoddy construction, leaky cooling systems, least-cost corner cutting and official lies.
In all cases, the revolution in renewables has made them economically obsolete. The long-dead hype of a failed “too cheap to meter” technology has been buried by a Solartopian vision, a green-powered Earth in the process of being born.
What would speed that process most is the rapid shutdown of a these old-tech dinosaurs that do nothing but cost us money and harm our planet and our health.
For decades we were told commercial reactors could not explode. But five have done just that.
The industry said that radiation releases could do no harm at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, during the atmospheric bomb tests, with medical x-rays, with atomic waste storage, at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, and of course at the next major melt-down and the one after that and the one after that.
The automatic industry response is always the same: “not enough radiation has escaped to harm anyone.” Push a button, no matter what the disaster, no matter where the radiation goes and how little anybody knows about it, that’s what they say now, and will say yet again each time another nuke bites the radioactive dust.
So today we live in fear not only of what’s happening at Fukushima, but of what is all-too-certain to come next.
This must finally stop. If we are to have an economic, ecological or biological future on this planet, all atomic reactor construction must halt, and all operating reactors must be phased out as fast as possible.
To honor this vision, we won’t eat from dawn to dusk on March 11.
It’s a small, symbolic step. But one we feel is worth taking. Feel free to join us!
Visit EcoWatch’s FUKUSHIMA page for more related news on this topic.
Jill Stein was the Green Party’s 2012 Presidential candidate. She is now organizing for Earth Day to May Day, a wave of action for People, Planet and Peace over Profit, at GlobalClimateConvergence.org.
David Swanson is working to organize a movement to end war at WorldBeyondWar.org. His books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at davidswanson.org and warisacrime.org and works for rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and Facebook.
Elaine Scarry, who teaches at Harvard University, is the author of The Body in Pain and On Beauty and Being Just. Her writings following 9/11 include Who Defended the Country? and Rule of Law, Misrule of Men. We discuss her new book, Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom.
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So now we (or at least the 0.03% of us who care to hunt for it) discover that U.S. military spending is not actually being cut at all, but increasing. Also going up: U.S. nuclear weapons spending. Some of the new nukes will violate treaties, but the entire program violates the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which requires disarmament, not increased armament. The U.S. policy of first-strike and the U.S. practice of informing other nations that "all options are on the table" also violate the U.N. Charter's ban on threatening force.
But do nuclear weapons, by the nature of their technology, violate the U.S. Constitution? Do they violate the basic social contract and all possibility of self-governance? Thus argues a new book called Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom by Elaine Scarry. It's not unheard of for people to see out-of-control nuclear spending as a symptom of out-of-control military spending, itself a symptom of government corruption, legalized bribery, and a militaristic culture. Scarry's argument suggests a reversal: the root of all this evil is not the almighty dollar but the almighty bomb.
The argument runs something like this. The primary purpose of the social contract is to create peace and prevent war and other injury. The U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8, clause 11) bans the making of war without the approval of both houses of Congress. This approval was to be required not just for an existing military to attack another country, but for a military to be raised at all -- standing armies not being anticipated. And it was understood that an army would not be raised and deployed into war unless the citizen-soldiers went willingly, their ability to dissent by desertion not needing to be spelled out (or, let us say, their ability to dissent by mass-desertion, as desertion in the war that led to the Constitution was punished by death).
And yet, because this point was so crucial to the entire governmental project, Scarry argues, it was in fact spelled out -- in the Second Amendment. Arms -- that is 18th century muskets -- were to be freely distributed among the people, not concentrated in the hands of a king. "Civilian" control over the military meant popular control, not presidential. The decision to go to war would have to pass through the people's representatives in Congress, and through the people as a whole in the form of soldiers who might refuse to fight. By this thinking, had the Ludlow Amendment, to create a public referendum before any war, passed in the 1930s, it would have been redundant.
Before the 1940s were over, in Scarry's view, a Ludlow Amendment wouldn't have been worth the paper it was written on, as the existence of nuclear weapons erases Constitutional checks on war. With nuclear weapons, a tiny number of people in a government -- be it 1 or 3 or 20 or 500 -- hold the power to very quickly and easily kill millions or billions of human beings, and other species, and very likely themselves in the process. "We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both," said Louis Brandeis. We may have democracy, or we may have thermonuclear bombs, but we can't have both, says Elaine Scarry.
Each of the series of presidents beginning with Truman and running up through Nixon is known to have repeatedly come close to choosing to use nuclear bombs, something the public has learned of, each time, only decades after the fact. No more recent president has said he didn't come close; we may very well learn their secrets on the usual schedule. When you add to that insanity, the long string of accidents, mistakes, and misunderstandings, the damage of the testing and the waste, and the repeated ability of ploughshares activists (and therefore anybody else) to walk right up to U.S. nuclear weapons to protest them, it's amazing that life exists on earth. But Scarry's focus is on what the new ability to kill off a continent at the push of a button has done to presidential power.
While wars since World War II have been non-nuclear, apart from depleted uranium weapons, they have also been endless and undeclared. Because presidents can nuke nations, they and Congress and the public have assumed that a president on his or her own authority can attack nations with non-nuclear weapons too. Now, I suspect that the military industrial complex, corrupt elections, and nuclear thinking all feed off each other. I don't want a single person who's trying to clean up election spending or halt fighter-jet production to stop what they're doing. But the possible influence of nuclear thinking on U.S. foreign policy is intriguing. Once a president has been given more power than any king has ever had, one might expect some people to do exactly what they've done and treat him like a king in all but name.
Scarry believes that we're suffering from the false idea that we're in a permanent emergency, and that in an emergency there's no time to think. In fact, the Constitutional constraints on war were intended precisely for emergencies, Scarry argues, and are needed precisely then. But an emergency that can be dealt with by raising an army is perhaps different from an emergency that will leave everyone on earth dead by tomorrow either with or without the U.S. government having the opportunity to contribute its measure of mass-killing to the general apocalypse. The latter is, of course, not an emergency at all, but an insistence on glorified ignorance to the bitter end. An emergency that allows time to raise an army is also different from an emergency involving 21st century "conventional" weapons, but not nearly as different as we suppose. Remember the desperate urgency to hit Syria with missiles last September that vanished the moment Congress refused to do it? The mad rush to start a war before anyone can look too closely at its justifications does, I think, benefit from nuclear thinking -- from the idea that there is not time to stop and think.
So, what can we do? Scarry believes that if nukes were eliminated, Congress could take charge of debates over wars again. Perhaps it could. But would it approve wars? Would it approve public financing, free air time, and open elections? Would it ban its members from profiting from war? Would people killed in a Congressionally declared war be any less dead?
What if the Second Amendment as Scarry understands it were fulfilled to some slight degree, that is if weapons were slightly more equitably distributed as a result of the elimination of nukes? The government would still have all the aircraft carriers and missiles and bombs and predator drones, but it would have the same number of nukes as the rest of us. Wouldn't compliance with the Second Amendment require either the madness of giving everybody a missile launcher or the sanity of eliminating non-nuclear weapons of modern war-making along with the nuclear ones?
I think the historical argument that Scarry lays out against the concentration of military power in the hands of a monarch is equally a case either for distributing that power or for eliminating it. If large standing armies are the greatest danger to liberty, as James Madison supposed on his slave plantation, isn't that an argument against permanently stationing troops in 175 nations with or without nukes, as well as against militarizing local police forces at home? If unjustified war and imprisonment are the greatest violations of the social contract, must we not end for-profit mass incarceration by plea bargain along with for-profit mass-murder?
I think Scarry's argument carries us further in a good direction than she spells out in the book. It's a thick book full of extremely lengthy background information, not to say tangents. There's a wonderful account of the history of military desertion. There's a beautiful account of Thomas Hobbes as peace advocate. Much of this is valuable for its own sake. My favorite tangent is a comparison between Switzerland and the United States. Switzerland decided that air-raid shelters would help people survive in a nuclear war. While opposing and not possessing nuclear weapons, Switzerland has created shelters for more than the total number of people in the country. The United States claimed to have concluded that shelters would not work, and then spent more on building them exclusively for the government than it spent on all variety of needs and services for the rest of us. The nuclear nation has behaved as a monarchy, while the non-nuclear nation may preserve a remnant of humanity to tell the tale.
Scarry ends her book by stating that Article I and the Second Amendment are the best tools she's found for dismantling nuclear weapons, but that she'd like to hear of any others. Of course, mass nonviolent action, education, and organizing are tools that will carry any campaign beyond the confines of legal argumentation, but as long as we're within those confines, I'll throw out a proposal: Comply with the Kellogg-Briand Pact. It is far newer, clearer, and less ambiguous than the Constitution. It is, under the Constitution, unambiguously the Supreme Law of the Land as a treaty of the U.S. government. It applies in other nations as well, including a number of other nuclear weapons nations. It clarifies our thinking on the worst practice our species has developed, one that will destroy us all, directly or indirectly, if not ended, with or without nuclear: the practice of war.
The treaty that I recommend remembering bans war. When we begin to think in those terms, we won't see torture as the worst war crime, as Scarry suggests, but war itself as the worst crime of war. We won't suggest that killing is wrong because it's "nonbattlefield," as Scarry does at one point. We might question, as Scarry seems not to, that Hawaii was really part of the United States in 1941, or that U.S. torture really ended when Obama was elected. I'm quibbling with tiny bits in a large book, but only because I want to suggest that the arguments that best reject nuclear weaponry reject all modern war weaponry, its possession, and its use.
Spending Requested Exceeds Reagan’s 1985 Maximum, Goes Up from There
Efficiency of Warhead Complex at Record Low as Billions Are Wasted in Failed Projects, Extreme Salaries, Contractor Subsidies
Los Alamos Study Group
Albuquerque, NM – Today’s Department of Energy (DOE) budget request for fiscal year (FY2015) includes a requested $8.315 Billion (B) for nuclear “Weapons Activities” in the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous component of DOE. This does not include pro-rata administrative costs for NNSA’s warhead program, which come to about $293 million (M). Total warhead spending is thus $8.608 B, not including $504 M in potential additional warhead spending (see below).
This is a 7% increase from the current year (FY2014). The request is far higher, in constant dollars, than the $8.13 B spent in 1985 for comparable work at the height of President Reagan’s surge in nuclear weapons spending, which was also the highest point of the Cold War. (See graph, below.)
Nota bene: An earlier edition of this press release said that “[a]lmost the entire increase in Weapons Activities funding ($504 M out of $534 M) [see slide 14 of Secretary Moniz budget rollout briefing] is to come from the President’s new “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative” (OGSI).” This was an error, and I am grateful to John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal for chasing the truth down.
Instead, OGSI would provide an additional $504 M in Weapons Activities, if it is fully enacted.
OGSI is a $56 B budget augmentation above the spending caps set by the December 2013 two-year bipartisan budget agreement, which is to be split evenly into defense and non-defense spending. According to the White House, “The [OGSI] will be paid for with a balanced package of tax loophole closers and spending reforms.” This requires new legislation. According to Science,
The new money is essentially contingent on Congress making changes to the tax code and spending priorities that aren’t likely to happen this fiscal year…One-half of the $56 billion would come from imposing new taxes on retirement funds owned by the wealthy; the other half from changes to politically sensitive crop insurance, unemployment, telecommunications, and airport security programs. Although many of these ideas have champions in Congress, each would spark major debate if lawmakers pushed them forward. And that is unlikely to happen with elections looming in November, and the broad outlines of a spending agreement already in place for the 2015 fiscal year (the result of last year’s government shutdown and budget face-off).”
Today’s budget request also includes $5.328 B for defense environmental cleanup, a 6.6% increase over FY14. Correction (thanks to Staci Matlock, Santa Fe New Mexican): site splits for environmental management programs are given (p. 40 in “DOE Budget Highlights”). Of local interest, LANL cleanup funds are flat year-on-year, at $225 M.
Site splits for other programs, totals for each state, and program details have not yet been released. That is slated to occur on March 11.
Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (DNN) would fall 20.4% to $1.954 B in the president’s request, in part because the Administration proposes to place the Mixed-Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF), an $8 B facility that is approximately two-thirds completed, into cold standby while DOE reevaluates plutonium disposition options.
Notably absent from today’s budget request is any mention of the W78/W88 Life Extension Program (LEP), which was to be the first of three “interoperable” warheads in a new stockpile modernization paradigm. As we noted on December 7, this LEP has been indefinitely deferred – that is, cancelled. Neither is there any mention of a W78 LEP to replace its Air Force component. Speakers at the recent annual Deterrence Summit confirmed reports we are hearing on Capitol Hill that current surveillance indicates no near-term need for such a program.
The proposed new nuclear cruise missile warhead is now expected to go into production only in the FY25-27 timeframe. The latter part of this window concurs with other reports and would be a three-year delay from the Administration’s plan of June, 2013.
Today’s budget confirms prior reports that the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF), an $11 to $19 B facility that was to be built at the Y-12 site in Tennessee, which has been under design for a decade, is now to be reconfigured and down-scoped.
There is no mention of design or construction of underground plutonium “modules” at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Some design is currently underway using leftover funds from the now-cancelled Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF). Upon information and belief, the Nuclear Weapons Council has not endorsed design and construction of these modules, as required in sections 3117 and 3123 of the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
NNSA’s budget is now partly subsidized by DoD’s willingness to transfer some of its own budget authority to NNSA. Today’s budget summary notes that DoD expects to contribute $1.44 B to NNSA in FY2016, $1.60 B in 2017, $1.67 B in 2018, $1.70 B in FY2019, and a total of $15.51 B from 2016 to 2024. The budget summary tables also note (at p. 205) uncertainty about NNSA’s outyear needs: “DOD and NNSA are reviewing NNSA’s outyear requirements and these will be included in future reports to the Congress.”
Study Group Director Greg Mello: “Today’s budget request is a snapshot of an agency that is retrenching in multiple ways. One highly-touted warhead program is absent; another is delayed. Big construction projects are being downscaled and mothballed, while others remain in apparent limbo while requirements are reexamined. Congress will probably whittle the top numbers back a bit and tweak the details, with a net result being no net growth in nuclear weapons, especially in real terms.
"Should OGSI be funded, this would be a truly 'exploding' budget. There is no way NNSA could spend such huge sums effectively.
“While proposed warhead spending for design, maintenance, and production is higher than ever before, spending is not as high as once was projected, and meanwhile costs are higher than ever. Without termination, delay, and downscaling of key projects, which Secretary Moniz and Acting Administrator Held are wisely choosing, NNSA would fail further.
“With these changes, an important workload ‘gap’ or ‘breather’ begins to open up in the 2020s at the weapons labs. We believe the weapons labs are even now greatly oversized for their missions, and today’s budget, with the changes noted, advances the possibility of a gradual downsizing of overall warhead effort, even without the stockpile shrinkage that is long overdue.
“In New Mexico, it is a big mistake to depend on Cold War weapons programs as a prop for our economy, let alone as a source of growth. There just isn't going to be significant growth in those programs, ever, and eventually there will be decline in real terms. Even when there has been growth, the record shows New Mexico has not benefitted as a result. Nuclear weapons are an economic and political liability for the state, along with our severe inequality, poverty, and our poor educational outcomes.
“The plutonium industry, if it were to expand, would be particularly negative for Santa Fe and the region.
“Here in New Mexico we've got to focus on building a new economy that capitalizes on what is now very much a new environmental era. There are tremendous business opportunities in this new economy, but we haven't yet seen government responding enough. Government at all levels needs to open new markets for these high-growth, high-employment renewable energy businesses, and remove the few remaining financial barriers that stand in the way of what would otherwise be very sound new, climate-friendly, water-saving energy investments for businesses and households. Energy-efficient urban and rural transportation are other big potential growth areas, in which we must invest in order to remain competitive.
“Today's federal budget shouldn't be looked at as a basis of growth as much as a maintenance program to keep us going while we build out our locally-owned new energy economy, with the educational system to support it. We will prosper if we can set aside our political loyalties to “The Bomb” and make the new trends our friends.”
In the graph below, the green line shows the effect of 1% inflation for FY14 and uses a 2% inflation model thereafter. The proper legend is not copying into this email at the moment.
Address by Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C., to Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, "Climbing the Mountain" Conference, Washington, D.C., February 26, 2014
At first glance, the elimination of nuclear weapons appears to be a hopeless case. The Conference on Disarmament in Geneva has been paralyzed for many years. The Non-Proliferation Treaty is in crisis. The major nuclear weapons states refuse to enter into comprehensive negotiations for nuclear disarmament and are even boycotting international meetings designed to put world attention on the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of the use of nuclear weapons. The nuclear weapons states are giving the back of their hand to the rest of the world. Not a cheery outlook.
But look a little deeper. Two-thirds of the nations of the world have voted for negotiations to begin on a global legal ban on nuclear weapons. Two weeks ago, 146 nations and scores of academics and civil society activists assembled in Nayarit, Mexico to examine the staggering health, economic, environment, food and transportation effects of any nuclear detonation – accidental or deliberate. A UN High-Level International Conference on nuclear disarmament will be convened in 2018, and September 26 every year from now on will be observed as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
The march of history is moving against the possession, not only the use, of nuclear weapons by any state. The nuclear weapons states are trying to block this march before it acquires any more momentum. But they will fail. They can stall the nuclear disarmament processes, but they cannot obliterate the transformation moment in human history now occurring.
The reason that the nuclear disarmament movement is stronger than it appears on the surface is that it stems the gradual awakening of conscience taking place in the world. Driven forward by science and technology and a new understanding of the inherency of human rights, an integration of humanity is occurring. Not only do we know one another across what used to be great divides, but we also know that we need one another for common survival. There is a new caring for the human condition and the state of the planet evident in such programs as the Millennium Development Goals. This is the awakening of a global conscience.
This has already produced a huge advance for humanity:the growing understanding in the public that war is futile. The rationale and appetite for war are disappearing. That would have seemed impossible in the 20th century, let alone the 19th. The public rejection of war as a means of resolving conflict – seen most recently in the question of military intervention in Syria – has enormous ramifications for how society will conduct its affairs. The Responsibility to Protect doctrine is undergoing new analyses, including the threat posed by the possession of nuclear weapons, to determine the circumstances when it can be properly used to save lives.
I am not predicting global harmony. The tentacles of the military-industrial complex are still strong. Too much political leadership is pusillanimous. Local crises have a way of becoming catastrophic. The future cannot be predicted. We have lost opportunities before, notably the singular moment when the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended, that prescient leaders would have seized on and begun to build the structures for a new world order. But I am saying that the world, soured on the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq, has finally righted itself and is on course to make inter-state wars a relic of the past.
Two factors are producing better prospects for world peace: accountability and prevention. We never used to hear much about governments accounting to publics for their actions on the great questions of war and peace. Now, with the spread of human rights, empowered civil society activists are holding their governments accountable for participation in the global strategies for human development. These global strategies, apparent in diverse fields, from genocide prevention to the involvement of women in mediation projects, foster the prevention of conflict.
This higher level of thinking is bringing a new potency to the nuclear disarmament debate. Increasingly, nuclear weapons are seen not as instruments of state security but as violators of human security. More and more, it is becoming apparent that nuclear weapons and human rights cannot co-exist on the planet. But governments are slow to adopt policies based on the new understanding of the requirements for human security. Thus, we are still living in a two-class world in which the powerful aggrandize unto themselves nuclear weapons while proscribing their acquisition by other states. We face the danger of the proliferation of nuclear weapons because the powerful nuclear states refuse to use their authority to build a specific law outlawing all nuclear weapons, and continue to diminish the 1996 conclusion of the International Court of Justice that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is generally illegal and that all states have a duty to negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons.
This thinking is feeding a movement now building up across the world to commence a diplomatic process for nuclear weapons abolition even without the immediate cooperation of the nuclear powers. The Nayarit conference and its follow-up meeting in Vienna later this year, provide and impetus to commence such a process.. Governments seeking comprehensive negotiations for a global legal ban on nuclear weapons must now choose between starting a diplomatic process to outlaw nuclear weapons without the participation of the nuclear weapons states or constrain their ambitions by working solely within the confines of the NPT and the Conference on Disarmament where the nuclear weapons states are a constant debilitating influence.
My experience leads me to choose starting a process in which like-minded states begin preparatory work with the specific intention of building a global law. This means identifying the legal, technical, political and institutional requisites for a nuclear weapons free world as the basis for negotiating a legal ban on nuclear weapons.It will undoubtedly be a long process, but the alternative, a step-by-step process, will continue to be foiled by the powerful states, which have connived to block any meaningful progress since the NPT came into force in 1970. I urge parliamentarians to use their access to power and introduce in every Parliament in the world a resolution calling for immediate work to begin on a global framework to prohibit the production, testing, possession and use of nuclear weapons by all states, and provide for their elimination under effective verification.
Advocacy by parliamentarians works. Parliamentarians are well placed not only to lobby for new initiatives but to follow through on their implementation. They are uniquely placed to challenge present policies, present alternatives and generally hold governments accountable. Parliamentarians hold more power than they often realize.
In my early years in the Canadian parliament, when I served as chairman of Parliamentarians for Global Action, I led delegations of parliamentarians to Moscow and Washington to plead with the superpowers of the day to take serious steps toward nuclear disarmament. Our work led to the formation of the Six-Nation Initiative. This was a cooperative effort by the leaders of India, Mexico, Argentina, Sweden, Greece and Tanzania, who held summit meetings urging the nuclear powers to halt production of their nuclear stocks. Gorbachev later said the Six-Nation Initiative was a key factor in the achievement of the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eliminated a whole class of medium-range nuclear missiles.
Parliamentarians for Global Action developed into a network of 1,000 parliamentarians in 130 countries and branched out on an expanded list of global issues, such as fostering democracy, conflict prevention and management, international law and human rights, population, and environment. The organization was responsible for getting the negotiations started for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and supplied the muscle to get many governments to sign onto the International Criminal Court and the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty.
In latter years, a new association of legislators, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, has been formed and I am proud to have been its first Chairman. I congratulate Senator Ed Markey for assembling in Washington today this important gathering of legislators. Under the leadership of Alyn Ware, PNNDhas attracted about 800 legislators in 56 countries. It collaborated with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a huge umbrella group of parliaments in 162 countries, in producing a handbook for parliamentarians explaining the non-proliferation and disarmament issues. This is a form of leadership that doesn’t make headlines but is extremely effective. The development of associations like Parliamentarians for Global Action and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament is contributing significantly to expanded political leadership.
The voice of parliamentarians may in the future become stronger if the Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly takes hold. The campaign hopes that some day citizens of all countries would be able to directly elect their representatives to sit in a new assembly at the UN and legislate global policies. This may not happen until we reach another stage of history, but a transitional step could be the selection of delegates from national parliaments, who would be empowered to sit in a new assembly at the UN and raise issues directly with the Security Council. The European Parliament, in which direct election of its 766 members takes place in the constituent countries, offers a precedent for a global parliamentary assembly.
Even without waiting for future developments to enhance global governance, parliamentarians today can and must use their unique position in government structures to push for humanitarian policies to protect life on earth. Close the rich-poor gap. Stop global warming. No more nuclear weapons. That is the stuff of political leadership.
Here is the prepared statement Megan Rice read to the court on Tuesday, February 18, 2014:
As I sat observing the facial expressions of participants present in the hearing on January 28th, I sensed a clear sense of a shared mental reaction during the arguments on this restitution evidentiary Table submitted by the Prosecution (identification…) (display my Exhibit I)
I think we felt something of a Master’s compassionate consternation with the hypocrisy at his accusers. (Luke 6:5-11 Mark 4:20-30)
I was stunned that 8 months had elapsed with apparently no prior conversations, out of court, between the opposing sides and the court in this case, and would have imagined it had been resolved by negotiation during those delays, and relegated to where it deserved to be disposed. – unworthy of evidence in any court of law.
This very document [hold up Exhibit 1] is self-incriminating evidence for all the world to see. It represents in microcosm an enormous cloud of deception, exaggerated expenditures in time, energy and cost under which Y-12 has hidden these 70 years since its inception. It reveals but a sample of the extortion by unaccounted for or unaccountable profiteering and blatant miscalculation over Y-12’s entire evolution till today. – Draconian extortion of the hard-earned labor of the people in this country over the last 70 years, and perhaps before.
It provides evidence why we are in deep trouble today. – A perfect analogy to what Greg spoke of as “Emperor’s new clothes.”
Why can we not call a spade a spade?
Why can we not admit the bare truth, and just get on with what is humanly possible: transforming this humanly constructed horrific monstrosity, an entity which has, effectively un-impeded, evolved into risks of perilous portent to the very existence of this sacred Planet and life as we have known it; for whose transformation we all readily long to give our lives.
Who or what is capable of naming, and being heard to name,
this Emperor’s new clothes?
(if not already named in countless ways and forms.)
When will we be willing to listen,
and to face the truth?
Good morning! Thank you, Judge Thapar, and each of you, in this Beloved Community. We are so grateful this morning, in the depths of our hearts. Grateful to each of you for gracing us from your very busy lives, to be here once again. Your coming here from Kentucky, your honor, and up from New Orleans, Bill and Anna. Down form Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Anabel and David, faithfully giving time, and so much zesty, passionate energy and legal expertise in popular education for truth and justice’s sake on current status of international and domestic law; and here, also from a crowded date book at Yale’s Schools of Divinity and of Forestry and the Environment, Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker, to witness on behalf of our entire Planet. A Beloved Community joins us in Spirit, from the four corners of the Earth, speaking truth from people in places like Seychelles, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Denmark, Finland, France, Belgium, Qatar, Bolivia, Alaska, Africa, Scotland, Ireland, Montenegro, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Britain, and many places in between. These messages from the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers came by post for this court. May I deliver them now?
It is indeed fitting as the issue here before us today has touched with perilous risk, for 70 years, the very existence of our sacred, lovely home, which we all share and try to treasure – our Planet Earth, which many of us revere as Mother! So thank you. We treasured the time all you gave in attending the trial in one way or another.
This trial has exposed, quite gratuitously, in the evidence, thanks to the prosecution’s witnesses, the truth about what is happening. That this one facility is part, of what Kristen Iversen says, the U.S. has become: one, huge, bomb factory, of which Y-12 is but one very significant part.
We are all grateful, as Anabel Dwyer points out, with the Defense team of Lawyers, that the details of the goings-on at Y-12 were revealed by the witnesses for the government, details kept mostly secret, over nigh to 70 years – the specific warheads being “enhanced” and “modernized” – the enormous quantities of highly enriched uranium material (HEUM) produced and stored there, in the very building we were able, almost unknowingly, to reach, to touch, and to label with statements and symbols of truth. This alerted Y-12 workers to what has been kept secret for nearly 70 years.
The secrecy began in 1943, when worker women, by thousands, could not tell fellow workers or family. Still now, secrets are kept between workers, officials, and managers. The secrecy prevailed to try relentlessly to turn these United States into a “super power,” an empire. As Germany tried to be under the Third Reich. When I was growing up, to our generation, these were very evil terms. Has any empire, or aspiring super-power not declined, not fallen apart from exceptionalism into decadence? So we had to come to this facility to call it to transformation. Thank you for revealing these secrets as evidence.
Many who were here on Jan. 28th had attended plowshares trials around the country, your honor, from the most recent in Tacoma, WA – the Disarm Now Plowshares (seniors also, I allege, aged from 84-60: One Sacred Heart Sister, Anne Montgomery of happy memory, 2 Jesuits Frs. Bill Bicshel and Steve Kelly, and 2 grandmothers, Susan Crane and Lynne Greenwald.) In many of these earlier trials, even the words, nuclear weapons, have been called “classified” and denied to be alluded to. Despite being components for weapons of mass destruction, contrary to the Non-Proliferation and other treaties and laws, to which the U.S. is legally bound, and for which crimes we citizens bear shared responsibility by law to expose and oppose as crimes, when we know they are being committed.
And still we have more room and reasons for gratitude, you honor. Because recent laws, by the U.S. congress, gave you distress, you felt that you had to keep these jury-convicted, conscience-bound peace-makers as “violent saboteurs,” felons accused of “seriously damaging the national defense of the U.S.” in detention while awaiting sentencing. Detention in a privately-contracted, for profit, rendition warehouse, which punishes and tortures unsentenced people, partly because of the enormously overcrowded courts and prisons in this country. These facilities are not effectively overseen nor accountable. Because of our experience of the ill-equipped conditions and inadequately trained personnel in those for-profit warehouses, we now know how U.S. citizens and non-citizens are treated for nonviolent crimes of “conspiracy” and other medical, drug laws as they exist. Crimes engendered by the failed socio-economic situation which prevails today in a national security state. The direct fall-out from gross misspending to maintain a nuclear industrial complex – of ten trillions of dollars over these last 70 years. An economic system devoid of any outcome other than death, poverty for the masses in a debt-ridden country, with obscene wealth for the less than 1% of the people – individuals wealthier than the GNP of entire countries and I would ask, from war-profiteering?
We thank you, Judge Thapar, for giving us this time to become inspired by truly great human beings, so patiently enduring flagrantly inhuman conditions. We can now report to you and the general public, who are the government, of the conditions where people are experiencing punishment and torture as unsentenced, awaiting changing court dates, or places in federal prisons today. We have seen how this far-profit detention contract system fails to accomplish any kind of restorative justice or rehabilitation. Women and men who are the victims of a nation, impoverished by the violence and cost of an economy based on manufacturing WMDs and war-making – inhumanly separated by distance and poverty, managerial incompetence; inordinately separated from contact with loved ones and families.
I am grateful also for what Daniel Berrigan called in a letter to me in Danbury Prison in 1998, “my time under federal scholarship.” We have tried to make the most of it. (Have learned enough for 2 or 3 Masters degrees, and written and received letters to and from enough to do a doctoral dissertation!) We are activated by the people who suffer under disempowering conditions of detention. Activated to invite U.S. prison reform, which calls for transformation of minds and hearts from violence. Violence of profiteering from the “fall out” of constant, unending war-making, by a military industrial complex. Those engaged in the production of ever more massively powerful, death-dealing weapons, – nuclear, chemical, biological, unmanned weapons, which rob the poor and sabotage and pollute all of life and creation on this Planet. Imagine the profit accrued by charges like mine: $15 for one 10 minute call to Washington DC from Knoxville Detention Facility. TN instate calls can be close to $3.00 each for 10 minutes. Or a sick call, which can cost an inmate $15 to obtain a dropped, previously sanctioned prescription for a nightly Claritin tablet for controlling an allergy condition. Medical records denied to be passed on from facility to facility as inmates are moved along to prisons.
We are energized to call for life-enhancing alternative projects: like disarmament, depleting radioactive isotopes and toxins, and those which meet real needs – social, cultural, spiritual and environmental: restoration, healing, harmony, balance and peace in non-violence.
May I close with a prayer? A rendition of an ancient Hebrew country song – PS 98 (according to Nan Merrill) as again we thank you, Judge Thapar, honorable jurors, our defense team, lawyers on behalf of the government (whose crimes, we as law-abiding citizens attempt to disclose, oppose, and heal), and for each of you, you in this most honorable Beloved Community, a prophetic peace-making remnant, from whom we receive hope and inspiration and encouragement to carry on as grateful participants in your noble pursuits:
Let us sing to the Beloved a new song.
For Love has done marvelous things!
By the strength of Your Indwelling Presence, (Your right hand)
We, too, are called to do great things;
We are set free through Love’s Forgiveness and Truth.
Yes, for Your steadfast Love and Faithfulness
are ever-present gifts
in our lives.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the glory of Love’s Eternal Flame.
Make a joyful noise to the Beloved,
all the Earth;
Break forth into grateful song
and sing praises! [-Sacred the Land, Sacred the Water, Sacred the Sky, holy and true!]
Yes, sing songs of praise extolling
Lift up your hearts with gratitude and Joy!
Let the voices of all people blend in harmony,
in unison let the peoples magnify the Beloved!
Let the waters clap their hands!
Let the hills ring out with joy!
Before the Beloved who radiates Love to all the earth.
For Love reigns over the world
with truth and justice,
bringing order and balance, [harmony]
to all Creation!
In keeping with all that is just and Fair.
and may we go forth
as Your holy right hand, to do great things, in Love!
(MK 3: LK 7)
Megan then asked the judge if it would be all right to sing a song. He agreed, then was taken aback as she turned to the audience and they rose to join her in singing “Sacred the Earth.”
Sr. Megan Rice, SHCJ, February 18, 2014
U S Federal Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN
We’ve heard it from the bench in Oak Ridge city courtrooms and from state judges in Clinton, Tennessee. And on February 18 we heard it from a federal judge—there are two variations. The first: There are plenty of ways for you to protest and deliver your message without breaking the law. The second: If you people would just put this time and energy into working for the change you want in the political system, you might get the change you seek.
Both sentiments are either disingenuous or naïve.
I. There are plenty of ways for you to protest and deliver your message without breaking the law.
As one who has spent hundreds of hours in nonviolent protests outside the gates of the Y12 nuclear weapons complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where workers are, right now, making thermonuclear cores for W76 warheads, the judges who lecture us—and who have never so far as I know troubled themselves to protest in any way at all from the security of the bench—have no clue. Sure, you can go to Y12 and protest all day long to the wind. It’s the preferred option of everyone who wants to maintain the status quo, second only to “Why don’t you shut up and leave us alone to do our dirty business.”
There is no sign at all that it is effective. We don’t do it because we think President Obama will drive by one Sunday evening and notice us and say, “Wait a minute! Didn’t I say something in a speech in 2009 about how we are committed to a world without nuclear weapons? Then why am I spending nineteen billion dollars on a new bomb plant? And we promised the world in 1968 that we would disarm? Gosh, these protesters are right!”
Not gonna happen, judge, and I suspect you know that. But we do those legal protests anyway.
We do it because it is important not to be silent whether anyone is listening or not. We do it because a commitment to nonviolent social change includes being present to say “No” when the government is preparing for crimes against humanity and crimes against creation. There is an old story activists tell of an old man who day after day goes out to the sidewalk with a protest sign to hold a lonely vigil. One day a young man stops. “Man, I’ve seen you out here for months. What in the world are you doing? You’re never going to change the government this way.” The old man smiles. “I’m not out here to change them. I’m out here to keep them from changing me.”
I go out every Sunday to stand for peace because I have two daughters to answer to and “I was too busy to do anything,” is not an acceptable excuse.
There have been times, at demonstrations I have attended, where hundreds of people came out to protest and the media ignored it. No TV cameras , no newspapers. The next day, it was as if nothing happened. But I have also been at demonstrations where people got arrested for acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. Guess what—front page of the paper. Lead story at 11:00. When the first goal is to raise awareness, to provide people with information the government would like to keep secret, media coverage is essential. And with only a few exceptions, most media require the drama of arrests before they will cover a story that includes criticisms of the regions largest economic powerhouse.
So to judges and prosecutors who say, “You can protest all you want as long as you keep it legal,” at least be honest enough with yourself and us to say, “even though—or especially though—it means no one will know you are there.”
Of course, that is one of the fundamental tenets of nonviolent direct action, a truth that was lost on the last judge who lectured us, in federal court. The judge said he was “obviously” a fan of Gandhi—but he’s like a fan that cheers for Derek Jeter but has no clue how hard it is to field a hard, low one-hop line drive just outside the baseline behind third base, turn, and deliver the ball on target to first base. The fan admires the pure beauty of it, knows it was hard as hell, knows he could never do it, but that’s as deep as the understanding goes.
Gandhi knew, and Martin Luther King, Jr. after him, that the point of nonviolent direct action is to confront injustice in a way that can not be ignored. When the powers and institutions that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo react by punishing good people for their audacity—breaking a little law to expose a greater crime, or ignoring an unjust injunction—it is a question posed to the rest of society who, seeing good people being punished, is awakened to ask, “Wait—dogs and firehoses? On children?” or “What is going on here that these good people are going to prison?”
II. Channel this energy into working to change policy—make democracy work.
The second suggestion, offered by Judge Amul Thapar from the bench in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee, was even more tortured. He praised the defendants before him for their intellect and clarity of thought. He noted that they had legions of supporters because he had gotten hundreds of letters and thousands of signatures on a petition. “Channel this energy toward changing policy in Washington, DC,” he said, implying they could not help but be effective.
Only two problems with that, Judge. One: without the Transform Now Plowshares action, there wouldn’t be hundreds of letters and thousands of signatures. The action was the stimulus which created the response. That’s how nonviolence works—it’s a dynamic and unpredictable thing. “Extraordinary,” Gandhi said, “and then it becomes a miracle.”
Second problem: Really? Do you really think smart, articulate people have not written hundreds of letters to Congress, haven’t signed petitions, haven’t gone to the nation’s capital to press the case? I’ve met with three different Secretaries of Energy and dozens of other officials; I’ve done briefings on Capitol Hill with former Arms Control Ambassadors and the President of the Union of Concerned Scientists. I’ve served on state and federal advisory committees. I’ve spoken at scores of public hearings, written op-eds in the local newspaper, penned letters to the editor, been quoted in a dozen major national newspaper and magazines, been interviewed hundreds of times, done radio and TV for half a dozen international media outlets. And I’m here to tell you, judge, it doesn’t work that way.
Maybe you can ring up Mitch McConnell and get put through to the Senator, but I have to shame our local Senator into even sending a staff person to meet me outside—they refuse to allow more than three people to visit in their office at one time. I’ve gone to DC to meet with a Representative for an appointment and instead had a five minute meeting in the hallway with his aide who, for most of the time, found the woman down the hall behind me far more worthy of his attention. I’ve talked to dozens and dozens of Congressional staffers, most of whom have this issue in their portfolio, and the level of ignorance is stunning. I don’t blame them—they have a million things to keep track of. But when I take a Department of Energy document to them, open it and show them where it says the new bomb plant will cost 2,400 jobs, and they insist on denying it—well, it doesn’t encourage me to put a lot of faith in your way.
I tell you what might work, though, Judge. If you called up the prosecutor and said, “Let’s look into this business about the Nonproliferation Treaty and the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. It might be nothing, but we did take an oath to uphold the Constitution, and these people are intelligent. And Ramsey Clark says there’s something to it.”
Or, another thing I am pretty sure would work, because I’ve studied a little on how things get done in Washington: How about if we just give some major campaign donations to our Senators—it would only take half a million dollars, I bet, to outbid Babcock & Wilcox, Lockheed Martin and Bechtel. Then my eight page letter to Lamar Alexander would probably warrant more than a form letter with a paragraph inserted about nuclear energy (though I wrote about nuclear weapons) and a machine signature. I’d go in the “first name file.” They have those, you know. One summer, I helped a friend who was interning file the first name file letters for a Congressman from South Carolina. That’s how democracy works, Judge, in case you don’t know. The chance of Michael Walli getting an appointment with a Senator or Representative are zero or less (those DC people don’t actually have a real one of either, you know).
What I’m equally sure won’t work is 16,000 signatures on a petition. The White House requires 100,000 signatures before it will take a petition seriously enough to read it. Nuclear weapons are not a hot enough issue to inspire that many signatures—partly because they are so horrific people don’t want to think about them and partly because they sound so technical people don’t think they can do anything about them and partly because some people are afraid to say they might not be safe without them, but mostly because the fix is in—the money fix, the fear fix, and the politics fix. There is no conversation (without something like a Transform Now Plowshares action to create one) about nuclear weapons these days. About our nuclear weapons, I mean. Lots of talk about Iran’s.
Don’t take my word for it. Set aside this case you drew and ask yourself: how many times in the last year, two years, decade, have you given any serious thought or any thought at all to US nuclear weapons production? How many times have you wondered how many warheads and bombs we have? How many times has the nuclear nonproliferation treaty crossed your mind? Even when you heard a news story about North Korea or Iran’s nuclear ambitions, how many times have you questioned our own nuclear practices? See what I mean?
Martin Luther King, Jr. said nonviolent direct action seeks to create a kind of crisis in a community, to make a space for a creative tension that challenges the status quo or even makes it untenable, and opens a space for a new reality. That’s the point, Your Honors. The discomfort you feel, looking at these people in front of you who are among the best and brightest in your community, having to sentence them or fine them as though they are bad people or have done something wrong—that’s the tension. That’s one of the reasons we are there, in front of you.
Nonviolent direct action has as its fundamental goal shaking things up. It is an honorable tradition. In this country it goes back at least to the Boston Tea Party (though if you consider property sacred you might argue about the nonviolent part of that party). It’s not your normal kind of crime, not committed by your typical criminal. The law can’t take that into account very well, though. Because the law loves order and the beautiful clarity that it brings. The law doesn’t so much like dynamic things like nonviolence when it is loosed in the world or the courtroom.
But when things are really messed up, really—like a nation that preaches nonproliferation to others but is busy building bombs and bomb plants—and no one in power wants to do anything about it, and most people in power actually have disincentives to do anything about it—what is a responsible citizen to do? If the mess up is obvious enough, and distant enough, and done by someone else—trains full of Jews heading for Dachau, for instance—we know what a responsible citizen is to do, and judges and prosecutors, too. We wrote the Nuremberg Code, we the US. But God help the citizen in the United States who sees a terrible wrong being done by the government and tries to raise the alarm.
Some years ago, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the country of Belarus voluntarily relinquished the nuclear weapons that ended up on its sovereign soil, the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, praised them and welcomed them into the community of nations. I remember thinking, “Really? That’s the entry card into the community of nations—renouncing nuclear weapons? So what is Clinton doing there? Is he the doorkeeper? Because if that’s the entry card, we sure aren’t in the community of nations.”
I could go on, but I think my point is clear. Nonviolent direct action is required of us because the government responds to nothing less. It is required of us because our consciences and our unborn grandchildren—and yours—insist we do all we can on behalf of the planet and the future. It is required of some because they feel a divine imperative; the God they follow requires them to beat swords to plowshares and blesses peacemakers. It doesn’t seek an end in itself—it seeks to open a conversation, to encourage jurists, prosecutors, defense attorneys, the public, to search themselves to see what they can do and what they should do.
Of course there is a price to be paid. That’s why Ramsey Clark said the main thing it took was courage—more than most of us have. But to those rare few who listen to voices; who don’t throw caution to the winds but carefully, thoughtfully, gently lay it down and then pick up a hammer; to those who find themselves surprised to be doing courageous things and go on and do them, we owe a debt of great gratitude. We may even owe them the future.
By John LaForge
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee —Three anti-war activists who easily snuck into what is touted as one of the country’s most secure nuclear weapons facilities were sentenced to long terms in federal prison Tuesday, Feb. 18.
The three were convicted last May on felony charges of depredation of property and sabotage for their nonviolent action called Transform Now Plowshares at the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The convictions carried possible maximum sentences of 30 years in prison.
Federal District Judge Amul R. Thapar sentenced both Greg Boertje-Obed, 58, of Duluth, and Michael Walli, 65, of Washington, DC, to five years and two months in prison (“62 months,” in the parlance of the federal court) plus three years of heavily supervised probation. Sr. Megan Rice, 84, of New York, NY, was sentenced to 35 months in prison plus three years of probation.
Megan, Michael and Greg entered Y-12 in the wee hours of the morning on July 28, 2012, cutting four fences and traversing a “lethal-force-authorized” zone, arriving at the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, the country’s warehouse of weapons-grade uranium. They poured blood on the walls and spray painted “Woe to an Empire of Blood” and “The Fruit of Justice is Peace.” They also chipped a corner of the concrete wall with a small hammer, a symbolic act reflecting the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah who said, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares.”
The judge also ordered the three to collectively pay $52,900 in restitution for what prosecutors said was materials and overtime costs to fix the openings in four wire fences and paint over the slogans. Defense attorneys for the three have indicated that the grossly exaggerated repair costs would be challenged on appeal.
At Tuesday’s hearing, each of the nuclear resisters spoke, reminding the court of the central purpose of their action ¾to call the court’s attention to the ongoing US violation of the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) at the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn. In testimony at hearings before trial, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark called the production of nuclear weapons components at Y-12 “unlawful” —and the work there “a criminal enterprise” —because the NPT obliges the US government to pursue good faith negotiations for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.
Ignoring each of the defendant’s direct appeals to the government’s binding legal obligations under the NPT and the Constitution (which holds that treaties are the “Supreme law of the land”) Judge Thapar repeatedly accused the three of showing “complete disrespect for law.”
Judge Thapar’s accusation of “lawlessness” was plainly dishonest and likely designed for the press, especially in view of his pre-trial orders forbidding the defendants from presenting legitimate law-based defenses. The defense of necessity —that unlawful government actions may be interfered with by citizens acting in the spirit of crime prevention —was also disallowed by Judge Thapar, who ruled before trial that the question of whether nuclear weapons production is unlawful was not relevant to the case and would confuse the jury. What the judge did not say was that when juries are allowed to consider evidence of the outlaw status of nuclear weapons, they regularly find protesters not guilty by reason of justification.
Assistant US District Attorney Jeffery Theodore had recommended much longer sentences for all three: At least 92 months for Michael; 78 months for Greg; and 70 months for Sr. Megan. But Judge Thapar challenged the prosecutor on his claim that the three had “harmed the national defense.” When Mr. Theodore asserted that the protesters “did not just monetary harm” but much more, the judge flatly disagreed. “What is the other harm —beyond the property damage —harm to pride? What is the real harm to the security of the United States?” the judge asked. Mr. Theodore merely noted the sworn testimony of a General Johnson who said that break-in had destroyed the “mystique” of robust security around nuclear weapons factories.
Speaking for himself in reply to the judge’s characterization of the action as “disrespectful of law,” Michael Walli, said in part, “I’m offended by the notion that Auschwitz had a legal right to exist. The gas ovens, the crematoria, fences and buildings there all had a purpose that was not legal or just. The name of the law used by the US to protect the criminal state terrorism going on at Y-12 is preposterous. … The law codified in the Nuremberg Principles forbids complicity in ongoing crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes” such as the planning a preparation of mass destruction.
The statement issued by the three at the time of their action said Y-12 was chosen for the action because of its plans for a multi-billion dollar H-bomb factory there —the Uranium Processing Facility. The sole purpose of the UPF (price tag now $19 billion) is to produce thermonuclear cores for gravity H-bombs and ballistic missile warheads. Y-12 is a weapons production facility where workers today perform so-called “Life Extension Upgrades” on the W76 warhead and potentially the B-61 gravity H-bomb.
John LaForge is a co-director of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, edits its Quarterly, and writes for PeaceVoice.