"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Test is a Test is a Test...


There has been lots of buzz lately about whether the United States has conducted nuclear tests over the past year.  Yes Virginia, the US did, in fact, conduct tests intended to make sure that those thousands of nasty nukes in its arsenal will perform as they are designed should someone actually be crazy enough to launch one.

Of course, there was no mushroom cloud like the bad old days of atmospheric testing, or seismographic mayhem that was a telltale sign of underground tests of yore.  Over the decades since the beginning of the nuclear age the U.S. conducted 1030 tests involving the detonation of a nuclear device (215 atmospherice and 815 underground) up until 1992.

The two tests (in November 2010 and March 2011) were conducted at Sandia National Laboratories Pulsed Power and Z Facility, and involved bombarding relatively small plutonium samples with extremely high energy X-rays to determine how it functions under extreme temperature and pressure. 

This type of testing isn't anything like the detonation of a full scale nuclear weapon, but is still a "nuclear" test.  Don't take my word for it however.  The Sandia Labs press release for the March 2011 test said (in describing the test) that the:
"controlled radiation or magnetic pressure creates conditions on a small scale similar to those caused by the detonation of nuclear weapons, which is why from its earliest days pulsed power has been used to study weapons effects."
Of course, this testing at Sandia is just one of many aspects of continuing efforts by the U.S. government to not only maintain, but to upgrade the nuclear weapons stockpiled and deployed in its arsenal.  In addition to the work at the weapons laboratories - Sandia, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore - the entire manufacturing infrastructure is being completely rebuilt in order to continue modernizing the nation's nuclear arsenal.

Design, manufacturing, refurbishment, testing, upgrading...  It all boils down to perpetuating a reliance on nuclear weapons, which have no purpose except to incinerate huge numbers of people and leave a radioactive wasteland in their wake.  Testing is testing no matter how you cut it, and it is time to STOP. 

The program of reliability testing and maintenance of U.S. nuclear weapons is referred to as "Stockpile Stewardship."  The term stewardship is defined (by Merriam Webster) as "the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care."

If we are to be good stewards of the Earth and the life that inhabits it (including human life), how do people reconcile being stewards of weapons that by their very nature, if used in even a limited exchange, would contaminate the planet and create conditions that might extinguish life as we know it???



Note: The Japan Council against A and H Bombs (Gensuikyo) sent a protest note to President Barack Obama on May 23, regarding a news report that it had conducted a new form of nuclear tests in November 2010 and in March 2011. Following is the note.
May 23, 2011

Mr. Barack OBAMA
United States of America

We protest against your conducting a new form of nuclear tests and urge you to make efforts in good faith to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.

The U.S. Department of Energy (the National Nuclear Security Administration) made public by May 21 that it had conducted the new form of nuclear tests twice in November 2010 and in March 2011.

Your Government claimed that these tests were meant to maintain the reliability and efficacy of the nuclear weapons the U.S. already have in its possession. However, any nuclear-weapon test, irrespective of it may involve explosion or not, is aimed at ensuring the use or/and continued deployment of these weapons. This act obviously runs counter to both the objective of achieving “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” agreed upon by the NPT Review Conference in May 2010 and the promise you yourself made in Prague in April 2009.

We strongly urge you to abandon any plan of nuclear testing and nuclear development, and immediately undertake efforts for the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the conclusion of a treaty totally banning nuclear weapons.

YASUI Masakazu
Secretary General

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Navy Plans Rebuild of Trident Nuclear Weapons System

by David C. Hall, MD

The Pentagon and US Navy are planning to rebuild the Trident submarine nuclear weapons fleet over the next fifteen years at a cost likely to exceed $1 trillion over the life of the program. Currently eight of the fourteen Trident warships allowed under the START treaty homeport on Hood Canal at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Washington State. The other six homeport at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia.

In what may well be an opening salvo announcing the rebuild of the Trident fleet, the Navy plans to build a new and expanded Explosives Handling Wharf at Bangor next to the one currently servicing these warships. Price tag: $783 million. The Navy claims to need 400 operational days a year to load and unload missiles from the warships over the next 30-plus years, and they can only get 300 operational days from the current Explosives Handling Wharf. (Editor's Note: Public comment on the Second Wharf Environmental Impact Statement was solicited through May 17, 2011 at www.nbkeis.com/EHW.)

What goes unsaid is the impact of current treaty negotiations to reduce the number of warheads and launch vehicles. While Trident warships are patrolling the world's oceans at Cold War levels, the number of warheads on the Trident subs has probably been reduced by half according to what data is available in the public record. The Navy, however, wants to upgrade the missiles and warheads, so presumably will want more handling days available.

This at a time when across the country we are cutting back basic medical care for indigent children, more people are out of work than at any time since the Depression, and people continue to lose their homes.

And then there is the unimaginable devastation these weapons are designed to create. Hiroshima was leveled in 1945 by a 12 kiloton atomic bomb. Trident warships can carry W-76 warheads rated at 100 kilotons and W-88 warheads rated at 450 kilotons, up to 192 warheads on a single warship. A single Trident submarine warship has the capacity according to recent climatalogical calculations to black out the sun in an entire hemisphere for weeks to months, an event named “nuclear winter” by Carl Sagan and colleagues in the 1980's. What sane motives continue to compel us to rebuild this doomsday system? How can human freedom hope to survive once such a weapon is used?

A single Trident-launched warhead could create a fireball with the heat of the sun over an area that would incinerate the heart of any city, and then the blast, firestorms, and radiation would expand that zone in waves of destruction over five miles and several generations.

On whose country would we deliver such wholesale killing, suffering, and environmental devastation? China would seem to be the principal target of the Pacific Trident warship fleet. We remember World War II, the Nazi holocaust, Stalinist Russia, and Mao Tse Tung's China – political and military catastrophes in themselves for people with any will to freedom and human rights. Yet there will be no democracy under nuclear fire. And if the United States is held responsible for the crime against humanity that a modern nuclear weapon would perpetrate, then what of the international backlash against us?

Imagine if the earthquake and tsunami assault on Japan had instead been caused by one or two nuclear weapons. The destruction could have been comparable with many more deaths, but what then would be the world's reaction against the perpetrator of such a crime? And where does it end?

This is not the world I want to leave for my grandchildren or their grandchildren.

Our world is much too interdependent and vulnerable to have its multifarious problems and injustices solved by military force, much less by weapons of mass destruction. We need national, international, and non-governmental institutions to broker negotiations across the panoply of threats to life on Earth.

It is time to outlaw and abolish nuclear weapons, not rebuild them. What is hopeful about abolishing nuclear weapons is that it is doable within a relatively short time frame, and it would propel other efforts at cooperative security and cooperative development to the benefit of all.

Our safety resides in our capacities to get along with each other. What sense does it make to threaten China daily with incineration by a Trident-launched hydrogen bomb when China now manufactures half of our consumer goods and holds nearly a trillion dollars of our debt? How about instead of spending another $783 million for a redundant and outmoded facility to service (illegal) weapons of mass destruction we instead invest in securing fissile materials worldwide, pass a nuclear weapons convention to abolish them, and develop cultural and educational exchanges with China, Russia, Iran and even North Korea to empower mutual understanding. That was a huge part of what helped to end the Soviet era of domination in Eurasia and bring an end to the Cold War.

David C. Hall, MD
Past President, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility (psr.org and wpsr.org)
Member, Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (gzcenter.org)
Seattle, WA
206-235-8245 cell
206-957-4702 office voicemail

Editor's Note: You can read other posts on the Second Explosives Handling Wharf and watch video of public testimony at the Puget Sound Nuclear Weapon Free Zone.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Truth: Nuclear Weapons are Illegal AND Immoral


The Y-12 National Security Complex in Oakridge, Tennessee is one of the major cogs in our nations nuclear weapons machinery.  The facility has been rebuilding and gearing up to the tune of $$$$$$ Billions, and although its Website would lead us to believe that it is simply "a premier manufacturing facility dedicated to making our nation and the world a safer place," the fact is that Y-12 is engaged in the production of nuclear weapons, weapons that, under the laws of this land as well as international law, are illegal (and immoral to boot).  How nuclear weapons make "the world a safer place" is a mystery to me.

The trial of thirteen nuclear resisters who were arrested at Y-12 protesting the government's continued disregard for national and international law will begin May 9th in Federal Court in Knoxville, Tennessee.  At the heart of this trial is the defendant's right to present a full defense.  In this case, as in so many previous Federal trials, the judge has chosen to preclude a just trial.  Read about it in the following news release.

Fr. Bix Bichsel, SJ, going through the gate at Y-12 last July
 May the truth prevail, and may the members of the jury allow conscience to move them to a just decision on behalf of the defendants.





Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton issued a ruling on April 29, 2011, gagging thirteen defendants who will appear in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee on Monday, May 9 to face charges of trespass at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during a Celebration of Resistance on July 5, 2010.

The Judge's ruling sweeps away the defendants’ right to tell the jury why they committed their act: “The fact that the Defendants felt compelled to enter onto the Y-12 National Security Complex by their own moral, political, and religious beliefs; their desire to exercise their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech or religion; their desire to comply with international law; or their desire to prevent future death and destruction from the use of nuclear weapons does not constitute a legal defense to the charge in the Information and is not relevant at trial. Testimony to this effect is not admissible at trial.”

“With this sweeping ruling, Judge Guyton clearly intends to deny the defendants the right to tell ‘the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,’” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance. “These defendants did not trespass on private property; they didn’t cross a line at WalMart. Their action was an act of conscience, an act of nonviolent civil resistance, at a facility that produces nuclear weapons. The judge doesn’t want the jury to hear anything about that.”

The judge's ruling came in response to a hearing held March 4, 2011 on motions presented by the defense and the prosecution. At the March 4 hearing, Professor Charles Moxley of Fordham University testified that nuclear weapons not only violate international law, but also contravene US law and the military code of conduct of US armed forces. Defendants Mary Dennis Lentsch and Beth Rosdatter also testified on March 4 about their reasons for trespassing at the Y12 complex, where the United States continued to manufacture thermonuclear components for nuclear weapons.

“This ruling actually underscores the government’s fear that a jury, if it were told the whole truth, might turn the indictment on its head and hold the government accountable for its violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty—a treaty which becomes the law of the land under the US Constitution,” Hutchison noted. “Despite the judge’s ruling, it is likely the defendants will insist on telling the whole truth to the jury.”

Jury selection for the trial of the thirteen Y12 Resisters is scheduled for Monday, May 9 in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee.

more information: Ralph Hutchison 865 776 5050 (contact for news release)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Nuclear Weapons: Building an Informed Public


Not too long ago Steven Starr summarized our challenges in communicating the issues surrounding nuclear weapons to the public, and how we need to communicate in order to get people's attention and get them engaged with this most important of issues.  Essentially, we need to engage people both emotionally and intellectually regarding the potential effects of nuclear weapons as well as the huge economic costs.  It's serious food for thought.


P.S. - Be sure to check out Steven's Website, Nuclear Darkness.


"Although most people, if asked directly, will say that they favor the abolition of nuclear weapons, very few have any real idea of the threat which existing nuclear arsenals pose to humans and other complex forms of life. In fact, here in the U.S., most people do not even know that immense nuclear arsenals still exist, that their own nation (and Russia) have 95% of the 22,000 nuclear weapons in the world, and that they keep 2,000 strategic nuclear weapons ready to launch with only a few minutes warning. They have no idea that just one of these weapons can instantly ignite tens or hundreds of square miles of the Earth's surface into a gigantic nuclear firestorm, and that a hundred such firestorms could produce enough smoke to cause deadly climate change, leading to global nuclear famine.

"An uniformed public cannot make informed decisions. We are still conducting our political discussions about nuclear weapons in Cold War terms, focusing upon how we are "behind" if we don't "modernize" our nuclear arsenal, that we are "locked into a position of permanent inferiority" by agreements with the Russians to limit our nuclear weapons. There is absolutely no discussion of the consequences of the use of existing arsenals, particularly those maintained by the US and Russia, the dialogue is dangerously out of touch with the peer-reviewed scientific predictions that *any* nuclear conflict which detonates as little as 1% of existing nuclear arsenals in cities will likely kill at least 1 billion people through nuclear famine. We must bring current scientific understandings of what nuclear war would do to the biosphere, agriculture, ecosystems and global climate into the active debate about the need for nuclear weaponry.

"Furthermore, In a time when we cannot find enough money to maintain our schools, highways, hospitals and basic infrastructure, do we need to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild our nuclear weapons manufacturing complex and "upgrade" nuclear weapons systems? No, just the opposite, we need stop or prevent funding for such projects, which guarantee that there will be no "world without nuclear weapons." I am going to start ending my presentations with a chart which shows what we could do with the endless billions we spend on nuclear weaponry, something like what Eisenhower did with his "Cross of Iron" speech. We have to give concrete examples of what could be immediately gained through the elimination of insane spending for nuclear doomsday machines. We can combat the idea that nuclear spending creates jobs by giving examples of what could be done to construct, for example, needed alternative energy systems (wind, solar, tidal, etc.) that can begin rebuilding our own industrial infrastructure, which has been dismantled and shipped overseas.

"If we are going to get into a race with other nations, let it be a race towards a better human future. Building nuclear weapons does just the opposite, it paves the way for mass extinction of complex forms of life, including human life."

-- Steven Starr, senior scientist with Physicians for Social Responsibility