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Security begins at home. The US and Russia must begin truly dismantling their own nuclear fleets, proliferation elsewhere pales in comparison to the damage likely should these two major powers ever flex their nuclear muscle. Instead of pointing fingers elsewhere, the US should look to its own nuclear danger.
Everyone seems to be talking about Iran these days. Foreign affairs watchers, policy makers, and Middle East experts are all speculating about when Iran will get a nuclear bomb, about what the United States should do to stop Iran, about what the United States should and should not tolerate from Iran, and about how neighboring countries will act if Iran does succeed in making a nuclear weapon. These issues have been disputed for more than 30 years -- and regularly covered in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. But alarmist talk has lately reached a fevered pitch.
To hear some experts today, you'd think Iran was on the brink of blowing up the world. But hyper-inflated language about the danger from Iran ignores a fundamental reality: Iran has no nuclear weapons -- let alone an arsenal with the capacity to blow up the world. That dubious distinction belongs to the United States and Russia. Between them, the two nations possess nearly 19,000 nuclear weapons of all kinds, with 1,000 on each side ready to be launched from land, sea, and air within minutes of the order being given. With just one turn of the key, missileers in the United States could at this moment launch 50 nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles with the capacity to destroy much of Russia -- including some 120 million people.
So, why aren't the chattering classes talking about these nuclear weapons?...
A thoughtful review of a less thoughtful but interesting book that seeks redemption for 5 key figures of the Cold War. The human question: can great harm be undone by late-in-life conversion to the moral high ground, has no real answer. Is it good that these pro-nuclear zealots have changed their tune and now seek global zero? Of course it is. Is it enough to excuse their contribution to the dangerous nuclear mess we find ourselves in? That is a much harder question to answer, one that many will have strong feelings about.
But, as the article says, these are not heroes of the anti-nuclear movement:
In a 400-page book that surveys the entire history of the nuclear age, less than one page is devoted to the Nuclear Freeze movement of the 1980s. The preeminent intellectual associated with that movement, Jonathan Schell, published a book called The Abolition in 1984. Randall Forsberg, architect of the Nuclear Freeze, is nowhere mentioned in Taubman's book; nor is Helen Caldicott, the movement's most prophetic figure... the movement led by Forsberg, Caldicott, and other activists helped shift the national discourse on nuclear weapons, making the near-breakthrough of Reykjavik possible.
These are men who were part of the problem having a "McNamara" moment. The true heroes, some dead now, some still hard at it, don't always get the credit they deserve for standing between the bomb and the total destruction of life on this planet. They, and the legacy they leave, are still out there - warning the world we must end nuclear danger. They are not in this book, but they are out in the world, standing firm, speaking truth to power. Look for them there, even while you read this book showing that the moral imperative may be stronger, after all, than human weakness, fear, and love of power.
Hugh Gusterson l Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 30 March, 2012
Philip Taubman's new book, The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb, recounts the story of five front-rank Cold Warriors who have become nuclear abolitionists in their old age. They are: Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon's national security adviser and secretary of state, 85; George Schultz, President Ronald Reagan's secretary of state, 88; Bill Perry, President Bill Clinton's secretary of defense, 82; Sam Nunn, former chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, 72; and Sidney Drell, a scientific adviser to the US government and physics professor at Stanford University, 85. In their professional careers, each contributed in important ways to the nuclear arms race.
Kissinger dismissed arms controllers' attempts to prevent the "MIRVing" of nuclear missiles (putting nuclear weapons on intercontinental ballistic missiles). At key points in the Vietnam War and the Yom Kippur War, he signaled a US willingness to use nuclear weapons. And, as an academic, Kissinger sought to make nuclear threats more credible.
Schultz went on live national television to defend the Reagan administration's nuclear arms buildup immediately following ABC's broadcast of the movie The Day After, a nuclear war docudrama viewed by almost 100 million Americans. And, at the 1986 Reykjavik summit between Reagan and the Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev, Schultz whispered to Reagan, "You are right," when Reagan rebuffed an offer to abolish nuclear weapons because it would also have restricted work on missile defense (Taubman, 257).
Part Four: Q & A
Dr Helen Caldicott in Santa Barbara, CA l Mar 27, 2012
Dr Helen Caldicott spoke to a standing room only crowd at the
Faulkner Gallery in Santa Barbara on Friday evening March 23, 2012 on "The Medical Implications of Fukushima, Nuclear Power and Nuclear Proliferation".
Rep. Ed Markey on using money earmarked for nuclear weapons to fund a better economy for US citizens, and a safer world for everyone.
n Despite the end of the cold war, nations continue to invest billions of dollars every year in the modernization of their nuclear forces, blocking efforts to achieve disarmament.
n Money spent on nuclear weapons should be redirected towards meeting human needs, with nuclear industry employees transitioned to socially useful jobs.
n A majority of people in nuclear-armed nations support the total abolition of nuclear weapons, making investments in modernization undemocratic.
n Citizens can put pressure on their legislators to reject nuclear weapons funding, and financial institutions can divest from nuclear weapons companies.
Nuclear weapons pose a grave threat to the future of humanity, and their development, manufacture, maintenance and modernization divert vast public resources from health care, education, climate action, disaster relief and other essential services. It is estimated that in 2011 the nine nuclear-armed nations will spend a total of US$104.9 billion on their nuclear arsenals,1 despite the International Court of Justice having declared in 1996 that it is illegal to use nuclear weapons2 and all parties to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty having acknowledged in 2010 the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any such use.
The World Bank estimated in 2002 that an annual investment of just US$40 to $60 billion – roughly half the amount currently spent on nuclear weapons – would be enough to meet the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals on poverty alleviation by the target date of 2015.4 The goals are to:
n Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
n Achieve universal primary education
n Promote gender equality/empowerment
n Reduce child mortality
n Improve maternal health
n Combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases
n Ensure environmental sustainability
n Develop partnerships for development.
Other organizations have come up with higher cost estimates. This paper compares nuclear weapons spending with development and disarmament spending, and offers practical suggestions for citizen action aimed at redirecting public money away from nuclear weapons and towards meeting human needs. These weapons do nothing to address any of today’s real security problems. With opinion polls in nuclear-armed nations showing strong public support for the abolition of nuclear weapons – and most political leaders also championing the cause – investments in nuclear arms must cease.
A timely reminder following the annoucement that Silex will push to pursue laser enrichment, something that would make controlling proliferation almost impossible. As it turns out, the US doesn't even know where all its exported highly-enriched uranium is, and does not appear to be looking all that hard for it.
The Raw Story l Eric W. Dolan 13 September, 2011
The United States could only account for 1,160 out of 17,500 kilograms of Highly-Enriched Uranium (HEU) -- weapon-usable nuclear material -- exported to 27 countries in response to a 1992 congressional mandate, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last week.
"The world today is dramatically different than when most U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements were negotiated," the report said. "Many new threats have emerged, and nuclear proliferation risks have increased significantly."
In another disquieting revelation, the GAO pointed out that in the 55 visits from 1994 through 2010, U.S. teams found that countries who received nuclear components met international security guidelines only about 50 percent of the time.
"The agencies have not systematically visited countries believed to be holding the highest proliferation risk quantities of U.S. nuclear material, or systematically revisited facilities not meeting international physical security guidelines in a timely manner," the GAO report warned.
If this seems like a crazy idea to you, you are not alone. And it may end up in the Missouri Supreme Court. Still, Honeywell, local developer Centerpoint Zimmer ( a joint venture of Zimmer Real Estate and Chicago builder- Centerpoint), and all of the City Council save one dissenting member, are swayed by the lure of money and jobs. But, how long will that money and those jobs last? And, do we really support a private company building nuclear weapons, even in parts?
Mother Jones l Adam Weinstein 29 August, 2011
In Kansas City, Missouri, a local zoning fight is going nuclear, literally: A Monday-morning courtroom showdown between activists and politicians could determine whether the city becomes host to the world's first privately owned nuclear weapons plant.
The proposed plant, a 1.5 million-square-foot, $673 million behemoth, would replace an aging facility, also in KC, where 85 percent (PDF) of the components for nation's nuclear arms are produced. The new plant would be run by the same government contractor as the old one—Honeywell—and proponents say the only major change will be more jobs and city infrastructure. But there will be another big difference: The federal government will sublease the property from a private developer, who in turn will lease it from the city for 20 years…after which the developer will own it outright.
The developer that could ultimately own its very own nuclear weapons plant, Centerpoint Zimmer (CPZ), didn't even exist until the deal for the Kansas City facility. It's the product of a union between Zimmer Real Estate, a big swinger in local properties—"Their red signs are all over town," says Ann Suellentrop, a local anti-nuclear activist—and Chicago-based builder Centerpoint, which just happens to own a new 1,000-acre industrial park across the street from the planned production facility. In what it called a "competitive bidding process," the US General Services Administration awarded CPZ a contract to build the new plant—on a soybean field that the company already owned. The Kansas City Council, enticed by direct payments and a promise of "quality jobs," approved the deal and agreed to exempt CPZ from property taxes on the plant and surrounding land for 25 years. It also agreed to $815 million in bond subsidies to build the plant and needed infrastructure.
"It's one thing to be concerned about nuclear proliferation," Ed Ford, a Vietnam-era conscientious objector and the only city councilman to oppose the plan, told the Kansas City Business Journal. "It's another thing to have your city be an active partner."
kcnukeswatch l 3 August, 2011
While proponents of the new plant to produce nuclear weapons components cite its jobs as the major motive behind city financial involvement in the plant, the same resources spent on sounder investments would create more jobs – therefore, we are losing the jobs we would have were the city to use the same resources in a more prudent way.
This argument has long been made by proponents of the initiative, “Nuclear Weapons Components Production Prohibited” (currently awaiting City Council approval for placing on the ballot, which should happen by the deadline of August 30). We have commissioned experts in economics to document this point: Dr. Teresa D. Nelson and Dr. Lloyd J. Dumas. Lloyd J. Dumas is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Texas at Dallas (web page: http://www.utdallas.edu/~ljdumas/). Teresa D. Nelson is an independent researcher and consultant with a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Political Economy from the University of Texas at Dallas. Their report can be accessed here. Any journalist who will be covering this election campaign this fall will need to be familiar with this report.
Belarus plunges ahead with plans for new nuclear despite objections from world leaders and its own citizens. Compounding concerns, Belarus has now decided not to return its highly enriched uranium, a proliferation risk, to to Russia for downblending, Lukashenko stating Belarus has been badly treated internationally. While the safety of arms quality waste in Russia has been called into question, leaving it in politically volatile Belarus is an even worse solution.
The pact last December was an advance in the Obama administration's campaign to secure all vulnerable stocks of nuclear material by 2014, apart of the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which is geared toward repatriating poorly guarded highly enriched uranium stocks given out over decades by the Soviets to satellite states.
While the suspension announced Friday was a sign of deepening tension between Belarus's flamboyant authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko and the West, analysts said it didn't pose a serious security risk.
Rethinking repatriation in environmental terms
Yet the repatriation program itself has recently come under environmental scrutiny as environmentalists and politicians question the wisdom of storing and processing highly enriched uranium in Russia’s substandard, environmentally unclean nuclear facilities.
Germany, with its stockpile of highly enriched uranium and spent fuel from its use accrued in the former East Germany, was the first of the 17 countries in the Global Threat Reduction initiative to refuse to ship its highly enriched uranium back to Russia on grounds of environmental safety.
Under pressure of massive public protests in Germany and Russia, Norbert Röttgen, Germany’s environmental minister in December of 2010 refused to ship 951 spent fuel rods from the Rossendorf research reactor in the former East German region of Saxony to the controversial Urals region Mayak Chemical Combine...
...This leaves Belarus as the last country in the former Soviet orbit outside Russia with a large, Cold War-era stockpile of highly enriched uranium, which can be used to make nuclear bombs if enriched to a pure-enough grade – something that has not been lost on Lukashenko.
In April 2010, Lukashenko refused to participate in the Global Threat Reduction initiative and dramatically announced that he had large stocks of weapons-grade uranium. He said at the time that he would not be “dictated” to abandon it and praised it as a “commodity.”
Later that year, during a security conference held in Astana, Kazakhstan, the Obama administration announced it had brokered a deal with Belarus to relinquish the uranium to Russia in exchange for US help building a Belarusian nuclear power plant – despite the clattering of Belarus’s neighbors against the plant.
Laser enrichment would remove any pretense that the production of nuclear fuel is not linked to proliferation. The enrichment of conventionally produced nuclear fuel is dangerous enough. Laser enrichment would allow smaller groups, with fewer resources to create weapons grade fuel with much less difficulty. The desire for profits in the nuclear industry are driving them to make the world less safe with each passing day. While the threat of terrorism has captured the public imagination, the reality of the nuclear threat doesn't seem to have sunk in. We need to find a way to resolve our differences without waging endless, crippling, and with nuclear and depleted uranium weapons- genocidal wars. In this age of information we now inhabit, there are no real secrets. While it is not possible to access all information (there is simply too much of it for that to be practicable), it is certainly possible to find any specific piece of information if enough attention is devoted to aquiring it. The idea that technology can be kept confidential, used only by "approved" (by who?) countries is unenforceable.
NYTimes l William Broad 20 August, 2011
Scientists have long sought easier ways to make the costly material known as enriched uranium — the fuel of nuclear reactors and bombs, now produced only in giant industrial plants.
One idea, a half-century old, has been to do it with nothing more substantial than lasers and their rays of concentrated light. This futuristic approach has always proved too expensive and difficult for anything but laboratory experimentation.
In a little-known effort, General Electric has successfully tested laser enrichment for two years and is seeking federal permission to build a $1 billion plant that would make reactor fuel by the ton.
The idea that nuclear weapons could ever really be a deterrent rather than a dangerous addition to countries' war filled ambitions becomes ever more on the public mind. Weapons, and delivery systems, are aging; national infrastructures are fraying; the waste is piling up and leaking out. We are entering an age when it is increasingly evident that in the minds of government and industry, life may be cheap, but safeguarding nuclear weapons and waste is not. Can we trust that they are doing this?
From the article:
Exactly how Pakistan safeguards its nuclear weapons, and what type of “use-control” features its weapons have, is unclear. The weapons are thought to have some basic use-control features to prevent unauthorized use. Its facilities and weapons are said to be “widely dispersed in the country” (Sanger, 2009), with most of the arsenal located south of Islamabad (Kralev and Slavin, 2009). Furthermore, the weapons are thought to be stored unassembled, with the cores separate from the weapons and the weapons stored away from the delivery vehicles (at least under normal circumstances).