5280, the Denver magazine, just published an article on Jon Lipsky, who led the FBI raid on Rocky Flats in 1989. After being away for several years, he now lives in the area and follows the Rocky Flats issue closely. To read the article, go to: http://www.5280.com/news/magazine/2016/04/rogue-agent?page=full
Archive for April, 2016|Monthly archive page
I strongly urge friends and readers to support the Hibakusha’s efforts to elimate huclear weapons. For their work and the appeal, go to http://www.peaceandplanet.org/petition-support-the-hibakushas-a-bomb-survivors-appeal-today/
The article below describing the film is from The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. on line at http://thebulletin.org/nuclear-film-does-not-bomb-broadway9388
Nuclear film does not bomb on Broadway
By Dan Drollette Jr
If the creators of the performance piece The Bomb sought to make an impact on their audience at their Broadway debut last weekend, they succeeded: At least three people fainted at the first show. (No one was permanently injured, and all recovered, the organizers said.)
Saturday, April 23, marked the worldwide premiere of this—how to describe it?—combination of film clips, live music, and other media, which sought to remind attendees on a sensory, gut-wrenching level of the sheer, devastating, overwhelming power of nuclear weaponry, at a time when there is talk of a Cold War 2.0 and the United States is poised to spend more than $1 trillion on new weapons systems. When reading articles that contain terms such as “megatonnage,” “multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles,” and “collateral damage,” it is easy to forget that there would be very real, living human beings on the receiving end of a nuclear attack; this multimedia installation seeks to obliterate such forgetfulness.
The performance combines the senses of sight, sound—and to some extent even touch and smell—to get across the raw physical impact of the explosion of a nuclear bomb. I could feel the floor vibrate from the gigantic speakers as images of atomic bomb tests fill the 15-foot-tall, wrap-around screens in the grand atrium of a darkened Gotham Hall, at 36th Street and Broadway in Manhattan. At times, the air was dense with clouds created by smoke machines. Overall, the effect is one of standing inside the 21st-century version of a giant, old-fashioned cyclorama while weapons explode.
“We wanted to create as close to a live experience as we could get,” one of The Bomb’s co-creators, independent film-maker Smriti Keshari, said during a panel discussion earlier that day about the piece—which was performed on the closing weekend of the annual, 11-day long, Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. “By showing things like bomb blasts, footage of live animal tests at blast sites, and adding music, we wanted to get people to understand what these things are about on an emotional level. And by also including images of pristine nuclear missiles in military parades in places like Red Square, we also wanted to show the seductive power of the technology—and there is something seductive to the power they represent. That’s why countries are drawn to these immoral weapons in the first place.”
Her co-creator, Eric Schlosser—author of Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, and a regular contributor to the Bulletin—agreed, and added that the lack of a traditional structure and the absence of any statistics was deliberate. “We didn’t want this to be like a lecture; we didn’t want the viewer to feel like they were having to take their medicine,” he said. “To succeed, an artistic endeavor like this shouldn’t be ponderous, but must be thrilling, if un-nerving … sort of like what Doctor Strangelove did a generation or two ago. And like Strangelove, we hope to at least create a national dialogue about nuclear weapons, which is the starting point for any change.”
Schlosser went on to add that there was a history of film having an impact on the country’s leadership: “The Day After was the the most widely watch film in television history. Ronald Reagan saw it, and he said it was what transformed him from a Cold Warrior.”
Not exactly a documentary—The Bomb has no narration, except for intermittent short voice-overs from incongruously upbeat old 1950s “Duck and Cover” film clips—this production by Keshari and Schlosser contains short passages that are interrupted by count-downs, propaganda images, and short news clips, along with live music from the four-piece British band The Acid. In a few remarks made later at a reception, moderator Joe Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund described the event as being like a film version of a passage from a John Dos Passos novel. The Bomb, he said, marked “a resurgence of progressivism, and the anti-nuclear movement. It’s a new wave of artistic expression.”
The marble floors and high-ceilings of the venue where the premiere and the reception were held added to the sense of the surreal. Like many a Manhattan club, the front door was marked by a velvet rope guarded by large security figures armed with a wait list; inside the foyer came the red carpet, where a cluster of photographers snapped photos of arrivals. Beyond that: a sculpture made of wax impressions of human faces melting under the hot lights—a deliberate reference to the theme of the evening, said one of the sculptors, Erica Efstraoudakis, a graduate student in industrial design at the Rhode Island School of Design. “As the wax melts, it erases the identities of the human faces, much like what these bombs do,” she said.
And what was the impression of attendees?
“It’s not the usual thing for the three of us to do on a Saturday night,” Lauren Mariani said outside the hall immediately after the show, while her 20-something girlfriends got some air. “It’s very powerful, but I wouldn’t exactly say that I enjoyed it … that’s not the right word. It’s a lot like going to the 9/11 Museum; I’m glad I went. I’m grateful for the experience. It makes you think.”
Editor’s note: There are plans for The Bomb event to be held in San Francisco, Paris, London, Berlin, and Sydney. More information can be found here.
Right after watching the apocalyptic nuclear war film The Day After, President Reagan wrote in his diary that it was “very effective” and left him “greatly depressed.” He would eventually push nuclear disarmament to the top of his agenda midway through his presidency. With the same goal in mind, the Tribeca Film Festival will premiere Command and Control in the hope of engaging viewers in a debate about the future use of nuclear weapons. This high-stakes documentary thriller—based on Eric Schlosser’s 2013 book of the same name and directed by Robert Kenner (who brought us Food, Inc.)—offers a distressing account of the imminent risks posed by nuclear weapons. The author, an investigative journalist, questions their safety and believes that the world is at risk of experiencing a nuclear catastrophe, whether intended or not.
If our fears around nuclear weapons have dissipated, it could possibly be attributed to the doctrine of “mutual assured destruction.” Throughout the Cold War nuclear, proliferation fueled political instability and diplomatic tensions. At the time, the fear of nuclear warfare sparked worldwide demonstrations, drawing hundreds of thousands of anti-nuclear protestors to the streets of American cities. The doctrine of mutual assured destruction (otherwise known as the MAD scenario)—whereby two states with a second strike nuclear capability would never engage in nuclear warfare to prevent their mutual demise—prevailed, and the fear of nuclear weapons seems to have waned slightly in the Western hemisphere. Schlosser argues we have become complacent about nuclear weapons by forgetting how close we have been to nuclear war in the past.
And yet, in the words of famous anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott, “nuclear proliferation is a threat as great as climate change.” On the surface, progress has been made in regard to nuclear disarmament in the last decades. As the International Atomic Energy Agency contends, if not for the Non-Proliferation Treaty (an international treaty that was established to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology), 35 to 40 states would have successful nuclear programs by now. Only nine do. This includes the five permanent members of the UN Security Council—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty)—along with India, Pakistan, and North Korea (who never signed the treaty). Several countries such as Brazil, South Korea, and Argentina initiated nuclear efforts before renouncing them altogether. The international community has suspected proliferation activity in Iraq and Iran. Finally, South Africa, Libya, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Belarus have dismantled their nuclear arsenals.
But if we take a closer look, it’s evident that the international community and more directly the five nuclear powers have been unable to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Nuclear proliferation, therefore, continues to drive profound geopolitical instability, as illustrated by the UN Security Council’s relentless efforts to reach an agreement with Iran on the future of its nuclear program. These negotiations should serve as a pressing reminder that governments have, at the push of a button, the firepower to wipe out entire cities.
What’s even more alarming is that most conflicts today are triggered by non-state actors. And according to Michael Horowitz of the University of Pennsylvania, leaders with revolutionary pasts have a greater propensity toward seeking nuclear capability. In North Korea, for instance, Kim Jong-Un has pursued a nuclear program at the expense of the country’s ailing economy. He approved the country’s fourth nuclear test in January 2015 in defiance of UN sanctions and just last week attempted the launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile.
Non-state actors are not the only concern. The miniaturization of nuclear equipment and other technological advances have facilitated the potential acquisition of nuclear weapons by terrorist groups, organized crime networks, and rebel movements. Nuclear weapons of all kinds were abandoned across a staggering landmass roughly the size of Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union, leaving a thriving black market in Eastern Europe. This has arguably been the most serious consequence of nuclear proliferation, as terrorist groups, including ISIS, actively seek radioactive materials to produce “dirty bombs.”
While attention has been paid to the potential threat that terrorists equipped with nuclear weapons could pose, there has been less discussion of the possible scenario of a terrorist attack on nuclear sites. A strike on a nuclear power plant would unleash a wave of highly toxic radiation. An article in the New York Times suggests that several nuclear sites across Europe remain vulnerable, including several in Belgium and France, where ISIS recently perpetrated devastating attacks.
In Command and Control, Schlosser not only calls attention to the potential global threats posed by nuclear weapons but also highlights the very real and present danger of nuclear accidents. In the course of the film, he sheds light on a nuclear incident that up until the publication of his book had been concealed from the general public. In 1980, during a routine maintenance check on a warhead buried deep underground in Damascus, Arkansas, one of the nuclear technicians accidentally dropped a socket, which fell deep into the belly of the silo where the warhead was housed, knocking a hole in its side. The damage caused a leak of toxic and potentially explosive fuel that could have set the bomb itself off. The movie features chilling testimonies from military experts and missile technicians who expose the shortcomings of the American nuclear management system that led to the accident.
For Schlosser, our current nuclear technology leaves no room for human error, yet as First Lieutenant Allan Childers notes in the film, “when you’re working on a weapon of mass destruction, you’re counting on everything to work perfect all the time—and things just don’t work perfect all the time.”
Much has been done in the United States to raise awareness about the dangers of nuclear proliferation but the perception that nuclear weapons make us safer is still widespread. The Stanley Foundation, a nonprofit public-policy institute recently published a report outlining a series of rational arguments to counter our fear of the potential security threats posed by disarmament. The report presents empirical evidence of the link between proliferation and nuclear accidents rather than citing the moral obligation of the United States to disarm. The 25-page paper contends that the continuous threat of terrorism has made Americans anxious over the issue of nuclear proliferation and keen to preserve the “ultimate weapon.” Similar to people who support our Second Amendment right to bear arms, proponents of nuclear weapons view them as a deterrent against other nuclear weapons. Ultimately, a reframing of this debate must entail a clear understanding that nuclear weapons are a threat in and of themselves.
The feedback loop, in which instability promotes proliferation, brings into sharp focus the need to promote nuclear disarmament. As Peter Maurer, the president of the Red Cross, put it in a 2015 speech: “Nuclear weapons are often presented as promoting security, particularly during times of international instability. But weapons that risk catastrophic and irreversible humanitarian consequences cannot seriously be viewed as protecting civilians or humanity as a whole.”
Much like Reagan’s presidency in 1981, Obama’s was still in its infancy when he resolved to foster a world of peace and security, free of nuclear weapons. Additionally, he recently hosted 50 world leaders and four international organizations for the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, which mainly dealt with preventing global nuclear terrorism. In his closing statement, President Obama lauded efforts by the international community to remove and secure “all the highly enriched uranium and plutonium from more than fifty facilities in thirty countries”. He recognized, however, that the United States and Russia were not showing enough leadership in the disarmament process and warned against rivalrous nuclear escalation between India and Pakistan.
It’s clear that the road to disarmament will be paved with obstacles, but if there is one thing that Command and Control leaves the viewer with, it is a lasting understanding of the ever present danger caused by the mere existence of these powerful weapons.
VICE is a supporting editorial partner of the Tribeca Film Festival and invites you to experience the bomb.
Humanitarian Pledge 127 nations / UN votes
For the text of the pledge and a running total of what countries have signed on:
The following is a New York Times editorial
The Opinion Pages | Editorial
From Hiroshima to a Nuke-Free World
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD APRIL 12, 2016
What Secretary of State John Kerry called his “gut wrenching” visit to the Hiroshima war memorial on Monday served several purposes. As the highest-ranking official in an American administration ever to visit the site, he paid respects to the victims of one of the most devastating acts of World War II and reflected on how Japan and the United States have forged a strong alliance over the past 70 years. He also emphasized that “war must never be the first resort” and urged a continued push for a world free from nuclear weapons.
For years, top American officials did not visit the memorial because of sensitivities over the nuclear attacks by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that killed 200,000 people, mostly civilians. Now that Mr. Kerry has paved the way, there should be nothing keeping President Obama from becoming the first American president to stop at Hiroshima when he travels to Japan next month for a meeting of the Group of 7 leaders. But he should be prepared to offer some tangible new initiative to keep alive his flagging vision of a nuclear-free world.
Mr. Obama created big expectations in his first term when he endorsed the ambitious goal of a world without nuclear weapons. It is necessary to “ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change,” he said in a speech in Prague in 2009. He has achieved some important measures, most notably the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which has significantly curbed Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, and the 2010 New Start treaty mandating cuts in the number of strategic nuclear warheads deployed by the United States and Russia to 1,550 warheads each.
More progress, however, has been stymied in part because Russia, led by an increasingly aggressive Vladimir Putin, has thwarted talks on further nuclear arms reductions. The Republican-led Senate has refused to consider ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. And Pakistan has blocked international negotiations on a treaty banning fissile material production.
But Mr. Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 largely because of his nuclear agenda, has failed to take advantage of opportunities for bolder action. He has not gotten China, India and Pakistan into talks aimed at halting the growth of their nuclear arsenals, or taken American nuclear weapons off alert. His support for a $1 trillion program to replace America’s aging nuclear weapons severely undercuts his lofty words about a “world without nuclear weapons.”
Mr. Obama still has time to promote his antinuclear legacy with small but doable advances. He should cancel the new air-launched, nuclear-armed cruise missile. He should work to persuade the United Nations Security Council to endorse the nuclear test moratorium that all countries but North Korea observe, even though the test ban treaty has never formally taken effect, and push to have the United Nations organization that monitors testing be made permanent. If President Obama does visit Hiroshima, he needs to make it count.
Tritium may not penetrate plastic but goes everywhere H20 goes in the body. It can cross the blood brain barrier, the placental barrier, and is a known carcinogen. Just because they don’t know what to do with it doesn’t mean it’s ok to just release it. Something the nuclear industry is perfectly aware of.
TOKYO — To dump or not to dump a little-discussed substance is the question brewing in Japan as it grapples with the aftermath of the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima five years ago. The substance is tritium.
The radioactive material is nearly impossible to remove from the huge quantities of water used to cool melted-down reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, which was wrecked by the massive tsunami in northeastern Japan in March 2011.
The water is still accumulating since 300 tons are needed every day to keep the reactors chilled. Some is leaking into the ocean.
Huge tanks lined up around the plant, at last count 1,000 of them, each hold hundreds of tons of water that have been cleansed of radioactive cesium and strontium but not of tritium.
Ridding water of tritium has been carried out in laboratories. But it’s an effort that would be extremely costly at the scale required for the Fukushima plant, which sits on the Pacific coast. Many scientists argue it isn’t worth it and say the risks of dumping the tritium-laced water into the sea are minimal.
Their calls to simply release the water into the Pacific Ocean are alarming many in Japan and elsewhere.
Rosa Yang, a nuclear expert at the Electric Power Research Institute, based in Palo Alto, California, who advises Japan on decommissioning reactors, believes the public angst is uncalled for. She says a Japanese government official should simply get up in public and drink water from one of the tanks to convince people it’s safe.
But the line between safe and unsafe radiation is murky, and children are more susceptible to radiation-linked illness. Tritium goes directly into soft tissues and organs of the human body, potentially increasing the risks of cancer and other sicknesses.
“Any exposure to tritium radiation could pose some health risk. This risk increases with prolonged exposure, and health risks include increased occurrence of cancer,” said Robert Daguillard, a spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The agency is trying to minimize the tritium from U.S. nuclear facilities that escapes into drinking water.
Right after the March 2011 disaster, many in Japan panicked, some even moving overseas although they lived hundreds of miles (kilometers) away from the Fukushima no-go zone. By now, concern has settled to the extent that some worry the lessons from the disaster are being forgotten.
Tritium may be the least of Japan’s worries. Much hazardous work remains to keep the plant stabilized, and new technology is needed for decommissioning the plant’s reactors and containing massive radioactive contamination.
The ranks of Japan’s anti-nuclear activists have been growing since the March 2011 accident, and many oppose releasing water with tritium into the sea. They argue that even if tritium’s radiation is weaker than strontium or cesium, it should be removed, and that good methods should be devised to do that.
Japan’s fisheries organization has repeatedly expressed concerns over the issue. News of a release of the water could devastate local fisheries just as communities in northeastern Japan struggle to recover from the 2011 disasters.
An isotope of hydrogen, or radioactive hydrogen, tritium exists in water form, and so like water can evaporate, although it is not known how much tritium escaped into the atmosphere from Fukushima as gas from explosions.
The amount of tritium in the contaminated water stored at Fukushima Dai-ichi is estimated at 3.4 peta becquerels, or 34 with a mind-boggling 14 zeros after it.
But theoretically collected in one place, it would amount to just 57 milliliters, or about the amount of liquid in a couple of espresso cups — a minuscule quantity in the overall masses of water.
To illustrate that point, Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, showed reporters a small bottle half-filled with blue water that was the equivalent of 57 milliliters.
Public distrust is running so high after the Fukushima accident that Tokyo Electric Power Co., or TEPCO, the utility that operates the Fukushima plant and oversees its decommissioning, has mostly kept quiet about the tritium, pending a political decision on releasing the water.
Privately, they say it will have to be released, but they can’t say that outright.
What will be released from Fukushima will be well below the global standard allowed for tritium in the water, say Tanaka and others favoring its release, which is likely to come gradually later this year, not all at once.
Proponents of releasing the tritium water argue that tritium already is in the natural environment, coming from the sun and from water containing tritium that is routinely released at nuclear plants around the world.
“Tritium is so weak in its radioactivity it won’t penetrate plastic wrapping,” said Tanaka.
Very insightful article by Jacqueline Cabasso of Western States Legal Foundation in Oakland.
For video, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7C_mKtd5x50&feature=youtu.be
By Ralph Hutchison of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Allowance, March 31, 2016.
The Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC has unleashed a spate of editorials, letters, interviews, broadcasts, podcasts, tweets and posts about nuclear weapons. As an activist who has worked for nuclear disarmament for thirty years, it is gratifying to see the issue getting some notice.
Unfortunately, that’s about where the gratification ends. I live twenty-two miles from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where the US government is, right now, cranking out thermonuclear highly enriched uranium cores for W76-1 warheads as part of the Stockpile Life Extension program which is almost exactly what it sounds like—except they don’t just extend the life of the warhead for another 40-100 years, they also modify and upgrade it to introduce new military capabilities. They’ve been building these components in Oak Ridge ever since the country went thermonuclear in 1949.
This is the new global arms race. It’s not something that might happen in the future. It is already happening, right now, though you haven’t heard about it because the headlines are about terrorism, global warming and Donald Trump—all legitimate worries, to be sure. But the idea that a new nuclear arms race can take place under the radar is legitimately terrifying.
At the Security Summit, and in his Washington Post editorial piece, President Obama noted the gains made during his administration while recognizing there are still challenges to be met. If you don’t know any more about it than what you are reading in the newspaper, you might think the US is ever-so-slowly, incrementally, moving toward the world free of nuclear weapons Obama embraced in 2009, for which he was prematurely gifted with a Nobel Peace Prize. Obama says we are taking concrete steps. He brazenly claims we are strengthening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime.
What is not being mentioned so much is the stark reality of this: over the next thirty years, the United States will spend one trillion dollars to upgrade its nuclear force—new warheads, new bombs, new submarines, new jets, new missiles, new bomb plants—from the ground up we are pursuing an entirely new nuclear capability.
Strengthening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime? The US has rebuffed calls by non-nuclear nations to deliver on the promise we made in 1969, when the Treaty was signed, to pursue complete disarmament “at an early date.” A global movement to outlaw nuclear weapons has been building over the last two years—the US is not taking part. The Marshall Islands, victims of nuclear test blasts for decades, brought suit against the nuclear weapons states in the World Court last year—the US has turned its back on the court and refused to participate. Why? Why not go to the World Court, Mr. President, and present your grand work to strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime, and let your actions be your defense?
Some of us know why. We’re the ones who have been tracking this issue for decades. We’ve heard all your speeches, but we’ve also seen what’s happened on your watch. And actions, as they say, speak louder than words.
The new global nuclear arms race is not news to some of us in Tennessee because we are at Ground Zero of the whole thing. Here, in Oak Ridge, the government is planning a new bomb plant, called the Uranium Processing Facility, at the same complex we used to enriched the uranium fuel for the Little Boy bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. It’s even still called by its Manhattan Project code name, Y-12. You can look it up. This new bomb plant, the UPF, will be the flagship of the new, “modernized” nuclear weapons complex—did you tell everyone at the Nuclear Security Summit you were investing billions in bomb plants to expand our nation’s nuclear weapon production capacity, Mr. President?
I say “planning a new bomb plant” because they have spent almost 3 billion dollars designing the UPF bomb plant and they don’t have a design yet. It will cost many more billions to actually build it, if they do. Citizens here have been working for ten years to stop them, and so far, so good. But the toughest work is still to come.
So the Obama Administration is using the occasion of the Security Summit to tell you all its nuclear feel good stories. What they aren’t telling you is the raw truth that renders all of those accomplishments virtually meaningless. If they make you feel good, great. But don’t be fooled by your feelings, because they aren’t the truth—and we ignore the truth at our failure.
I saw a wee bit of coverage of the Nuclear Summit on CSPAN-2 today, and at the close the moderator used the perfect phrase to describe what we get if we ignore the truth—catastrophic consequences.
The truth is the United States is investing a trillion dollars on nuclear weapons, starting with new bomb production plants and ending with new missiles to carry new warheads to targets halfway around the world. In response—I say that because we are the ones leading this arms race—Russia and China are moving to upgrade their arsenals as well. Every day, the nuclear threat is growing. And every dollar spent on it is, in the words of Dwight Eisenhower, the theft of a slice of bread from a child who is hungry and is not fed.
A trillion dollars will buy a lot of bread. Or build a lot of homes. Or create a lot of jobs. Or hire a lot of teachers, repair a lot of bridges, provide a lot of health care. But it won’t if it is used to build bomb plants, then missiles, which will be buried in silos, and loaded on submarines where they will sit, brooding, waiting, tempting the men (and very few women) in power, threatening the lives of our children and their children, holding the earth itself in harm’s way.
When the President described the challenges still facing us he pointed his finger at Russia, then at North Korea. Here’s what he said we need to do: Negotiate to reduce—not eliminate, just reduce—our stockpiles further. We know he thinks something like 1,000 is an appropriate number to scare the rest of the world into thinking twice before attacking us (except for suicide bombers, but who would be crazy enough to blow themselves up just to hurt the US?). And he said the US should ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty—a piece of paper, just like the Nonproliferation Treaty we’ve been ignoring since 1970. When then-President Clinton signed the CTBT he congratulated himself on his great gesture then noted, just in case anyone wondered, that we fully intended to abide by the treaty unless we decided it was in our supreme national interest not to. In other words, the treaty ultimately meant nothing.
This is the world we live in. To pretend otherwise is to deceive ourselves. If we don’t object, we not only bear a moral responsibility akin to those who were bystanders during the holocaust, we rob ourselves and future generations of trillions of dollars that could be used to purchase true security—jobs, education, housing, health care— and we rob ourselves of our own self-respect because we know ourselves as those who threaten the utter and complete annihilation of others, and we rob ourselves and future generations of the peace and security that can never be ours as long as we maintain the ominous nuclear cloud over our children’s generation, and their children’s and on and on into the future until the day the bombs are used and there is no future anymore.