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John Pilger: On the Beach 2017

In Drones, Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on August 8, 2017 at 9:40 am

By John Pilger, Z Communications Daily Commentary
The US submarine captain says, “We’ve all got to die one day, some sooner and some later. The trouble always has been that you’re never ready, because you don’t know when it’s coming. Well, now we do know and there’s nothing to be done about it.”

He says he will be dead by September. It will take about a week to die, though no one can be sure. Animals live the longest.

The war was over in a month. The United States, Russia and China were the protagonists. It is not clear if it was started by accident or mistake. There was no victor. The northern hemisphere is contaminated and lifeless now.

A curtain of radioactivity is moving south towards Australia and New Zealand, southern Africa and South America. By September, the last cities, towns and villages will succumb. As in the north, most buildings will remain untouched, some illuminated by the last flickers of electric light.

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper

These lines from T.S. Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men appear at the beginning of Nevil Shute’s novel On the Beach, which left me close to tears. The endorsements on the cover said the same.

Published in 1957 at the height of the Cold War when too many writers were silent or cowed, it is a masterpiece. At first the language suggests a genteel relic; yet nothing I have read on nuclear war is as unyielding in its warning. No book is more urgent.

Some readers will remember the black and white Hollywood film starring Gregory Peck as the US Navy commander who takes his submarine to Australia to await the silent, formless spectre descending on the last of the living world.

I read On the Beach for the first time the other day, finishing it as the US Congress passed a law to wage economic war on Russia, the world’s second most lethal nuclear power. There was no justification for this insane vote, except the promise of plunder.

The “sanctions” are aimed at Europe, too, mainly Germany, which depends on Russian natural gas and on European companies that do legitimate business with Russia. In what passed for debate on Capitol Hill, the more garrulous senators left no doubt that the embargo was designed to force Europe to import expensive American gas.

Their main aim seems to be war – real war. No provocation as extreme can suggest anything else. They seem to crave it, even though Americans have little idea what war is. The Civil War of 1861-5 was the last on their mainland. War is what the United States does to others.

The only nation to have used nuclear weapons against human beings, they have since destroyed scores of governments, many of them democracies, and laid to waste whole societies – the million deaths in Iraq were a fraction of the carnage in Indo-China, which President Reagan called “a noble cause” and President Obama revised as the tragedy of an “exceptional people”He was not referring to the Vietnamese.

Filming last year at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, I overheard a National Parks Service guide lecturing a school party of young teenagers. “Listen up,” he said. “We lost 58,000 young soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your freedom.”

At a stroke, the truth was inverted. No freedom was defended. Freedom was destroyed. A peasant country was invaded and millions of its people were killed, maimed, dispossessed, poisoned; 60,000 of the invaders took their own lives. Listen up, indeed.

A lobotomy is performed on each generation. Facts are removed. History is excised and replaced by what Time magazine calls “an eternal present”. Harold Pinter described this as “manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force for universal good, a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis [which meant] that it never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”

Those who call themselves liberals or tendentiously “the left” are eager participants in this manipulation, and its brainwashing, which today revert to one name: Trump.

Trump is mad, a fascist, a dupe of Russia. He is also a gift for “liberal brains pickled in the formaldehyde of identity politics”, wrote Luciana Bohne memorably. The obsession with Trump the man — not Trump as a symptom and caricature of an enduring system – beckons great danger for all of us.

While they pursue their fossilised anti-Russia agendas, narcissistic media such as the Washington Post, the BBC and the Guardian suppress the essence of the most important political story of our time as they warmonger on a scale I cannot remember in my lifetime.

On 3 August, in contrast to the acreage the Guardian has given to drivel that the Russians conspired with Trump (reminiscent of the far-right smearing of John Kennedy as a “Soviet agent”), the paper buried, on page 16, news that the President of the United States was forced to sign a Congressional bill declaring economic war on Russia.

Unlike every other Trump signing, this was conducted in virtual secrecy and attached with a caveat from Trump himself that it was “clearly unconstitutional”.

A coup against the man in the White House is under way. This is not because he is an odious human being, but because he has consistently made clear he does not want war with Russia.

This glimpse of sanity, or simple pragmatism, is anathema to the “national security” managers who guard a system based on war, surveillance, armaments, threats and extreme capitalism. Martin Luther King called them “the greatest purveyors of violence in the world today”.

They have encircled Russia and China with missiles and a nuclear arsenal. They have used neo-Nazis to instal an unstable, aggressive regime on Russia’s “borderland” – the way through which Hitler invaded, causing the deaths of 27 million people. Their goal is to dismember the modern Russian Federation.

In response, “partnership” is a word used incessantly by Vladimir Putin — anything, it seems, that might halt an evangelical drive to war in the United States. Incredulity in Russia may have now turned to fear and perhaps a certain resolution. The Russians almost certainly have war-gamed nuclear counter strikes. Air-raid drills are not uncommon. Their history tells them to get ready.

The threat is simultaneous. Russia is first, China is next. The US has just completed a huge military exercise with Australia known as Talisman Sabre. They rehearsed a blockade of the Malacca Straits and the South China Sea, through which pass China’s economic lifelines.

The admiral commanding the US Pacific fleet said that, “if required”, he would nuke China. That he would say such a thing publicly in the current perfidious atmosphere begins to make fact of Nevil Shute’s fiction.

None of this is considered news. No connection is made as the bloodfest of Passchendaele a century ago is remembered. Honest reporting is no longer welcome in much of the media. Windbags, known as pundits, dominate: editors are infotainment or party line managers. Where there was once sub-editing, there is the liberation of axe-grinding clichés. Those journalists who do not comply are defenestrated.

The urgency has plenty of precedents. In my film, The Coming War on China, John Bordne, a member of a US Air Force missile combat crew based in Okinawa, Japan, describes how in 1962 – during the Cuban missile crisis – he and his colleagues were “told to launch all the missiles” from their silos.

Nuclear armed, the missiles were aimed at both China and Russia. A junior officer questioned this, and the order was eventually rescinded – but only after they were issued with service revolvers and ordered to shoot at others in a missile crew if they did not “stand down”.

At the height of the Cold War, the anti-communist hysteria in the United States was such that US officials who were on official business in China were accused of treason and sacked. In 1957 – the year Shute wrote On the Beach – no official in the State Department could speak the language of the world’s most populous nation. Mandarin speakers were purged under strictures now echoed in the Congressional bill that has just passed, aimed at Russia.

The bill was bipartisan. There is no fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. The terms “left” and “right” are meaningless. Most of America’s modern wars were started not by conservatives, but by liberal Democrats.

When Obama left office, he presided over a record seven wars, including America’s longest war and an unprecedented campaign of extrajudicial killings – murder – by drones.

In his last year, according to a Council on Foreign Relations study, Obama, the “reluctant liberal warrior”, dropped 26,171 bombs – three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day. Having pledged to help “rid the world” of nuclear weapons, the Nobel Peace Laureate built more nuclear warheads than any president since the Cold War.

Trump is a wimp by comparison. It was Obama – with his secretary of state Hillary Clinton at his side – who destroyed Libya as a modern state and launched the human stampede to Europe. At home, immigration groups knew him as the “deporter-in-chief”.

One of Obama’s last acts as president was to sign a bill that handed a record $618billion to the Pentagon, reflecting the soaring ascendancy of fascist militarism in the governance of the United States. Trump has endorsed this.

Buried in the detail was the establishment of a “Center for Information Analysis and Response”. This is a ministry of truth. It is tasked with providing an “official narrative of facts” that will prepare us for the real possibility of nuclear war – if we allow it.

What would happen if an 800-kiloton nuclear warhead detonated above midtown Manhattan?

In Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, War on August 8, 2017 at 8:00 am

By Steven Starr, Lynn Eden and Theodore A. Postol

Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles are believed to carry a total of approximately 1,000 strategic nuclear warheads that can hit the US less than 30 minutes after being launched. Of this total, about 700 warheads are rated at 800 kilotons; that is, each has the explosive power of 800,000 tons of TNT. What follows is a description of the consequences of the detonation of a single such warhead over midtown Manhattan, in the heart of New York City.

The initial fireball. The warhead would probably be detonated slightly more than a mile above the city, to maximize the damage created by its blast wave. Within a few tenths of millionths of a second after detonation, the center of the warhead would reach a temperature of roughly 200 million degrees Fahrenheit (about 100 million degrees Celsius), or about four to five times the temperature at the center of the sun.

A ball of superheated air would form, initiallly expanding outward at millions of miles per hour. It would act like a fast-moving piston on the surrounding air, compressing it at the edge of the fireball and creating a shockwave of vast size and power.

After one second, the fireball would be roughly a mile in diameter. It would have cooled from its initial temperature of many millions of degrees to about 16,000 degrees Fahrenheit, roughly 4,000 degrees hotter than the surface of the sun.

On a clear day with average weather conditions, the enormous heat and light from the fireball would almost instantly ignite fires over a total area of about 100 square miles.

Hurricane of fire. Within seconds after the detonation, fires set within a few miles of the fireball would burn violently. These fires would force gigantic masses of heated air to rise, drawing cooler air from surrounding areas toward the center of the fire zone from all directions.

As the massive winds drove flames into areas where fires had not yet fully developed,the fires set by the detonation would begin to merge. Within tens of minutes of the detonation, fires from near and far would join to form a single, gigantic fire. The energy released by this mass fire would be 15 to 50 times greater than the energy produced by the nuclear detonation.

The mass fire, or firestorm, would quickly increase in intensity, heating enormous volumes of air that would rise at speeds approaching 300 miles per hour. This chimney effect would pull cool air from outside the fire zone towards the center of the fire at speeds of hundreds of miles per hour. These superheated ground winds of more than hurricane force would further intensify the fire. At the edge of the fire zone, the winds would be powerful enough to uproot trees three feet in diameter and suck people from outside the fire into it.

The inrushing winds would drive the flames from burning buildings horizontally along the ground, filling city streets with flames and firebrands, breaking in doors and windows, and causing the fire to jump, sometimes hundreds of feet, swallowing anything not already violently combusting.

These above-hurricane-force ground winds would have average air temperatures well above the boiling point of water. The targeted area would be transformed into a huge hurricane of fire, producing a lethal environment throughout the entire fire zone.

Ground zero: Midtown Manhattan. The fireball would vaporize the structures directly below it and produce an immense blast wave and high-speed winds, crushing even heavily built concrete structures within a couple miles of ground zero. The blast would tear apart high-rise buildings and expose their contents to the solar temperatures; it would spread fires by exposing ignitable surfaces, releasing flammable materials, and dispersing burning materials.

At the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, the Chrysler Building, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, about one half to three quarters of a mile from ground zero, light from the fireball would melt asphalt in the streets, burn paint off walls, and melt metal surfaces within a half second of the detonation. Roughly one second later, the blast wave and 750-mile-per-hour winds would arrive, flattening buildings and tossing burning cars into the air like leaves in a windstorm. Throughout Midtown, the interiors of vehicles and buildings in line of sight of the fireball would explode into flames.

Slightly more than a mile from ground zero are the neighborhoods of Chelsea, Midtown East, and Lenox Hill, as well as the United Nations; at this distance, for a split second the fireball would shine 10,000 times brighter than a desert sun at noon. All combustible materials illuminated by the fireball would spew fire and black smoke.

Grass, vegetation, and leaves on trees would explode into flames; the surface of the ground would explode into superheated dust. Any flammable material inside buildings (paper, curtains, upholstery) that was directly exposed to the fireball would burst into flame. The surfaces of the bronze statues in front of the UN would melt; marble surfaces exposed to the fireball would crack, pop, and possibly evaporate.

At this distance from the fireball, it would take about four seconds for the blast wave to arrive. As it passed over, the blast wave would engulf all structures and crush them; it would generate ferocious winds of 400 to 500 miles per hour that would persist for a few seconds

The high winds would tear structural elements from buildings and cause them to disintegrate explosively into smaller pieces. Some of these pieces would become destructive projectiles, causing further damage. The superheated, dust-laden winds would be strong enough to overturn trucks and buses.

Two miles from ground zero, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with all its magnificent historical treasures, would be obliterated. Two and half miles from ground zero, in Lower Manhattan, the East Village, and Stuyvesant Town, the fireball would appear 2,700 times brighter than a desert sun at noon. There, thermal radiation would melt and warp aluminum surfaces, ignite the tires of autos, and turn exposed skin to charcoal, before the blast wave arrived and ripped apart the buildings.

Three to nine miles from ground zero. Midtown is bordered by the relatively wide Hudson and East rivers, and fires would start simultaneously in large areas on both sides of these waterways (that is, in Queens and Brooklyn as well as Jersey City and West New York). Although the direction of the fiery winds in regions near the river would be modified by the water, the overall wind pattern from these huge neighboring fire zones would be similar to that of a single mass fire, with its center at Midtown, Manhattan.

Three miles from ground zero, in Union City, New Jersey, and Astoria, Queens, the fireball would be as bright as 1,900 suns and deliver more than five times the thermal energy deposited at the perimeter of the mass fire at Hiroshima. In Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and in the Civic Center of Lower Manhattan, clothes worn by people in the direct line of sight of the fireball would burst into flames or melt, and uncovered skin would be charred, causing third-degree and fourth-degree burns.

It would take 12 to 14 seconds for the blast wave to travel three miles after the fireball’s initial flash of light. At this distance, the blast wave would last for about three seconds and be accompanied by winds of 200 to 300 miles per hour. Residential structures would be destroyed; high-rises would be at least heavily damaged.

Fires would rage everywhere within five miles of ground zero. At a distance of 5.35 miles from the detonation, the light flash from the fireball would deliver twice the thermal energy experienced at the edge of the mass fire at Hiroshima. In Jersey City and Cliffside Park, and in Woodside in Queens, on Governors Island and in Harlem, the light and heat to surfaces would approximate that created by 600 desert suns at noon.

Wind speed at this distance would be 70 to 100 miles per hour. Buildings of heavy construction would suffer little structural damage, but all exterior windows would be shattered, and non-supporting interior walls and doors would be severely damaged or blown down. Black smoke would effuse from wood houses as paint burned off surfaces and furnishings ignited.

Six to seven miles from ground zero, from Moonachie, New Jersey, to Crown Heights, Brooklyn, from Yankee Stadium to Corona, Queens and Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the fireball would appear 300 times brighter than the desert sun at noon. Anyone in the direct light of the fireball would suffer third degree burns to their exposed skin. The firestorm could engulf neighborhoods as far as seven miles away from ground zero, since these outlying areas would receive the same amount of heat as did the areas at the edge of the mass fire at Hiroshima.

Nine miles from ground zero, in Hackensack, Bayonne, and Englewood, New Jersey, as well as in Richmond Hill, Queens, and Flatlands, Brooklyn, the fireball would be about 100 times brighter than the sun, bright enough to cause first- and second-degree burns to those in line of sight. About 36 seconds after the fireball, the shockwave would arrive and knock out all the windows, along with many interior building walls and some doors.

No survivors. Within tens of minutes, everything within approximately five to seven miles of Midtown Manhattan would be engulfed by a gigantic firestorm. The fire zone would cover a total area of 90 to 152 square miles (230 to 389 square kilometers). The firestorm would rage for three to six hours. Air temperatures in the fire zone would likely average 400 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (200 to 260 Celsius).

After the fire burned out, the street pavement would be so hot that even tracked vehicles could not pass over it for days. Buried, unburned material from collapsed buildings throughout the fire zone could burst into flames when exposed to air—months after the firestorm had ended.

Those who tried to escape through the streets would have been incinerated by the hurricane-force winds filled with firebrands and flames. Even those able to find shelter in the lower-level sub-basements of massive buildings would likely suffocate from fire-generated gases or be cooked alive as their shelters heated to oven-like conditions.

The fire would extinguish all life and destroy almost everything else. Tens of miles downwind of the area of immediate destruction, radioactive fallout would begin to arrive within a few hours of the detonation.

But that is another story.

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from “City on Fire” by Lynn Eden, originally published in the January 2004 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

The Nuclear Ban Treaty

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on August 1, 2017 at 12:12 am

International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, eNews, August 2017

Approved on July 7 by a vote of 122 to 1 (Netherlands, the only NATO state to participate), with one abstention (Singapore), the nuclear ban treaty will open for signature on September 20 at the United Nations and will enter into force when 50 states have signed and ratified it.

The treaty prohibits the development, manufacture, possession, and use and threatened use of nuclear arms. There are several pathways for nuclear-armed states to join the treaty provided that they verifiably eliminate their arsenals (the US, UK, and France together declared that they will never join). There are also obligations of assistance to victims of nuclear use and testing and of environmental remediation of contaminated areas.

Origins and Significance

At a minimum, the nuclear ban treaty is a powerful and eloquent statement of the political, moral, and legal standards enjoining non-use and elimination of nuclear arms. It is grounded in an understanding of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear explosions, and innovatively acknowledges the suffering of the victims of the use of nuclear weapons (Hibakusha) and of their testing, as well as the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons activities on indigenous peoples.

At a maximum, the treaty will serve as a framework for the achievement of a world free of nuclear weapons. In this aspiration, it reflects the aim of the 1997 Model Nuclear Weapons Convention whose drafting LCNP coordinated. If the treaty is not itself used as such a framework, at least it points the way toward a convention – a comprehensive agreement on the permanent global elimination of nuclear arms.

The ban treaty effort grew out of conferences on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear explosions held in 2013 and 2014 in Oslo; Nayarit, Mexico; and Vienna. It has deeper roots in the formation of regional nuclear weapon free zones, starting with the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco establishing such a zone in Latin America and the Caribbean; in General Assembly resolutions, notably resolution 1653 of 1961, in which a sharply divided Assembly declared the use of nuclear weapons to violate the UN Charter and other international law; the General Assembly’s request to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on the legality of threat or use of nuclear weapons; and in persistent efforts by non-nuclear weapon states in Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review meetings to extract a commitment from the nuclear weapon states to commence a concrete process of negotiating disarmament. With the nuclear ban treaty, countries largely of the nuclear-weapon-free Global South, joined by Austria and Ireland, have escalated the struggle, declaring that nuclear weapons must be legally prohibited and eliminated as has been done with biological weapons, chemical weapons, landmines, and cluster munitions.

As the Japanese affiliate of IALANA has observed, a principal task now is to convince countries dependent on nuclear arms of the values and logic underlying the nuclear ban treaty. For reflections on the contradiction between the attachment of the world’s major powers and their closest allies to nuclear arms and the ban treaty, see this excellent piece by Richard Falk, a member of the LCNP Board of Directors, “Challenging Nuclearism: The Nuclear Ban Treaty Assessed.”

Elements

The nuclear ban treaty includes a number of the elements LCNP/IALANA advocated for in three conference working papers; in remarks LCNP Executive Director John Burroughs made when on two expert panels sponsored by the conference president, Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez of Costa Rica; and in civil society statements to the conference made by LCNP President Emeritus Peter Weiss, Consultative Council member Jacqueline Cabasso, and Burroughs.
Those elements include:
* a preambular reaffirmation of the need for all states at all times to comply with international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law
*a preambular recitation of relevant principles and rules of IHL, including the rule of distinction, the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks, the requirements of proportionality and precaution in attack, the prohibition of weapons that cause unnecessary suffering, and rules for protection of the environment
*a preambular recognition of the existing illegality of use of nuclear weapons under international humanitarian law;
* a prohibition of threatened use as well as use of nuclear weapons
* a preambular reaffirmation of the disarmament obligation as formulated by the International Court of Justice – “pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament”
It is likely that our advocacy made a difference as to inclusion of some elements, in particular the prohibition of threatened use. In his statement, Weiss observed: “Threat is the twin sister of deterrence. For what is deterrence, but the threat to use? … It cannot hurt to reaffirm a prohibition that would ensure the survival of the human race.” In a piece in the Nuclear Ban Daily published by Reaching Critical Will, Burroughs wrote: “As is the case with the prohibition of use of nuclear weapons, inclusion of a prohibition of threat of nuclear weapons would apply, reinforce, and specify existing law set forth in the UN Charter and international humanitarian law treaties and elaborated by the International Court of Justice in its advisory opinion on nuclear weapons. However, the application of existing law is complicated because it is not spelled out comprehensively in the UN Charter and in IHL treaties. Inclusion of a prohibition of threat of nuclear weapons would therefore provide desirable clarity.” Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute and a member of the LCNP Board of Directors, also made compelling comments on the immorality and illegality of using and threatening to use nuclear arms in a statement and in working papers.

Especially with the threat prohibition included, read as a whole the treaty repudiates ongoing reliance on ‘nuclear deterrence’ as an alleged basis for international security. For more on threat and deterrence, see this Japan Times story.

For background on issues before the negotiators, see Burroughs’ June Arms Control Today article. The adoption of the treaty generated some mainstream news coverage, including this New York Times story, “A Treaty Is Reached to Ban Nuclear Arms. Now Comes the Hard Part”.

Lawyers’ Letter on the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

At a nuclear ban treaty conference side event, we released the Lawyers’ Letter on the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons. It declares that “the nuclear ban treaty effort constitutes an important affirmation of the norms against nuclear weapons” and that the treaty will be a “major step towards negotiation of a comprehensive agreement on the achievement and permanent maintenance of a world free of nuclear arms.” It also observes: “People are capable of good-faith, law-guided, problem solving at all levels of society: family, neighborhood, national, international. Cooperative global systems have been devised for the protection of human rights, protection of the environment and prevention of climate change, prohibition of specific weapons, and more. These skills must now be applied to the next obvious step: the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.”

The now more than 500 signatories from more than 40 countries include Geoffrey Palmer, former Prime Minister of New Zealand; Herta Däubler-Gmelin, former Minister of Justice of Germany; and Phon van den Biesen, counsel before the International Court of Justice in Bosnia’s genocide case and the Marshall Islands’ nuclear disarmament cases. The letter has relevance beyond the negotiations, and we continue to urge members of the legal profession to sign it.

Looking Ahead

In the weeks and months to come, LCNP will analyze and publicize the principles and objectives of the nuclear ban treaty and support the efforts of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons to promote its early entry into force. And we will advocate vigorously with respect to US policy, including for:
Reaffirmation in the new Nuclear Posture Review now under preparation of US legal and policy commitments to the achievement of a world free of nuclear weapons, and endorsement of corresponding measures, including ending plans for acquisition of new, more capable, air-launched cruise missiles and land-based missiles. For our initial comment, see the IALANA statement made at this spring’s NPT PrepCom in Vienna, “Defend the Unequivocal Undertaking to Eliminate Nuclear Arsenals”.
Peaceful resolution of the US-North Korean confrontation, as set out in an LCNP statement authored by LCNP President Guy Quinlan. It calls on the United States to drop its insistence on a North Korean commitment to denuclearization as a precondition for negotiations. See also this insightful piece in Truthout by Andrew Lichterman, Senior Research Analyst, Western States Legal Foundation, and a member of the IALANA Board of Directors, “As the US Threatened North Korea, 122 Countries Voted to Ban Nuclear Weapons”.

 

Recommended Reading –
Humanization of Arms Control: Paving the Way for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons

In this new book published by Routledge Press, Daniel Rietiker, a lecturer at the University of Lausanne and a member of the IALANA Board of Directors, explores an alternative approach to nuclear disarmament focusing on the human dimension rather than on states’ security. He analyzes the positive experiences of the movements against chemical weapons, anti-personnel mines, and cluster munitions, and explores whether they can be replicated in the nuclear weapons field. He also examines the legality of use of nuclear weapons, with special attention to international human rights law, in light of developments since the 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice. The book can be ordered at http://www.routledge.com.

New nuclear ‘pit’ production at LANL is unnecessary

In Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Politics, Workplace exposure on July 22, 2017 at 8:45 am

By Jay Coghlan, Albuquerque Journal, July 21, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. — The Center for Public Integrity recently published a series of articles on nuclear safety lapses in plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos lab that captured a lot of national attention.
Plutonium pits are the fissile cores of nuclear weapons that initiate the thermonuclear detonation of modern weapons. The articles were largely based on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s annual contractor Performance Evaluation Reports. Those reports are publicly available only because Nuclear Watch New Mexico successfully sued for them in 2012.

The former plutonium pit production site, the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver, was shut down by a 1989 FBI raid investigating environmental crimes. A special grand jury indicted both Department of Energy (DOE) officials and the contractor, but a federal judge quashed the indictments at the urging of the local federal attorney general. It was only by sheer luck that a major plutonium fire on Mother’s Day 1969 didn’t contaminate Denver with highly carcinogenic plutonium.

I specifically recall senior DOE officials promising New Mexicans 20 years ago that serious lessons were learned from Rocky Flats and that re-established plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) would always be safe. Since then, the lab has spent billions of taxpayers’ money on plutonium pit production but, as the recent articles document, LANL still can’t do it safely.

As the articles reported, a serious nuclear criticality accident was narrowly averted in July 2011, which resulted in the three-year shutdown of LANL’s main plutonium facility. Nevertheless, according to the fiscal year 2011 LANL Performance Evaluation Report, the lab contractor was paid $50 million in pure profit for that year.

In 2014, a radioactive waste barrel improperly prepared by LANL ruptured underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), shutting down that multi-billion-dollar facility for nearly three years. Radioactive waste disposal at WIPP will remain constrained for years, raising the question of where future LANL bomb-making wastes will go.

Congress has required the Los Alamos lab to quadruple plutonium pit production, regardless of the technical needs of the stockpile. The requirement was drafted by professional staff on the House Armed Services Committee, one of whom was originally from the Sandia nuclear weapons lab.

That the existing stockpile doesn’t need pit production is demonstrated by the fact that none has been scheduled since 2011 when LANL finished up the production run that was stopped when Rocky Flats was shut down.

At NukeWatch’s request, former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) required an independent study of the lifetimes of pits. The expert conclusion was that plutonium pits last at least a century, more than double government estimates (the oldest pits in the stockpile are now around 45 years old). Moreover, there are some 20,000 existing plutonium pits stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas.

Future plutonium pit production is for a new so-called “Interoperable Warhead” that is supposed to function both as a land-based ICBM and a sub-launched nuclear warhead. The nuclear weapons labs are pushing this $13 billion make-work project that the Navy doesn’t want.

Ironically, new-design pits for the Interoperable Warhead may hurt national security because they cannot be tested in a full-scale nuclear weapons test or, alternatively, testing them would have severe international proliferation consequences.

Given all this, why expand plutonium pit production when apparently it can’t be done safely and may decrease, not increase, our national security? One strong reason is the huge contractor profits to be had under the $1 trillion-plus “modernization” of the nuclear weapons stockpile and production complex started under Obama, which Trump promises to expand. Far from just “modernization,” existing nuclear weapons are being given new military capabilities, despite denials at the highest levels of government.

The directors of the Livermore, Sandia and Los Alamos nuclear weapons labs in truth wear two hats – the first as lab directors, the second as presidents of the for-profit limited liability corporations running the labs. This inherent conflict of interest skews U.S. nuclear weapons policy and should be brought to an end.

The New Mexico congressional delegation kowtows to the nuclear weapons industry in our state. I specifically call upon Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich to certify within this calendar year that future plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos Lab will be safe, or otherwise end their support for it.

Jay Coghlan is the director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

 

Nuclear power for your home and business

In Climate change, Environment, Nonviolence, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere, Peace, Politics, War on July 20, 2017 at 8:36 am

Dear friends –

Regardless of any other public and career commitments each of us may have, it is now essential for everyone who is, or could be, involved in the public sphere to address themselves in one way or another to the global climate crisis.

We will review the reasons for this in the next Bulletin, if they are not already clear. In a letter to local members earlier this year we said,
Today, our long inaction in the face of converging environmental and social disasters requires us to consider our lives and actions…All that we are and do, and would do, must be weighed sub specie Terrae – from the perspective of Earth…[T]he biggest story and struggle of our time and our greatest, most salient struggles, lie in the nexus of climate, energy, economics, and environment. These connected crises have now thoroughly converged…We now need to anchor all our politics, including nuclear disarmament politics, in the work of saving our only home and the creatures in it, who have come this long way with us and made us who we are. This is not just “another issue.” It is the master predicament that we and our children are facing. (1/7/17)
One small part of our collective response deserves highlighting first, and all by itself for clarity’s sake, because it is so straightforward and has so many personal, political, and economic advantages (micro and macro – both).

I am talking about nuclear power. Fusion power, that long-sought miracle of energy abundance. For your home and business or those of your friends. From the sun.

As Los Alamos gadfly and peace activist Ed Grothus used to say, the reactor location is ideal, at 93 million miles away; the power output is essentially infinite; and the distribution is universal.

Solar energy is almost perfectly accessible – almost too good to be true, and much better than almost any alternative. Google’s Sunroof algorithms estimate that just our city, Albuquerque, has 188,000 roofs that are suitable for photovoltaic installations (93% of the total), with a combined potential capacity of 3.5 gigawatts. This is more than one-third of the total summer generation capacity in the whole state (8.4 GW). (About one quarter of NM’s electricity is exported). That’s just Albuquerque roofs. It does not include parking lots (many of which would benefit from solar shade structures), or all the suitable vacant land within and around the city, which together would dwarf the solar potential of the roofs alone.

The marginal cost of a solar kilowatt-hour is, once a solar generation facility is installed, zero. Nuclear-generated electricity finally is, in that sense, “too cheap to meter.” The cost is really a capital investment, not an operating expense, and a big hunk of it makes jobs and builds skills in your community.

We here at the Los Alamos Study Group are laser-focused on the political and social changes we can foster that will help save the planet and strengthen our communities. Especially now that it is cheap, and especially here in sunny New Mexico, solar energy is an enabling technology.

Solar energy is a core part of the Gandhian “constructive program” in our time and place. He emphasized that constructive program far more than nonviolent resistance. That program, and the radical simplicity that was and is a necessary part of it, is a face of the active nonviolence we need.

We need a lot of renewable energy – distributed renewable energy, with associated ownership, skills, and renewed community institutions – quickly. For some people and institutions, it will be a “gateway” (as in, “gateway drug,” but in a positive sense) to other transitions, personal and political.

In general, and of course with exceptions, we do not see the ephemeral, convenient protests that are habitual on the political left as being at all politically effective. (Long-term protests and true nonviolent resistance are quite another matter.) Organizing people to boycott as much planetary ecocide as possible – necessarily starting with one’s own household and business – would be far more effective than showing up for the typical protest.

Of course constructive action alone is not enough. Renewable energy, even 100% renewable energy, is not enough in itself to save the climate and halt the Sixth Great Extinction. We also need effective resistance. We need radical simplicity and connection with others.

But renewable energy is necessary; it is necessary now; it is necessary on a large scale; and it is necessary that it not be controlled by a few. The process of making this happen is politically potent and fruitful across the whole range of our converging crises.

Let me be very clear. We are asking you to consider adding solar generating capacity on your home or business. We think it is politically important.

As we said last year (Bulletin 226), the Study Group has chosen to have a financial “confluence of interest” in this transition, because we believe strongly in it. It is program and fundraising, both. We are working with two employee-owned New Mexico companies:
Positive Energy: very high efficiency, long-life, hassle-free solar guaranteed installations, including all permitting and paperwork. “Smart,” long-life, battery systems. $100 to LASG for any consultation (which are free to customers); an additional $400 with system installation.
McCune Solar Works: ultra-long life, low-cost PV modules and systems; systems tailored for renters; long-life, non-toxic battery systems; much more. Free consultations. $500 to the Study Group with system installation.
If you don’t live in New Mexico, that’s fine. We still want you to think about solar energy, for all the above reasons.
If you rent, there are ways of approaching the solar energy proposition that may work for you and your landlord.

More than this, we are asking you to become climate and solar “ambassadors,” educating and connecting with others about our climate crisis and undertaking to produce a concerted response in your own circles, which will include renewable energy, especially solar energy.

Some of you have very small electric bills, which is great. There are now cheap, small solar systems with easy-to-wire AC output, which may have demonstration value for others as well as yourself.

The federal investment tax credit is still 30% until the end of 2019. The credit applies to any necessary new roofing and to carports, parking lot structures, etc. Nonprofits and churches can create LLCs to benefit from these credits.

As a result of our summer climate and solar ambassador program, we know a little bit about this industry. Talk to one of us (at 505-265-1200) if you have questions, but we will want to connect you with the real pros, who can best analyze your situation in detail.

Greg and Trish, for the Los Alamos Study Group

Testing Fate: The Implications of Resumed Nuclear Weapons Testing

In Environment, Human rights, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 18, 2017 at 9:51 pm

By Joseph Rodgers, July 17, 2017

From 1945 to 1992, the United States conducted 1,032 nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere, under the ocean and below ground. These tests took their toll on the environment and communities downwind from test sites, with certain radioactive materials, such as Strontium-90, still measurable in our bodies.

In the quarter century since the last explosive nuclear test, cold war realities like “duck and cover” have faded from the public consciousness. To today’s young professionals, they seem quaint icons of a bygone era. However, while there is no technical requirement for a U.S. nuclear test, this 20th century pursuit is getting new consideration in the current administration. We would be well advised to examine the geopolitical context and the risks that would accompany any U.S. return to testing.

This past May, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) embarked on another review cycle to assess its status and implementation. During these negotiations in Vienna, the vast majority of states expressed strong support for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The verification regime created by the CTBT is one of the strongest in the world, involving over 321 International Monitoring Stations (IMS) and 16 laboratories that continually search for signs of nuclear testing. This sophisticated system of sensors has a variety of applications outside of the nuclear realm, ranging from tracking whale migration in the Indian Ocean to detecting asteroid impacts.

The United States signed the CTBT in 1996, but Congress has yet to ratify the treaty. Despite signing the CTBT, there is a small, yet growing, number of nuclear weapons aficionados in the United States calling for the resumption of a nuclear weapons test readiness posture and even the commencement of explosive testing itself. Testing nuclear weapons, and even allocating substantial money to test readiness, would undercut United States and international security.

North Korea remains the only country to have tested a nuclear weapon since 1998. The international community has strongly condemned North Korean testing as a violation of the testing taboo. If the United States resumes testing, we will lose a significant amount of international political leverage against the regime in Pyongyang.

There are other reasons why United States resumption of nuclear weapons testing would be a dangerous geopolitical move. Testing by the United States would almost certainly light an international fuse, triggering other states with nuclear weapons to resume testing. Russia is making substantial infrastructure investments at their old Novaya Zemlya testing facility, and could be expected to detonate a test soon after the United States does. China would likely follow. Additionally, India and Pakistan have collectively completed five nuclear weapons tests and would see new opportunities in renewed global testing. Of all the nuclear states, India and Pakistan have the most scientific knowledge to gain from a resumption of testing. A recommencement of nuclear testing would result in widespread environmental damage and a more dangerous, less politically stable world.

Arguments for renewed nuclear weapons testing by certain nuclear weapons experts, such as former Sandia National Lab President C. Paul Robinson, are appearing because the United States is planning to spend one trillion dollars modernizing every aspect of its nuclear arsenal.

This costly modernization project is aimed at enhancing nuclear weapons capabilities. For example, the B61-12 gravity bomb received a new guided tail kit, making the bomb more accurate. The W76-1/Mk4A warheads on the Trident II Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile received new arming, fuzing and firing mechanisms, dubbed “super fuzes”, significantly increasing their ability to destroy hardened targets. The Long Range Standoff Air Launched Cruise Missile is slated to receive new stealth capabilities.

Wholly new concepts are being considered, including warheads with launch “interoperability” from multiple platforms. The farther away the stockpile moves from pedigreed (certified) weapons into uncharted novelty designs, the louder the voices to resume explosive nuclear weapons testing will become. Instead, if a particular design change would introduce a significant uncertainty about its explosive reliability, that should be a “stop” sign, not a “blow it up to see what happens” signal.

Testing is unnecessary for the prudent maintenance of the modern United States nuclear arsenal. The existing Stockpile Stewardship program uses supercomputers that model nuclear explosions based off of the data collected from our 1,032 previous nuclear weapons tests. While our stockpile does not necessitate nuclear weapons testing, a resumption of testing would galvanize other states’ nuclear weapons programs.

If testing does recommence, the Nevada Test Site, where the majority of nuclear weapons detonated on United States soil occurred, is the facility most likely to be used. Nevada citizens should stand against nuclear weapons testing in their communities. Nuclear weapons testing should become a political third rail. Testing in Nevada would cause ecological devastation and carry an enormous economic cost. With Las Vegas just 80 miles away from the Nevada Test Site, tourism to Nevada would certainly decline.

Resuming nuclear weapons testing is politically untenable, internationally destabilizing, and environmentally catastrophic. Modernization of nuclear weapons by introducing novel design elements is provocative and is already contributing to an arms race. Testing will accelerate the nuclear dangers without commensurate benefit to the United States and will make our nation and the world less safe.

Joseph Rodgers is a Master’s Candidate in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS). Rodgers also serves as a Nuclear Policy Analyst at Tri-Valley CAREs, based in Livermore, California and as a Research Assistant at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at MIIS.

 

The US has dominated the world for too long and must learn to become a cooperative partner.

In Climate change, Environment, Human rights, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics on July 10, 2017 at 7:08 am

Popular Resistance Newsletter, July 9, 2017
The G-20 summit highlighted a transition in geopolitical power that has been developing for years. The process has escalated in recent months since President Trump took office, but its roots go much deeper than Trump. The United States is losing power, a multi-polar world is taking shape and people power is on the rise.

The G-20 bordered on being a G-19, with the US a loner on key issues of climate change, trade and migration. These are some of the biggest issues on the planet. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been saying lately “We as Europeans have to take our fate into our own hands.” This is an indication they no longer see the US as the leader or even a reliable partner on some issues. In a summation of the G-20, Politico writes: “Hamburg will also go down as a further mile marker in Europe’s slow emancipation from the U.S.”

The United States Loses World Power

At the same time that Europe is setting its own course, Russia and China have been moving toward each other and acting in tandem, often with positions opposite the United States. While Washington was trying to isolate Russia, it has been building new friendships and alliances.

Presidents Putin and Xi have met on more than 20 occasions over the past four years. Xi now refers to Russia as China’s foremost ally. In that time, the United States built a wall of bases and missiles around both countries, intruded on China’s maritime space in the Asia Pacific and fomented regime change in Ukraine to turn that country against Russia. US aggression is backfiring and creating a multi-polar world. After meeting with Russia, President Xi met with Chancellor Merkel to sign trade deals.

Presidents Putin and Xi met before the G-20 to continue to build their alliance. Putin and Xi made deals on trade agreements and energy sales, created a $10 billion joint investment fund and came to a common approach regarding North Korea. Their approach: “dialogue and negotiation”, coupled with firm opposition to the THAAD missile system being installed by the US in South Korea.

North Korea is another issue where the US is out of step with the world. While the US was lobbying for an aggressive confrontation with North Korea over nuclear weapons, other countries were not joining in and Russia and China were urging restraint and diplomacy. The Los Angeles Times reports “White House officials have been dismayed to see China and Russia teaming up to advocate for a ‘freeze for peace’ strategy in which North Korea agrees to stop moving forward with its nuclear weapons development, in exchange for the international community easing sanctions and making other concessions.” Even Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been a lap dog to the United States, called on China and Russia to help mediate the Korean crisis.

North Korea responded by calling the US’ action a dangerous provocation that could lead to nuclear war. “More of the same” will not only continue to raise tensions but misses a tremendous opportunity to transform the relationship with North Korea and end the Korean War. Russia sought to reduce tensions by providing the United Nations with information demonstrating North Korea did not produce an ICBM, but only a mid-range missile. The world knows that North Korea is not the real threat to world peace, the United States is the problem, as William Boardman explains.Instead of diplomacy, President Trump sent B-1 Lancer bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons toward the North Korean border where they released 2,000 pound inert bombs. Others in Congress are suggesting more economic sanctions, including sanctions that will negatively impact China and other countries. These actions are driving North Korea to develop ICBM nuclear missiles in order to protect itself from the United States, and driving other nations away from the US.

President Moon, the new president of South Korea, wants a ‘sunshine policy’ of constructive engagement with North Korea, including building economic ties. Already divisions are showing between the US and South Korea, especially over the THAAD missile system. The system was rushed into Korea during the recent elections, despite Moon’s warnings. Moon has said that South Korea must take a lead role in reducing tensions. He ordered an investigation of bringing THAAD equipment into the country.

Globalization is Leaving the United States Behind

While Trump is calling for trade that puts America first, i.e. decreases the massive US trade deficit through trade protectionism, other countries are taking a different approach. Pepe Escobar reports “At the BRICS meeting on the sidelines of the G-20, they called for a more open global economy and for a rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system.”

Throughout the Obama term, trade negotiations were bogged down because the US was out of the mainstream, calling for greater transnational corporate power than other countries would accept. This was one reason why negotiations slowed and the TPP was killed under election year pressure that made the agreement toxic. Now Trump wants to be even more extreme in favoring US corporations.

As Finian Cunningham writes, the world understands US economic problems better than US leaders. He writes the world knows that US “trade imbalances with the rest of the world are not because of ‘rotten deals’, as Trump would have it, but rather because the American economy has ruined itself over many decades. The off-shoring of jobs by American corporations and gutting of American workers with poverty wages are part of it.”

Some Good News

One potential piece of good news this week was President Trump meeting with President Putin for more than two hours. The meeting overcame the Russia-phobia put forth by a barrage of anti-Putin, anti-Russian propaganda that has been produced for many years. The US desperately needs a positive relationship with Russia, not just to avoid conflict with a nuclear and economic power, but because the US is becoming isolated. While not a lot came out of this first meeting, it did provide a good start for the potential resolution of many conflicts – Syria, Ukraine, North Korea, Iran and nuclear weapons, to name a few.

The meeting produced a small step that could grow into a significant positive change. The US and Russia announced a ceasefire in part of southwestern Syria that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have been discussing for weeks. This could allow the US to play a positive role in Syria, in a war it has been losing.

But, this is also a test for President Trump – is he in control of the US government? Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst for 27 years, who led the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and gave the daily intelligence briefing to multiple presidents, asks whether the Trump-Tillerson ceasefire will survive better than an Obama-Kerry ceasefire also negotiated with Putin-Lavrov. In the Obama case, four days into the ceasefire, the US air force attacked Syrian troops, sabotaging the agreement. McGovern asks two questions critical to the lives of Syrians and the future of Europe and the Middle East:

“Will the forces that sabotaged previous ceasefire agreements in Syria succeed in doing so again, all the better to keep alive the ‘regime change’ dreams of the neoconservatives and liberal interventionists?”

“Or will President Trump succeed where President Obama failed by bringing the U.S. military and intelligence bureaucracies into line behind a ceasefire rather than allowing insubordination to win out?”

The RussiaGate myth was the top priority of the media and bi-partisans. While the propaganda on alleged Russia interference continues, the US political class ignores the positive potential of the cease fire in Syria, closes its eyes to the potential undermining of the agreement by the Pentagon and talks about the myth that Russia elected Trump. As each new RussiaGate myth is published, it is shown to be false.

People Over Profit

Finally, another lesson from the G-20, people around the world are angry at political leaders who are failing them, including Donald Trump for holding back urgent action on climate change, fed up with globalization that puts people’s needs far behind the profits of transnational corporations, and are demanding changes to a system that does not listen.

Protests began before the summit and grew in size and anger as the summit progressed – always met with extreme police violence. The protests in Hamburg were large and loud. The rioting got a good deal of attention, but people also expressed their concerns on multiple issues. Srecko Horvat writes about the importance of protests to show opposition and power, but also the need to continue the work of building alternatives to the current failed systems.

A growing political movement is expressing what is so desperately needed. People look at world leaders posing in group photos and proclaiming successes as false emperors and empresses wearing no clothes. The realities are growing inequality, increasing impact from climate change and political systems that are less responsive to the people and more corrupted by transnational corporate power.

This new global alignment is a positive. The US has dominated the world for too long and must learn to become a cooperative partner. And as US power is waning on the world stage, there is an opening for people power in solidarity across borders to grow.

122 Nations Create Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons

In Environment, Human rights, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 9, 2017 at 2:38 am

By David Swanson

On Friday the United Nations concluded the creation of the first multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty in over 20 years, and the first treaty ever to ban all nuclear weapons. While 122 nations voted yes, the Netherlands voted no, Singapore abstained, and numerous nations didn’t show up at all.

The Netherlands, I’m told by Alice Slater, was compelled by public pressure on its parliament to show up. I don’t know what Singapore’s problem is. But the world’s nine nuclear nations, various aspiring nuclear nations, and military allies of nuclear nations boycotted.

The only nuclear country that had voted yes to begin the process of treaty-drafting now completed was North Korea. That North Korea is open to a world without nuclear weapons should be fantastic news to numerous U.S. officials and media pundits apparently suffering traumatic fear of a North Korean attack — or it would be fantastic news if the United States were not the leading advocate for expanded development, proliferation, and threat of the use of nuclear weapons. The U.S. ambassador even staged a press conference to denounce this treaty when its drafting was initiated.

Our job now, as citizens of this hapless world, is to lobby every government — including the Netherlands’ — to join and ratify the treaty. While it falls short on nuclear energy, it is a model law on nuclear weapons that sane human beings have been waiting for since the 1940s. Check it out:

Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to:

(a) Develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;

(b) Transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly or indirectly;

(c) Receive the transfer of or control over nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices directly or indirectly;

(d) Use or threaten to use nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;

(e) Assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Treaty;

(f) Seek or receive any assistance, in any way, from anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Treaty;

(g) Allow any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control.

Not bad, huh?

Of course this treaty will have to be expanded to include all nations. And the world will have to develop a respect for international law. Some nations, including North Korea and Russia and China, may be quite reluctant to give up their nuclear weapons even if the United States does so, as long as the United States maintains such enormous dominance in terms of non-nuclear military capacities and its pattern of launching aggressive wars. That’s why this treaty has to be part of a broader agenda of demilitarization and war abolition.

But this treaty is a big step in the right direction. When 122 countries declare something illegal, it is illegal on earth. That means investments in it are illegal. Complicity with it is illegal. Defense of it is shameful. Academic collaboration with it is disreputable. In other words, we have launched into a period of stigmatizing as something less than acceptable the act of preparing to annihilate all life on earth. And as we do that for nuclear war, we can build the groundwork for doing the same for all war.

 

UN NUCLEAR BAN TREATY COULD HEAL BROKEN US NUCLEAR WEAPONS POLICY, SAY US MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 8, 2017 at 12:38 am

NEW YORK, NY (July 7, 2017) – Despite a misguided boycott by the U.S. and other nuclear-armed countries, today the United Nations adopted a treaty banning nuclear weapons worldwide. Jeff Carter, the Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility – an organization that mobilizes health professionals to address the gravest dangers to human health – released the following statement:

“The adoption of the nuclear weapons ban treaty marks an historic turning point in the decades-old battle to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear weapons are suicidal, indiscriminate killing machines that risk delivering a catastrophic shock to our interconnected planet. Moreover, the ongoing development, production, and testing of these weapons continues to inflict grave health consequences to those communities across America that are host to noxious production sites and neglected radioactive waste.

“The ban treaty is a direly needed corrective measure that should motivate nuclear-armed countries to move more aggressively toward abolition. Right now, the U.S. government defies its existing disarmament obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty by planning to fund an extensive buildup of its nuclear arsenal. The ban treaty is the start of a new worldwide movement that gives the United States an opportunity to break from its self-destructive nuclear weapons policy.

“In the twenty-first century, we can no longer pretend that these doomsday devices are instruments of security. The active conscience of the American health community calls on the United States to sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty to ensure that we safeguard our world for the next generation. It’s past time that we part from this untenable path. Prohibiting and eliminating these weapons of mass destruction is the only responsible course of action for U.S. nuclear weapons policy.”

More than 130 nations participated in the negotiations. The nuclear ban treaty will enter into force after it is brought to the UN General Assembly and 50 nations ratify the treaty.

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Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) mobilizes medical professionals on issues that represent the gravest dangers to human health and survival. PSR’s grassroots network of activists contribute a public health framework to nuclear weapons and climate change policy at the local, federal, and international level.

PSR’s international federation, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, received the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.

Activists say moving prairie dogs to Rocky Flats could unearth plutonium

In Environment, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Plutonium, Politics, Public Health on July 7, 2017 at 8:49 am

BY ANICA PADILLA AND TAMMY VIGIL, Fox 31, Denver, July 6;, 2017

BOULDER, Colo. — Activists are threatening to sue over a proposal to relocate a colony of more than 200 prairie dogs from Longmont to the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge in Jefferson County.

In June, activists hoping to prevent the extermination of the colony told the Longmont Times the refuge was available as a receiving site.

Then, on Thursday, attorney Randall Weiner issued a statement saying the burrowing animals could bring plutonium buried underground to the surface and spread radioactive waste to surrounding areas.

Weiner stated that radioactive components were buried eight feet below the surface, well within range of prairie dogs.

“Prairie dogs and other burrowing animals can dig as far as 18 feet into the ground… and build surface mounds by accumulating dirt from below ground,” Weiner stated.

“There also are no barriers to prevent the prairie dogs from migrating back and forth between the Refuge and the Central Operable Unit, and then later leaving the site altogether,” Weiner continued.

Several groups have already filed a federal lawsuit to block construction of trails and a visitor’s center at the refuge because of environmental risks.

They are threatening more litigation if federal investigators don’t do an environmental assessment on the impacts of moving 200 prairie dogs to the site..

“Even the smallest speck is a huge danger to public health,” says Longmont resident and lawsuit plaintiff Jon Lipsky.

From 1952 to 1994, the Rocky Flats Plant produced nuclear and nonnuclear weapons, including plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons.

During that time, plutonium was leaked into the air, soil and water.

“Workplace accidents, spills, fires, emissions, leaking storage containers and day-to-day operations allowed plutonium and chemicals to be released from the plant site,” according to the State of Colorado website.

“In the middle of the refuge is a 1,300 acre Super Fund site. There are subsurface infrastructures, buildings, tunnels, pits, two open landfills,” says Lipsky, who headed the FBI raid on Rocky Flats in 1989 that led to its eventual closure.

Cleanup of contamination at the site began in the 1990s but concern about the long-term impacts on residents nearby remained.

In 2016, Metropolitan State University of Denver and Rocky Flats Downwinders conducted a health study that found people living downwind of the nuclear weapons plant faced more health problems.

Colorado’s Department of Health responded on behalf of U.S. Fish and Wildlife by saying: “…the lands that became the refuge were suitable for any and all uses. The extensive and expensive cleanup had reduced contaminant concentrations to well below levels of concern.”

The state says it also considered the potential disturbance from burrowing animals in its risk assessments.

But critics of the project don’t buy it.

“Nothing was treated below three feet. If I’m a fear-monger by bringing up the facts, then I’m being a fact-monger,” Lipsky said.

“They are ignoring the public and violating their health and safety when they do something like this,” said Weiner.

The Department of Justice hasn’t yet responded for a comment to the letter.

The Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge is set to open to the public in summer 2018.