Thursday, September 29, 2011

This Story Just Couldn't Wait

I'm currently working on the October issue of The Sunflower newsletter, which will be published on October 3. As with every issue of The Sunflower, this one is filled with important stories on key nuclear issues. But this story is so extraordinary, so brazen, that I just couldn't wait until Monday for people to read it.

Thanks to my colleagues in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, Tom Clements of Friends of the Earth and Ralph Hutchison of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, for breaking this story.


The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) have announced a plan to increase tritium production by 50% at the Watts Bar "civilian" nuclear power plant. Tritium is a key component of nuclear weapons, boosting the explosive power of fission and thermonuclear weapons.

In the announcement of the proposed 50% increase in production, NNSA also admitted that current tritium production is releasing three to four times the amount of tritium into the Tennessee River as originally estimated. NNSA also admits that tritium demand has been less than they originally expected.

Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, said, "Our use of commercial nuclear facilities to produce nuclear materials for weapons has sent a powerful, clear and dangerous signal to the rest of the world. It has undermined our efforts to constrain weapons production activities, crossed a once-impermeable boundary [between civilian and military facilities], and diminished our security."

Hutchison also said, "With the likely prospect of additional arms control agreements, and budget constraints leading to calls for a reduction in the bloated US strategic reserve (the 5,000 or so warheads we keep in the garage in case we ever use up our 1,500 deployed warheads and need more), the need for tritium will continue to decline. Still these agencies are proposing a 50% increase in production!"

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sept. 21: Peace 1, Nuclear Missiles 0

I just got word that the US Air Force has postponed the planned test of a Minuteman III nuclear missile. It was originally scheduled for September 21, the International Day of Peace. The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, together with organizations around the world and many thousands of our supporters, worked hard to register our ardent opposition to this test.

Of course there has been no government statement saying, "We were wrong to schedule this test on the International Day of Peace and now recognize the problems inherent in our continued reliance on missile testing and nuclear weapons." Nor will there ever be such a statement. But we should all be proud of our work against this test, and we must continue to spread the message that the only to stay safe from a nuclear attack is to implement a Nuclear Weapons Convention for the phased, verifiable, transparent and irreversible elimination of all nuclear weapons worldwide.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Anti-Nuclear Resisters in Court

I just got back from court. I went in support of two dedicated protestors, Father Louis Vitale and Dennis Apel, who were arrested at Vandenberg Air Force Base for "trespassing," even though they were in the designated protest zone the whole time. The whole "designated protest zone" concept is outrageous in and of itself, but for the base security to arrest these men on a public highway was nothing more than an attempt at intimidation.

The judge granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the case, so the charges have been dropped. The defendants and others plan to be back at Vandenberg on September 21 to protest the next nuclear missile launch on the International Day of Peace.

While the anti-nuclear resisters in California were let off by the legal system this time, a group in Tennessee is facing a more uphill battle. Below is an article by John LaForge that bears repeating:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Anomaly of Budget Increases in a "Debt Crisis"

We've all heard the Beltway mantra this year: "Cut the budget. Cut the budget."

When push comes to shove, what does this really mean? If powerful lawmakers can exempt extraordinarily wasteful and unnecessary projects from budget cuts while further slashing the already-meager budgets of other important projects that enhance society, what does that say about the priorities of those we have left in charge?

In an all-too-common display of pork politics, Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) has asked President Obama to declare a funding "anomaly" for a list of nuclear weapon programs. In the likely event that Congress can't agree on the FY2012 budget by October 1, the government will likely continue to run on a Continuing Resolution (CR), meaning that most programs will be funded at their 2011 level for the duration of the CR. The anomaly would fund certain parts of the nuclear weapons complex at the higher 2012 levels during the CR. This money would largely go to the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.

Heinrich is joined by Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), Chair of the House Armed Forces Strategic Forces subcommittee. In their letter to President Obama, the two lawmakers write that the anomaly is needed to keep "on track the tight schedule for infrastructure modernization and life extensions of our current warhead types."

Turner wrote In a recent blog post entitled To Remain a World Leader, U.S. Must Stop Mounting Debt, "If Congress and the President do not work together to stunt the unsustainable growth of our debt, the consequences will be grave."

Sorry, Rep. Turner. You can't have it both ways. Squandering billions on new nuclear weapons production facilities and stunting the unsustainable growth of our debt are not compatible. The only anomaly I see here is that such a request can be made by anyone with a straight face.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What Hypocrisy?

Breaking news from the United Nations Security Council: The United States, the UK, France and Germany have formally charged Iran with violating Security Council Resolution 1929, which bars Iran from undertaking ballistic missile activity. Apparently the activity in question is Iran's recent launch of its Rasad 1 satellite, which relies on ballistic missile technology.

Fair enough, right? I don't think Iran should be developing, testing or deploying ballistic missiles that are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

But wait! The US Air Force has scheduled its next test of its Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile for September 21 - the International Day of Peace. The US has test-fired the Minuteman III over 200 times since its introduction into the US nuclear arsenal in the 1970s. As David Krieger wrote in a recent opinion piece, "The US approach to nuclear-capable missile testing seems to be 'do as I say, not as I do.'  This is unlikely to hold up in the long run."

If the US, UK, France and Germany would spend as much time and energy pursuing the global conditions necessary for the abolition of all nuclear weapons as they do pursuing hypocritical UN Security Council resolutions, we would all be better off.

By the way, you can take action to oppose the September 21 launch of the US nuclear missile at this link.
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