Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Does Deterrence Really Deter?

Today's post is from Martin Hellman, friend of the NAPF and author of the blog Defusing the Nuclear Risk.  Martin is a Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University.

Calling nuclear deterrence by that name was a stroke of marketing genius for selling it to the public. Unfortunately, that stroke of genius was also a potential death sentence for us all by hiding another, more ominous aspect of this strategy.

To deter someone is “to discourage him from doing something, typically by instilling doubt or fear of the consequences.” Hence deterrence implies that it will work, that it will deter adversaries from calling our nuclear bluff.

To date, it has worked somewhat as advertised, though far from perfectly. If nuclear deterrence really worked, would the US have risked Soviet ire by deploying nuclear armed missiles in Turkey in 1961? And would Khrushchev have risked American ire by placing similar missiles in Cuba the next year? More recently, would the US have planned an Eastern European missile defense system that raised Russian ire, including a threat to respond by basing nuclear-armed bombers in Cuba?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sadako Peace Day Reminder

Nuclear Age Peace Foundation Director of Programs Rick Wayman will be the featured speaker at the 16th Annual Sadako Peace Day ceremony, Friday August 6, at the Sadako Peace Garden at La Casa de Maria, 800 El Bosque Road, between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.

His theme will be “Persistence and Dedication.” He will discuss the importance of working for a world free of nuclear weapons in spite of opposition – and why the support of many people is required for progress to be made towards nuclear weapons abolition. Wayman guides all programs at the Foundation – including worldwide efforts to educate and motivate people to work for nuclear disarmament.

The August 6th Sadako Peace Day ceremony will also feature poetry from several local poets, including Santa Barbara’s Poets Laureate Emeriti, Perie Longo and Barry Spacks and Glenna Luschei, Poet Laureate Emerita of San Luis Obispo. Bob Sedivy will provide beautiful, evocative music on the shakuhachi or traditional bamboo flute. And Janice Freeman-Bell will sing accompanied by Chris O’Connell on Native American flute.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The New START Debate: Fact vs. Fiction

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held another hearing on the New START Treaty Thursday afternoon; it focused on the risks and benefits of the bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Russia. Presenting witnesses included former U.S. Special Envoy for Nuclear Nonproliferation Ambassador Robert G. Joseph, former adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney and former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Eric S. Edelman, and Director of U.S. Advocacy for the Open Society Institute, Dr. Morton H. Halperin.

There were no real surprises at the hearing; Joseph and Edelman reiterated the same anti-START talking points, namely verification, missile defense, and counting measures. Halperin provided the only pro-START testimony during this particular hearing. Here’s what you need to know about the arguments surrounding ratification:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Partnership for a Secure America Publishes Statement on New START

The Partnership for a Secure America, an organization committed to restoring bipartisan dialogue and action on American national security and foreign policy, published a new statement on the ratification of the New START Treaty.  Thirty political figures from across the ideological spectrum, such as William Perry, George Shultz, and Madeline Albright, signed the statement, which urges the Senate to quickly ratify the new arms control agreement signed in April.  They acknowledge that the transparency measures provided by the treaty are key to national security, and that it:
  • Enhances stability, transparency and predictability between the world’s two largest nuclear powers, which together possess about 95 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons
  • Contains verification and inspection measures essential to U.S. national security and nuclear threat reduction as it relates to Russia's strategic nuclear weapons
  • Addresses our Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations and therefore assists in gaining cooperation from other countries on key nonproliferation priorities
  • Helps strengthen broader U.S.–Russia cooperation, which is important in responding to proliferation challenges from Iran and North Korea
  • Does not inhibit our ability to maintain an effective and reliable nuclear arsenal
  • Does not constrain our ability to develop and deploy missile defense systems.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New START vs. FY2011 Budget

In his Prague speech, President Obama proclaimed in order for the world to be free of nuclear weapons, the U.S. must spearhead a reduction of its nuclear arsenal. He won the hearts of many in the non-proliferation field when he stated that the U.S. would begin reducing its stockpile under his administration. How disheartening to us all, then, when we learned that his FY2011 budget reflected exactly the opposite. Far from committing funds for disarmament, he actually slashed the dismantlement program by 40%. By caving to conservative demands of modernization, Obama not only breaks his Prague promise, but acts against the spirit of New START.

New START is a follow-on to an agreement originally made between the U.S. and USSR to dismantle the relics of the Cold War, in order to build relations between the two adversaries, as well as reduce the risk of a nuclear accident. How strange then, that as the U.S. agrees to dismantle several hundred weapons with one hand, it funds the construction of weapons fuel facilities and Life Extension Programs (LEP) for aging arsenals with the other.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Scenarios For Nuclear Catastrophe

In a recent article that I wrote, “British Petroleum, Imagination and Nuclear Catastrophe,” I argued we should use the occasion of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to imagine scenarios in which a nuclear catastrophe could take place. The reason for imagining such scenarios should be obvious: to keep them from occurring.

Here is a proposition: Continued offshore oil drilling runs the risk of future offshore oil leak catastrophes that will destroy large aquatic and shoreline habitats. Applied to nuclear weapons, the proposition could be restated in this way: Continued reliance on nuclear weapons runs the risk of future nuclear catastrophes that will destroy cities, countries and civilization.

In my article, I proposed four of many possible scenarios that could be envisioned. These scenarios involved a terrorist bomb on a major city somewhere in the world; an Indo-Pakistan nuclear war; an accidental nuclear launch by Russia, leading to a nuclear exchange with the US; and a nuclear attack by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il on Japan and South Korea.

Testing 1,2,3 (4,5...)

What's up with all the nuclear missile testing lately by the US military? It's nothing new: they have been doing it for decades. But five tests in eight days? Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, and with a president who claims to (eventually) want a world free of nuclear weapons, this really is not what the world needs.

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, the US Navy fired four Trident 2 D-5 nuclear-capable missiles from the USS Maryland. Then, early this morning, the US Air Force fired a Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile from Vandenberg - just up the road from me in California - to Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The Navy really patted itself on the back about the "success" of the tests and the capabilities of their missiles that carry nuclear warheads around the world's oceans. In their press release, they lauded the Trident 2 D-5 missile for its "increased firepower [and] flexibility."

China-Pakistan Nuclear Deal Sparks U.S. Objection

The U.S. is still a global role model. It is important, therefore, that Washington pushes for compliance with international arms control agreements.  If the American government breaks the rules set out by these treaties, other nations will be emboldened to follow suit.  After the U.S. made a deal with India that violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), for example, China arranged to give two nuclear reactors to Pakistan, an agreement that also violated the treaty.  Given that the U.S. requires Beijing’s assistance in dealing with North Korea and Iran, many believed Washington would acquiesce to this deal. The Obama administration, however, now objects to China's nuclear commitment to Pakistan.

As a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), China is forbidden to export nuclear technology to non-members of the treaty, such as Pakistan. China argues that because work on two nuclear reactors for Pakistan occurred before it signed onto the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)—an organization responsible to monitoring nuclear trade—this action is “grandfathered.”

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Small Leak at Chinese Nuclear Plant Reported

According to the New York Times, China reported a small leak from one of their nuclear power plants. The Chinese government claims that sometime last month, trace amounts of radioactive iodine and noble gases leaked into cooling fluid. According to the utility company which reported the leak, international standards do not require the report of such small quantities.

Claims of a government cover-up abound. The nuclear plant, located on Daya Bay in Shenzhen—50km from Hong Kong, is a state-owned facility. The Chinese government was forced to admit to the leak following reports on Radio Free Asia—a month after the leak occurred on May 23, 2010.

Since the incident, the Hong Kong Observatory has tracked radiation levels at the plant, and has reported no abnormal readings.

Monday, June 14, 2010

David Krieger's Article for Common Dreams

Be sure to read David Krieger's latest article over at Common Dreams.  An excerpt is below:

Before the catastrophic British Petroleum oil gush in the Gulf of Mexico, there were environmentalists who warned that offshore drilling was fraught with risk - risk of exactly the type of environmental damage that is occurring. They were mocked by people who chanted slogans such as "Drill, baby, drill." Now it is clear that the "Drill, baby, drill" crowd was foolish and greedy. The economic wellbeing of people in and around the Gulf coast has been badly damaged and, for some, destroyed altogether. Aquatic and estuary life, in the Gulf and beyond, has fallen victim to an environmental disaster that was foreseeable with a modicum of vision and imagination.

Albert Einstein reached the conclusion that "Imagination is more important than knowledge." He said that "knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." Let us try applying our imaginations to nuclear weapons and nuclear war. Here are some scenarios:

NAPF's Paul Chappell on C-Span's BookTV

West Point graduate and Iraq War veteran Chappell spoke to a classroom of students at American University in Washington, DC. In this portion, the author discusses how soldiers have been trained to kill throughout history. This is a portion of a longer program that will appear on Book TV. Check for schedule information.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Countdown to Zero LA Movie Premiere

NAPF will hold an event for the LA premiere of the Lucy Walker's documentary Countdown to Zero.  It will premiere on July 30th in Hollywood, CA at Pacific ArcLight Hollywood 15.  We don't have the start time yet, but save the date!  You can check to see if the documentary is playing in your neighborhood hereView the trailer after the jump. 


COUNTDOWN TO ZERO traces the history of the atomic bomb from its origins to the present state of global affairs: nine nations possessing nuclear weapons capabilities with others racing to join them, with the world held in a delicate balance that could be shattered by an act of terrorism, failed diplomacy, or a simple accident. Written and directed by acclaimed documentarian Lucy Walker (The Devil’s Playground, Blindsight), the film features an array of important international statesmen, including President Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, Pervez Musharraf and Tony Blair. It makes a compelling case for worldwide nuclear disarmament, an issue more topical than ever with the Obama administration working to revive this goal today. The film was produced by Academy Award® winner and current nominee Lawrence Bender (Inglourious Basterds, An Inconvenient Truth) and developed, financed and executive produced by Participant Media, together with World Security Institute. Participant collaborated with Magnolia on last year’s Food, Inc., recently nominated for an Academy Award®, and the upcoming CASINO JACK and the United States of Money. Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann, Bruce Blair and Matt Brown are the film’s executive producers.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Watch Former Senator Sam Nunn on the Colbert Report

Watch Sam Nunn speak about the Nuclear Threat Initiative's new film Nuclear Tipping Point on last night's Colbert Report.  You can order the movie for free at

On the Report, Nunn explained how he, William Perry, George Shultz, and Henry Kissinger all believe that all nations must commit to a real schedule of nuclear disarmament, and how nuclear abolition is not incongruous with national security.  The former Senator also commented on the increasing threat of nuclear terrorism, to which Colbert proposed an alternative strategy...see how Nunn responds below.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Sam Nunn
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Irate Iran: How The Latest Round of Sanctions Will Not Curb The Iranian Nuclear Program

Earlier today, the United Nations passed a fourth round of sanctions against Iran in a vote 12-2, with only Brazil and Turkey dissenting (and Lebanon abstaining).  The sanctions are an attempt to curb Tehran’s nuclear program, which many in the international community believe Iran will use to manufacture a useable nuclear weapon. Iran has repeatedly disregarded UN demands to cease nuclear enrichment, even moving plants to secret locations to evade officials.  In defiance of the UN, Iran announced earlier this year that it would enrich uranium to 20%, as well as construct new nuclear facilities. Tehran has also shown continual intransigence regarding IAEA inspections and protocol. 

This latest round of sanctions includes increased measures against select individuals of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, increased security measures of vehicles coming from/going to Iran, and banning all nations from investing in Iranian nuclear technology.  Given that the three previous rounds of sanctions failed to have any lasting effect on Iranian nuclear efforts, it is highly unlikely that the latest round will make a dent, either.   

Former Senator Sam Nunn to Appear on Tonight's Colbert Report

The nation's favorite faux-pundit, Stephen Colbert, will host former Senator Sam Nunn tonight on his show The Colbert Report, on the Comedy Central network.  Along with CNN founder Ted Turner, Nunn co-chairs and is CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)--"a place of common ground where people with different ideological views are working together to close the gap between the global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and the global response."  One of the Senator's most important acts in Congress was the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program which gives aid to Russia and former Soviet Republics for the securement and destruction of nuclear, chemical, and biological materials.

Recently, Nunn--along with former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and former Secretary of Defense William Perry--appeared in the NTI documentary Nuclear Tipping Point.  In the film, the four men discuss why they co-authored two op-eds that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, which outlined a need for--and a plan on how to achieve--a world without nuclear weapons.

The Colbert Report airs at 11:30pm EST, and is re-aired the next day.

Mairead Maguire's "Tribute to the People of Gaza"

I never cease to be amazed at the power of the human spirit to survive. During my last visit to Gaza in October 2008 I was amazed and deeply moved by the power of the people I witnessed. In a triumph of hope over adversity and tremendous suffering, love still abides.

Gaza comprises a small strip of land 27 miles long and 6 miles wide. This coastal strip is bordered by Israel on the one side, the Mediterranean Sea on the other and to a lesser extent by Egypt at the southern end. With one and a half million inhabitants Gaza is the fifth most densely populated place on the planet, 50% of which are under the age of 18. Two thirds of the total population hold refugees status, and comprise the victims and their descendants of previous acts of Israeli aggression.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sadako Peace Day

Join us for music, reflection and poetry on August 6th, 2010 at 6pm at the Sadako Peace Garden, La Casa de Maria, 800 El Bosque Road, Montecito, CA.

The hour-long program will feature music from Janice Freeman-Bell and the haunting evocative sounds of the shakuhachi, or Japanese flute, played by Bob Sedivy.

The event is free and open to the public.

Positive Turnout at Saturday Vandenberg Air Force Base Protest

People from across California and Arizona gathered outside the front gate of Vandenberg Air Force Base on Saturday to observe Nuclear Abolition Day and to stand against ongoing tests of nuclear missiles and missile defense components.  At the corner of a busy highway, the demonstrators were visible to hundreds of passing cars.  Members of the NAPF were pleasantly surprised to witness the 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative gestures coming from drivers over the two hour period of the protest.

David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, spoke about the need for those working at the base to resist taking part in the Minuteman III missile tests because the tests are in violation of international law.  In 1996, the International Court of Justice ruled that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would be generally illegal.  Minuteman tests constitute a threat of use.  David also read three of his poems from his book Today Is Not a Good Day for War.  The poems focused on the theme of "silence."  He encouraged those in attendance at the protest to continue to speak out against the tests at Vandenberg, as well as militarism and nuclearism in general.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

June 5, Nuclear Weapons Abolition Day: Protest Missile Launch!

The Vandenberg Air Force Base announced that it will hold a missile defense test launch on Saturday, June 5.  Originally, the base was set to test a Minuteman III ICBM test from the Space Command to Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands.

Participate in protesting the continuance of missile defense at one of two locations:
  • 3:00PM Saturday, June 5
    • Los Angeles Air Force Base Space and Missile Center: 200 N. Douglas Street, El Segundo, CA (Los Angeles AFB helps with the tracking and targeting of missile launches)
    • Speakers
      • Que Keju, "Where do the missiles land"
      • L. Stephen Coles, M.D. of Physicians for Social Responsibility LA
    •  For info call or text 831-206-5043, or check

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dept. of Energy Rules Out the Nuclear Option for the Oil Leak

William Broad of the New York Times wrote yesterday that the Department of Energy has ruled out using a nuclear device in order to stop the BP oil leak, calling the idea "crazy".  The leading proponent of the suggestion, Matt Simmons--a Houston energy expert and investment banker, noted that the Russians used nuclear weapons to end gas leaks five times from 1966-1981.  Only the last attempt by the Russians was unsuccessful, the Broad stated.

While several million gallons of oil continue to spill into the Gulf, harming all wildlife in its wake, a nuclear device to plug the leak would be a terrible option.  For one, the ecological and environmental consequences are completely unknown.  Second, there is no guarantee that a detonation would stop the leak.  To those who point to the successful Russian attempts, it should be noted that in each instance the leak occurred on gas land wells, NOT offshore oil rigs.  Broad also argues that using a nuclear weapon would violate arms treaties at a time when President Obama is promulgating nuclear disarmament.
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