Proliferation: Finding the Common Thread
by Alice Slater, May 14, 2004
After years of thinking man could control the atom, the drumbeat of new outbreaks of nuclear proliferation must give the world pause. We think we can control the atom while in reality we have been pushing our luck since 1945 when we unleashed its awful power and created jerry-built structures to contain its terrifying consequences. As more countries acquire nuclear power, against a backdrop of unauthorized pre-emptive war to strike at "rogue" nuclear weapons-the nuclear phantoms are chasing us-we imagine them where they aren't and fail to see them under our very noses; or we deliberately turn a blind eye for geopolitical reasons or commercial greed.
To manage the nuclear apocalypse, in 1953, U.S, President Eisenhower announced the "Atoms for Peace" policy later enshrined in the now tattered Non-Proliferation Treaty. Acknowledging the very first instances of horizontal proliferation, he said, "the dread secret, and the fearful engines of atomic might are not ours alone. the secret is possessed by our friends and allies, Great Britain and Canada whose scientific genius made a tremendous contribution to.the designs of atomic bombs. The secret is also known by the Soviet Union ." He warned that "knowledge now possessed by several nations will eventually be shared by others-possibly all others" and "even a vast superiority in numbers of weapons. is no preventive" from "the annihilation of the irreplaceable heritage of mankind.
Having accurately described the problem, his proposed "solution" was an international Atomic Energy Agency to harness what he termed the "peaceful power "of atomic energy for every nation. Curiously, Eisenhower called to "begin to diminish the potential destructive power of the world's atomic stockpiles" while only moments earlier he noted "the current US stockpile.which, of course, increases daily." The United States , Russia and the United Kingdom , were joined by France and China as nuclear weapons states, in the Non-Proliferation Treaty to control the spread of nuclear weapons by sharing atomic power for "peaceful" purposes, while promising to get rid of their own lethal arsenals. Yet we've witnessed escalating nuclear stockpiles-more than 30,000 bombs today-- and the unholy bombardment of nuclear testing on indigenous lands across the globe-more than 2050 tests--- and the wasted wealth of the world spent on new, better, bigger, smaller, usable, strategic, tactical, earth penetrating nuclear bombs-spending $4 trillion in the US alone-creating an appetite in other countries to join the nuclear club thus triggering further proliferation.
We now have 44 "nuclear capable" countries which are required to ratify the forlorn Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, because the world is well aware that the so-called "peaceful" nuclear power that was bestowed on those countries, under the illusory belief that it could actually be controlled, essentially handed each of them the keys to the bomb factory. Argentina , South Africa , Brazil , and Libya used their "peaceful" nuclear power to start nuclear weapons programs which they then abandoned. Israel , however, did not abandon its clandestine program and now has its own unacknowledged arsenal of nuclear weapons.
India , too, had its own bomb in 1974 and went overtly nuclear when the CTBT was negotiated in 1997 with loopholes demanded by President Clinton to permit computer-simulated and underground "sub-critical" tests to appease the lethal appetite of the weapons laboratories for more proliferation and buy their support for its ratification. India played catch up with a series of underground tests and Pakistan swiftly followed
There are now 440 "peaceful" reactors in 31 countries - all producing deadly bomb materials with 283 research reactors in 56 countries, some producing highly enriched uranium. And US CIA Director, George Tenet, said, "The difference between producing low-enriched uranium and weapons-capable high-enriched uranium is only a matter of time and intent, not technology." There are nearly 2 million kilograms of reactor wastes in the world-with only 5 kilograms needed to make one nuclear bomb. The US is planning to build 50 more reactors by 2020; China plans 30; with 31 more now under construction--to churn out more toxic poisons; on tap for bomb-making, with no known solution to safely containing the tons of nuclear waste that will be generated over the unimaginable 250,000 years it will continue to threaten life on earth.
Today, the United States is mobilizing to dominate and control the military use of space, having withdrawn from the ABM Treaty which it promised to uphold at the 2000 NPT Review, and is fielding an aggressive missile program on earth and in space, planning a new plutonium bomb factory, waging an unauthorized pre-emptive war on Iraq under the pretext that Iraq had nuclear weapons, and exercising a belligerent foreign policy against so-called 'rogue nations" and "axis of evil" countries. Meanwhile, the "peaceful" nuclear reactors, ignorantly promoted around the world under the mistaken delusion that we could actually "control" their deadly by-products, are being used by countries under siege by the Empire and its allies to make or threaten to make their own nuclear weapons in defense.
Asserting its "inalienable right" under the NPT to the dark fruits of its Faustian bargain, Iran wants to enrich its nuclear materials to bomb-grade to achieve "energy independence". This same schizophrenically characterized right is given to all NPT parties, and implemented by other non-nuclear weapons states- such as Japan, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Canada, Brazil, India, Kazakhstan, and Australia. North Korea is using its nuclear capability as a "bargaining chip" to gain economic and diplomatic relief and assurances of non-aggression from the US .
New revelations tell how technology was developed within a country, or stolen, or sold, either openly or covertly, by nations, or by a whole network of black market nuclear suppliers, to support the efforts of North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Israel, Libya and others to get the makings of the bomb. From Germany , Britain and the Netherlands ' Urenco, to France , Russia , Norway , China , South Africa , Malaysia , Dubai , Pakistan , and no doubt other sources yet discovered, the ability to make nuclear bombs has been acquired around the globe from the earliest days--in a frightening scenario of nuclear proliferation run rampant.
And how do the arms controllers propose to handle this widening proliferation? Israel intimates it is prepared to bomb Iran 's facilities to deny it the power to make nuclear weapons, just as it bombed the Osirak reactor in Iraq in 1981. Bush calls for a crackdown on nuclear proliferation by "dangerous and secretive regimes that build weapons of mass destruction to intimidate their neighbors and force their influence upon the world". What country is he describing? The US and its allies turn a blind eye to their own vertical proliferation in nuclear weapons states while nuclear-armed submarines patrol the seven seas, the US accelerates space weapons programs, and with Russia , keeps thousands of warheads on hair-trigger alert, while threatening further preemptive war.
Bush would create another discriminatory class of "haves" and "have nots" in this already flawed bargain which enshrined five nuclear weapons states as the only "haves". In his new Proliferation Security Initiative, ships will be interdicted on the high seas to seize nuclear materials without authority of law. A new Security Council resolution criminalizes horizontal proliferation without accepting responsibility for the nuclear weapons states' NPT obligation to get rid of their own nuclear weapons, let alone to stop making new ones. Bush is calling on nuclear supplier states to ban exports of enrichment and reprocessing equipment to "have not" countries while promoting their capacity to keep running their reactors with fuel supplied by "have" states. This is idle folly driven by commercial greed; greed not unlike that of the AQ Khan network which seeks to buy and sell the same materials for their own personal material gain.
What is the difference between the commercial nuclear industry that seeks to sell nuclear materials "at reasonable cost" and the international Mafia that is now trading and profiting from the same materials? It is the delusory vision held by the "legal" nuclear industrialists that proliferation can be controlled. We will never be able to guard all the loose nuclear materials and black market smuggling while we constantly generate ever more lethal nuclear waste. The time for nuclear arms control fixes with business as usual is over. The game is up. There is only one way to move forward.
The nations of the world must call not only for complete nuclear disarmament, but for an end to "peaceful" nuclear power. At this critical moment, with a world mired in poverty and the constant threat of war and terrorism, our survival depends on implementing a plan for sustainable energy abundant in nature-local renewable resources-the sun, the wind, the tides. Urgent action is needed to fund and harness these natural treasures by establishing an International Sustainable Energy Fund
We have the money. Taxpayers are now subsidizing the nuclear power industry for nearly $8 billion a year. And Export Credit Agencies in eight industrial countries loaned over $12 billion in 2001 to build new reactors around the world. This is big business! Imagine if that money were used for safe, clean, sustainable energy for all the world's peoples, ending the devastating destruction to our environment, the increased cancers, leukemia, birth defects from mining, milling, and handling these awful materials, and the threat of further weapons proliferation.
We must begin serious negotiations on a treaty to eliminate all nuclear weapons and call for a moratorium on the building of new nuclear reactors as we close the old ones down. We can shift those loans and subsidies to an International Sustainable Energy Fund and promote life, not death. Albert Einstein said that "t he release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking... the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind". We must listen to our hearts, try new thinking, and put an end to the nuclear age and the deluded dream of "atoms for peace" that has only led to war and death.