Sunflower Newsletter: August 2014

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Issue #205 – August 2014

 

The Nuclear Zero Lawsuits are proceeding at the International Court of Justice and U.S. Federal District Court. Sign the petition supporting the Marshall Islands’ courageous stand, and stay up to date on progress at www.nuclearzero.org.
  • Perspectives
    • The Marshall Islands: Sounding a Wakeup Call by David Krieger
    • Open Letter from the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center by Sister Megan Rice
    • What Are Acceptable Nuclear Risks? by Martin Hellman
  • Nuclear Zero Lawsuits
    • U.S. Moves to Dismiss Nuclear Zero Lawsuit
    • Letter About Nuclear Zero Lawsuits in The New York Times
  • U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy
    • U.S. and UK Renew Nuclear Weapon Deal
    • Los Alamos Employee Fired after Writing about Nuclear Weapons Abolition
    • Air Force Changes Grading System to Stop Cheating
  • Nuclear Insanity
    • Are Americans Nuclear Weapon Hoarders?
    • Top Officer Happy with Air Force Ethics
    • Nuclear Waste Partnership Received Bonus after Radiation Leak
  • Nuclear Proliferation
    • Russia Accused of Violating Nuclear Treaty
    • Iran Nuclear Negotiations Extended by Four Months
  • War and Peace
    • Last Living Member of Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Crew Dies
  • Resources
    • This Month in Nuclear Threat History
    • New Study on Consequences of a Small Nuclear Event
  • Foundation Activities
    • Peace Leadership for Youth
    • Remembering the U.S. Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
    • NAPF Distinguished Peace Leadership Award
  • Quotes

 

Perspectives

The Marshall Islands: Sounding a Wakeup Call

The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is an island country in the northern Pacific with a population of approximately 70,000 people. For such a small country, it is making big waves.  As a country at risk of being submerged due to rising ocean levels, the RMI has played a leadership role in the international conferences concerned with climate change.  As a country that suffered 12 years of devastating U.S. nuclear testing, it has also chosen to take action to assure that no other country suffers the fate its citizens have due to nuclear weapons.  It has sued the nine nuclear-armed countries for failing to meet their obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law to negotiate in good faith for an end to the nuclear arms race and for nuclear disarmament.

The Marshall Islands has given humanity a wake-up call. Each of us has a choice.  We can wake up, or we can continue our complacent slumber.

To read more, click here.

Open Letter from the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center

We send warm greetings and many thanks to all who actively engage in the transformation of weapons of mass destruction to sustainable life-giving alternatives. Gregory Boertje-Obed (U.S. Penitentiary, Leavenworth, Kansas) Michael Walli (Federal Correctional Institution McKean, Bradford, Pennsylvania) and I are sending you some of our observations and concerns on the 2nd anniversary of our Transform Now Plowshares action.

There are a number of reasons for what we did. We three were acutely mindful of the widespread loss to humanity that nuclear systems have already caused, and we realize that all life on Earth could be exterminated through intentional, accidental, or technical error.

To read more, click here.

What Are Acceptable Nuclear Risks?

When I read Eric Schlosser’s acclaimed 2013 book, Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, I found a tantalizing revelation on pages 170-171, when it asked, “What was the ‘acceptable’ probability of an accidental nuclear explosion?” and then proceeded to describe a 1957 Sandia Report, “Acceptable Premature Probabilities for Nuclear Weapons,” which dealt with that question.

Using the same criterion as this report*, which, of course, is open to question, my analysis shows that nuclear terrorism would have to have a risk of at most 0.5% per year to be considered “acceptable.” In contrast, existing estimates are roughly 20 times higher.

In short, the risks of catastrophes involving nuclear weapons currently appear to be far above any acceptable level. Isn’t it time we started paying more attention to those risks, and taking steps to reduce them?

To read more, click here.

Nuclear Zero Lawsuits

U.S. Moves to Dismiss Marshall Islands Lawsuit

 

On July 21, 2014, the United States filed a motion to dismiss the Nuclear Zero lawsuit that was filed by the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) on April 24, 2014 in U.S. Federal Court.

The U.S., in its move to dismiss the RMI lawsuit, does not argue that the U.S. is in compliance with its NPT disarmament obligations. Instead, it argues in a variety of ways that its non-compliance with these obligations is, essentially, justifiable, and not subject to the court’s jurisdiction.

A response from the Marshall Islands will be submitted to the Court by August 21.

U.S. Moves to Dismiss Marshall Islands Lawsuit,” Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, July 22, 2014.

Letter About Nuclear Zero Lawsuits in The New York Times

 

NAPF Director of Programs Rick Wayman had a letter to the editor published in The New York Times on July 15. The letter was a response to The Times‘ editorial about India’s potential membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

In his letter, Wayman wrote, “Your suggestion that India negotiate with Pakistan and China for an end to that region’s nuclear arms race would be a good start to fulfilling its existing international legal obligations. But good-faith negotiations must also go beyond India’s immediate rivals to include all nine nuclear-armed countries.”

He continued, “India’s pursuit of Nuclear Suppliers Group membership is not merely a question of trade and commerce. It is a question of whether known nuclear proliferators will be rewarded or held accountable under international law.”

Rick Wayman, “Pressure on the Nuclear Nine,” The New York Times, July 15, 2014.

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy

U.S. and UK Officially Renew Nuclear Weapon Deal

 

U.S. and British officials quietly agreed last week to a 10-year renewal of the 1958 Mutual Defense Agreement (MDA). The only indication that a new deal had been struck was a message from President Obama to Congress, in which he acknowledged that the deal will, among other things, “permit the transfer between the United States and the United Kingdom of classified information concerning atomic weapons.”

The deal signals continued cooperation between the two governments regarding nuclear warhead designs and development. Critics of the deal contend that it is in violation of Article 1 of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which prohibits nuclear weapon states from transferring “to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons… or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly…”

Richard Norton-Taylor, “UK-US Sign Secret New Deal on Nuclear Weapons,” The Guardian, July 29, 2014.

Los Alamos Employee Fired after Writing about Nuclear Weapons Abolition

 

James Doyle, a nonproliferation expert at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, was fired after writing an article in his personal capacity that supported the abolition of nuclear weapons. After receiving clearance from the Lab to publish the article, officials retroactively declared the article classified a few days later.

Doyle believes that his firing was retribution for his refusal to stay on message and support the Lab’s central mission, namely its continued development and production of nuclear arms, at a cost of almost $2 billion per year there.

Jay Coghlan, Executive Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said, “[This was] a clear political firing and abuse of classification procedures. Why are we paying tens of millions in profits to the private contractors running LANL? We demand that federal overseers intervene, reprimand the Lab, reinstate James Doyle, fire those responsible for his political firing, and cut contractor award fees because of chronically poor performance and leadership.”

Douglas Birch, “Nuclear Weapons Lab Employee Fired After Publishing Scathing Critique of the Arms Race,” Center for Public Integrity, July 31, 2014.

Air Force Changes Grading System to Stop Cheating

 

In an effort to combat cheating on monthly preparedness tests, the Air Force is changing its grading system for its nuclear missile corps. Tests will now be pass-fail, and individual scores will not be reported, in a major shift away from the “perfection” culture that required at least a 90 percent to pass. The new test regime focuses more on “practical skills,” emphasizing that “as a team, [missile crews] need to make the right decisions, but as individuals they’re not required to be perfect.”

Changing the grading system may reduce the incentive to cheat, but may not resolve all the missile corps problems. Bruce Blair, former missile officer and head of Global Zero, argues that missile crews have lost a sense of importance in their job, as “their mission is no longer the priority it was” during the Cold War era.

Geoff Brumfiel, “To Stop Cheating, Nuclear Officers Ditch the Grades,” NPR, July 28, 2014.

Nuclear Insanity

Are Americans Nuclear Weapon Hoarders?

 

Comedian John Oliver delivered a scathing 15-minute report on the status of U.S. nuclear weapons on his HBO program Last Week Tonight.

Facts presented by Oliver include:

  • Nuclear weapons are the most dangerous things on Earth;
  • The United States has a lot of them;
  • Some are controlled by floppy disks;
  • We’ve nearly dropped them on ourselves a few times;
  • No one seems to care about any of those facts.

To watch the episode, click here.

Carol Hartsell, “John Oliver Calls Americans Nuclear Weapon Hoarders,” The Huffington Post, July 28, 2014.

Top Officer Happy with Air Force Ethics

 

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh is “very happy” with the “ethical fabric” of the United States Air Force, despite a recent series of scandals involving the nuclear-missile corps. In an interview, Gen. Welsh said “[W]e do not have an epidemic of bad ethical behavior by people across the Air Force.”

The Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missile mission has been the site of a number of recent incidents.  These include a test-cheating ring at the Montana ICBM base, security lapses by officers on missile-launch duty, and allegations of drug possession. Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, head of the strategic missile mission, was forced to retire last year after drunken behavior while on an official trip to Russia.

Welsh Gives Air Force Top Ethics Marks,” Air Force Times, July 25, 2014.

Nuclear Waste Partnership Received Bonus after Radiation Leak

 

Just five days after a radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, an underground nuclear waste dump near Carlsbad, New Mexico, the Department of Energy awarded a $1.9 million bonus to Nuclear Waste Partnership, the contractor overseeing the site. It is unclear why officials went ahead with the bonus, as an investigation into what caused the February 14 leak “revealed a number of operational lapses by Nuclear Waste Partnership.”

WIPP has remained closed since the incident in February, which contaminated at least 20 workers. The cause of the leak is still under investigation.

Atomic Waste Site Contractor Received Large Bonus Days After Leak,” Global Security Newswire, July 21, 2014.

Nuclear Proliferation

Russia Accused of Violating Nuclear Treaty

 

In a letter to President Putin, President Obama accused Russia of violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty by testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile. The treaty prohibits the U.S. or Russia from possessing, producing or testing ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of 500 – 5,500 kilometers.

President Obama has declared that the United States will not retaliate by deploying its own ground-launched cruise missiles. However, he has left open the possibility of deploying air- or sea-based cruise missiles, which are permissible under the terms of the treaty.

Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. Says Russia Tested Cruise Missile, Violating Treaty,” The New York Times, July 28, 2014.

Iran Nuclear Negotiations Extended by Four Months

 

After failing to reach a deal by the July 20 deadline, all parties in the Iran nuclear negotiations agreed to a four-month extension. Wendy Sherman, lead negotiator for the United States, said, “Our intent is absolutely to end this on Nov. 24 in one direction or another.” Negotiations are likely to resume in September.

Patricia Zengerle, “U.S. Nuclear Negotiator Declines Setting Deadline on Iran Deal,” Reuters, July 29, 2014.

War and Peace

Last Living Member of Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Crew Dies

 

The last member of the crew that deployed the first atomic bomb during wartime died on July 28 in Georgia at the age of 93. Theodore “Dutch” VanKirk was a navigator on the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the atomic bomb “Little Boy” on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945. The explosion and its aftereffects killed 140,000.

While VanKirk once said that the bombing hastened the end of World War II and “saved lives in the long run,” he also recognized the futility of war and the importance of nuclear disarmament. In a 2005 interview, VanKirk told the Associated Press, “I personally think there shouldn’t be any atomic bombs in the world – I’d like to see them all abolished.”

Kate Brumback, “Last Crew Member of Enola Gay Dies in Georgia,” Associated Press, July 30, 2014.

Resources

This Month in Nuclear Threat History

 

History chronicles many instances when humans have been threatened by nuclear weapons. In this article, Jeffrey Mason outlines some of the most serious threats that have taken place in the month of August, including the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945) and the Soviet Union’s first nuclear test (August 29, 1949).

To read Mason’s full article, click here.

For more information on the history of the Nuclear Age, visit NAPF’s Nuclear Files website.

New Study on Consequences of a Small Nuclear Event

 

A new study published in Earth’s Future warns of the dangerous consequences of a small nuclear event. Using a more comprehensive computer model of Earth’s climate system, the authors find that the detonation of 50 15-kiloton bombs (small weapons in comparison to those in the arsenals of the U.S., Russia, China, and France) in a regional war between India and Pakistan could lead to global cooling for at least 15 years.

This global cooling, in combination with major ozone loss, would have a catastrophic effect on global agriculture. Pressures on the global food supply could “significantly degrade global food security or even produce a global nuclear famine.” The authors hope that the study will help societies “better understand the urgent need to eliminate this danger worldwide.”

John Loretz, “Things Could Always Be Worse… A Lot Worse,” IPPNW Peace & Health Blog, July 16, 2014.

Foundation Activities

Peace Leadership for Youth

 

NAPF Peace Leadership Director Paul K. Chappell spent three days in July teaching teens in AHA! (Attitude. Harmony. Achievement.) in Santa Barbara about waging peace. Participants learned about the roots of violence and avenues toward healing through short lectures, videos, clips, interactive discussions, and activities, including skits demonstrating nonviolent ways to resolve conflict.

Chappell said, “I was grateful for the opportunity to discuss the peace leadership skills I wish I had known when I was sixteen. Those skills–such as the ability to calm myself and others down, resolve conflict, increase my empathy, and heal the causes of aggression–would have benefitted me immensely.”

For more information on this event, click here.

Remembering the U.S. Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

 

On August 6, 2014, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will participate in three events commemorating the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively.

NAPF’s 21st Annual Sadako Peace Day will be held at La Casa de Maria in Montecito, California, at 6:00 p.m. This year’s featured speaker is NAPF Board member Robert Laney. The event is free and open to the public.

NAPF Director of Programs Rick Wayman will attend a commemoration event at the gates of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), where many U.S. nuclear weapons have been designed and developed. A whopping 89% of LLNL’s budget request for 2015 is for nuclear weapon activities.  The theme of this year’s Bay Area commemoration event is “Failure to Disarm.” Rick has been invited to speak about the Nuclear Zero Lawsuits, which directly address the failure of all nine nuclear-armed nations to disarm. For more information on the Bay Area event, click here.

Rick will also participate in a webinar hosted by Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) on August 6 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. He will be discussing the Nuclear Zero Lawsuits, and will be joined by Neisen Laukon, a woman from the Marshall Islands who has been affected by U.S. nuclear weapons tests. The webinar is free and open to the public. To register, click here.

NAPF Distinguished Peace Leadership Award

 

On November 16, 2014, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will host its 31st Annual Evening for Peace. This year’s Distinguished Peace Leader is Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the social justice organization CODEPINK and the international human rights organization Global Exchange.

Medea Benjamin has been on the front lines for thirty years, shining light on the struggles of the world’s innocent and poor.

For more information about the Evening for Peace, contact the Foundation at (805) 965-3443.

Quotes

 

“We must learn the lessons of history, that we may learn to identify and avoid the paths that lead to war.”

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. This quote is featured in the NAPF book Speaking of Peace: Quotations to Inspire Action.

 

“Concerns about the ability of facilities here to withstand an earthquake, and what will happen if they fail, are at the heart of safety concerns at Y12. The new report from the US Geological Survey says the risk in Oak Ridge is increased beyond what was believed in 2008. In fact, the increase is among the highest in the nation.”

Ralph Hutchison, Coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, calling for a new Environmental Impact Statement at the Y12 nuclear weapons complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

 

“The World Council of Churches central committee… calls on member churches and related ministries and networks to… support the lawsuit filed by the Marshall Islands against the nuclear-armed states at the International Court of Justice.”

Statement from the World Council of Churches.

Editorial Team

 

David Krieger
Elliot Serbin
Carol Warner
Rick Wayman