June 3, 1983 – Director John Badham’s frightening motion picture “War Games,” starring actor Matthew Broderick, premiered at U.S. theaters. The antiwar film was released in a period during which U.S.-Soviet nuclear tensions were at their highest point since the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Some of the contributing factors included:

  • The September 1, 1983 Soviet shoot down of Korean Airlines Flight 007 near Sakhalin Island;
  • A September 26, 1983 Soviet false nuclear alert;
  • The November 1983 NATO Able Archer military exercise that Soviet leadership widely misinterpreted as a warm-up for an eventual U.S. First Strike nuclear attack; and
  • The August 11, 1984 off-the-cuff sound check gaffe by President Ronald Reagan (“We begin bombing Russia in five minutes.”)

Another terrifyingly realistic look at nuclear war occurred just five months after “War Games” was released when Nicholas Meyer directed a made-for-TV film “The Day After” which aired nationally on ABC-TV that November. This starkly realistic movie portrayed the horrendous human impact of a Soviet nuclear attack on Lawrence, Kansas. In “War Games,” movie-goers learned that accidental or unintentional nuclear war through human or computer error was entirely conceivable. In point of fact, hundreds of U.S. false alerts or nuclear Broken Arrow accidents have occurred over the last few decades, in addition to an unknown number of such incidents impacting the arsenals of the other eight nuclear-weapon armed states. (Sources:  Eric Schlosser.  “Command and Control:  Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety.” New York:  Penguin Press, 2013 and Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick. “The Untold History of the United States.”  New York:  Gallery Books, 2012.)

June 10, 1963 – President John F. Kennedy made his seminal, historic American University speech in which he said:

“I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains ten times the explosive force delivered by all the allied air forces in World War II. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by the wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations unborn…What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war…not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.”

On this exact same day in history, after the world has just barely avoided a devastating nuclear war over Cuban missiles placed there by the Soviet Union the previous October, the 35th President was working earnestly in concert with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to push against tremendous opposition by the Military-Industrial-Congressional complex as well as the Politburo for a long-term resolution of the Cold War as well as permanent prevention of a Hot War. For on this date, the U.S., U.K., and the Soviet Union formally announced that high-level talks would be held in Moscow to seek a nuclear test ban.  And, in an amazingly short period of time, in a span of only seven weeks, on August 5, 1963, the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) outlawing nuclear tests in the atmosphere, in outer space, and underwater was signed and later entered into force on October 10, 1963.  (Source:  American University Archive, www1.media.american.edu/speeches/Kennedy.htm, accessed May 2, 2014 and Jack Mendelsohn and David Grahame, editors.  “Arms Control Chronology” Washington, DC:  Center for Defense Information, 2002, p. 1.)

June 18, 1979 – The United States and Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Limitation (SALT II) Treaty in Vienna.  It built on the successful SALT I Treaty, cutting strategic offensive nuclear weapons even further.  However, after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, it became impossible, according to U.S. policymakers, for the U.S. to ratify the treaty.  Today, the Ukraine-Crimea Crisis has begun to undermine U.S.-Russian cooperation and follow-through regarding nuclear arms control treaty reductions.  Other critical and vitally essential military cooperation paradigms and confidence-building measures between the two nations have been negatively impacted as well.  Accordingly, it can be credibly argued that the chances of accidental or unintentional nuclear war have incrementally increased due to the crisis. (Source:  Jack Mendelsohn and David Grahame, editors.  “Arms Control Chronology.” Washington, DC:  Center for Defense Information, 2002, p. 2.)

June 19, 1957 – The Atomic Energy Commission, the predecessor of today’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as part of Project Plowshare, a U.S. government-focused effort to persuade the American people to support nuclear power and weapons because of their supposedly “peaceful, beneficial uses,” announced a number of future projects.  A year later, in June of 1958, one of those projects was revealed publicly for the first time.  Project Chariot was announced as a plan to create a 300-foot wide harbor at the mouth of the Ogotoruk Creek near Cape Thompson on the Chukchi Sea coastline of Alaska.  Four hydrogen bombs were to be exploded to create the artificial harbor.  Thankfully, extensive bioenvironmental studies, possibly the first example of a federal government environmental impact statement in American history, described the overwhelmingly negative consequences of such a Strangelovian experiment.  (Source:  Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick. “The Untold History of the United States.”  New York:  Gallery Books, 2012, p. 283 and Douglas Vandergraft.  “Project Chariot:  A Visual Presentation.” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, May 6, 1993, Anchorage, Alaska.)

June 25, 2008 – An article published on this date titled, “Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor’s Massive Safety Vessel Installed.” is authored by T.S. Subramanian and appears in the Indian periodical The Hindu.  It is one of many past and current positive media portrayals of today’s global inventory of about 20 fast neutron reactors that have been operating since the 1950s in Russia, France, Japan, India, and the U.S. with some supplying commercial electrical power according to the World Nuclear Association website.  Although some designs are net consumers of fissile material including U-235, Pu, and other fission products, the fast breeder variant are designed to produce more plutonium than they consume. However, Stanford professor, Dr. Robert Laughlin’s 2011 book, “Powering the Future” (page 59) points out the starkly negative impact of fast breeder reactors,  “…After we run these [breeder] reactors a long time, the world becomes awash in highly dangerous plutonium (half-life of decay:  24,000 years), all for the sake of allowing nuclear fuel to last for thousands of years.”  This represents yet another overwhelmingly powerful reason why global citizenry are increasingly pushing for the dismantlement of some 400 global commercial nuclear power reactors, with breeders at the top of the list!