Issue #229 – August 2016
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Ten Lessons from Chernobyl and Fukushima
George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The same may be said of those who fail to understand the past or to learn from it. If we failed to learn the lessons from the nuclear power plant accident at Chernobyl more than three decades ago or to understand its meaning for our future, perhaps the more recent accident at Fukushima will serve to underline those lessons.
The nuclear power plant accident at Chernobyl was repeated, albeit with a different set of circumstances, at Fukushima. Have our societies yet learned any lessons from Chernobyl and Fukushima that will prevent the people of the future from experiencing such devastation? As poet Maya Angelou points out, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage doesn’t need to be lived again.” We need the courage to phase out nuclear power globally and replace it with energy conservation and renewable energy sources. In doing so, we will not only be acting responsibly with regard to nuclear power, but will also reduce the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation and strengthen the global foundations for the abolition of these weapons.
To read more, click here.
NATO: Increasing the Role of Nuclear Weapons
The Heads of State and Government that participated in the NATO summit in Warsaw Poland on 8-9 July 2016 issued a series of documents and statements, including a Summit Communiqué and the Warsaw Declaration on Transatlantic Security. Whereas the majority of countries worldwide are ready to end the danger posed by nuclear weapons and to start negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons, both NATO documents reaffirmed the NATO commitment to nuclear weapons, and the Communiqué included a return to cold war style language on nuclear sharing.
The summit documents weaken previously agreed language on seeking a world without nuclear weapons by tacking on additional conditions. Instead of simply saying that NATO is seeking to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons, now NATO is seeking to create the conditions “in full accordance with the NPT, including Article VI, in a step-by-step and verifiable way that promotes international stability, and is based on the principle of undiminished security for all.” Not only that, but instead of creating conditions for further reductions, now the alliance only remains “committed to contribute to creating the conditions for further reductions in the future on the basis of reciprocity.”
To read more, click here.
Looking Back: The 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice
The 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was the culmination of a decades-long debate on the legality of nuclear weapons. In recent years, it has shaped how international law is invoked by the initiative focused on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons use and served as a foundation for the nuclear disarmament cases brought by the Marshall Islands in the court.
To read more, click here.
Open Ended Working Group to Conclude in Geneva
The Open Ended Working Group taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations, which met in February and May 2016, will conclude with four days of meetings in August. At the August session, delegates are expected to approve a report to the United Nations General Assembly that calls for the start of multilateral negotiations to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.
A draft report of the Open Ended Working Group is available on the UN website. The report details the substantive issues discussed and presents proposals for moving forward.
U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy
Attempted Coup in Turkey Shines Light on U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe
The recent attempted military coup in Turkey has brought a pressing issue into the spotlight: the safety of U.S. nuclear stockpiles abroad.
The question of nuclear security has been raised before, but is substantially more present now. As a NATO member, Turkey claims the “right” to nuclear-sharing provided by the United States, whose nuclear umbrella spreads throughout Europe. Turkey actively houses an estimated 50 B-61 nuclear bombs at its Incirlik Air Base in Adana, the most of any other NATO state. Other nations housing U.S. nuclear weapons are Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands.
The attempted coup also raises questions of whether or not Turkey can maintain NATO status. The unprecedented coup presents NATO with many problems it may not have previously considered. As Aaron Stein of Atlantic Council think tank stated, “It says a lot about the ability of Turkey to operate in coalition operations if its army can’t be trusted.” The lack of stability in the region has existed for quite some time, but the attempted coup introduces a wealth of new problems and doubts.
Julian Borger, “Turkey Coup Attempt Raises Fears Over Safety of U.S. Nuclear Stockpile,” The Guardian, July 17, 2016.
Whistleblowers at Risk
On July 14, 2016, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report charging the Department of Energy (DOE) with unlawful retaliation against nuclear whistleblowers. The report came shortly after the firing of Sandra Black, the head of Savannah River Site’s employee complaints program. Colleagues of Black had come to her expressing grievances about unsafe, illegal, and wasteful practices at the nuclear site. After following through with her colleagues’ complaints, Black was fired.
The GAO report was the product of an investigation into whistleblower retaliation complaints made two years earlier at Washington’s Hanford nuclear facility. Though the investigation initially sought only to investigate Hanford, its scope eventually increased to include 87 complaints by workers at 10 major DOE nuclear facilities.
While a pilot program was built for whistleblower protection at nuclear sites, the investigation reports that neither Savannah River Site nor Hanford administrations had attempted to implement the program–leaving workers and whistleblowers unprotected. To date, over 186,000 nuclear workers have been exposed to recordable levels of radiation while on the job. But many remain silent, fearing that voicing concerns will cost them their livelihoods. “They will make an example of anyone who challenges them” said one nuclear worker. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), who helped initiate the GAO report, said, “It’s clear that DOE contractors are going to amazing lengths to send the message to their employees that when you blow the whistle it’s going to be the end of your career.”
Lindsay Wise and Sammy Fretwell, “Report: Department of Energy Fails to Protect Nuclear Whistleblowers,” McClatchy, July 14, 2016.
U.S. Navy Returns to New Zealand After 30-Year Nuclear Weapons Disagreement
The U.S. Navy plans to make a port call in New Zealand for the first time since 1985. Thirty years ago, the New Zealand government refused a port call request by the USS Buchanan because the U.S. would neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons on board the ship.
Explaining the decision to overturn 30 years of New Zealand’s anti-nuclear laws, Prime Minister John Key said that it is not necessary for a nation to declare a ship nuclear-free if it can be ascertained from the ship’s specifications.
Seth Robson, “U.S. Navy to Return to New Zealand After 30-Year Rift Over Nukes,” Stars and Stripes, July 21, 2016.
Russia Claims to Be Developing Outer Space Nuclear Bomber
The Russian Strategic Missile Forces Academy is developing a nuclear bomber capable of striking from outer space, Lt. Col. Aleksei Solodovnikov reported in July. The weapon will be able to travel at hypersonic speed and is expected to have the capability of reaching any point on Earth from outer space in less than two hours.
“The idea is that the bomber will take off from a normal home airfield to patrol Russian airspace,” Colonel General Sergei Karakayev stated this month. He continued, “Upon command it will ascend into outer space, strike a target with nuclear warheads and then return to its home base.”
Regardless of the veracity of this specific claim, it shows that Russia continues to rely heavily on nuclear weapons for its perceived security, and is invested in the new nuclear arms race.
“New Russian Bomber to Be Able to Launch Nuclear Attacks from Outer Space,” Sputnik International, July 13, 2016.
Definition of Success Is Fluid
On January 28, the Missile Defense Agency conducted a flight test of a new and supposedly improved thruster, a key component of the interceptors that make up the U.S. missile defense system. Shortly after the test, the agency released a statement calling it a “successful flight test.” However, the test was anything but a success. The closest the interceptor came to the target was a distance 20 times greater than what was expected.
In a letter to the editor published on July 9, NAPF President David Krieger wrote, “Perhaps raking in more than $40 billion from taxpayers since 2004 to produce a useless product is what the Missile Defense Agency and its contractors define as success.”
David Willman, “A Test of America’s Homeland Missile Defense System Found a Problem. Why Did the Pentagon Call It a Success?” Los Angeles Times, July 6, 2016.
British Prime Minister Writes “Letter of Last Resort”
One of the first acts of a new British Prime Minister is to write a “letter of last resort” that is kept locked in a safe in each of the UK’s four nuclear-armed submarines. Only the Prime Minister or another individual designated by the Prime Minister may give an order to launch British nuclear weapons. The letter of last resort is to be used by submarine commanders if these people are no longer alive or are completely out of contact.
Prior to writing the letter, the Prime Minister is briefed by the chief of the defense staff, who explains the damage that could be caused by a nuclear strike.
Adam Taylor, “Every New British Prime Minister Pens a Handwritten ‘Letter of Last Resort’ Outlining Nuclear Retaliation,” Washington Post, July 13, 2016.
South Korean Lawmaker Urges Nuclear Armament
Rep. Won Yoo-chul of South Korea’s ruling Saenuri Party plans to initiate a forum on nuclear armament in hopes of achieving lawmaker consensus. Set to begin on August 4, Won hopes this forum will generate a new sense of urgency in the wake of North Korean threats.
The lawmaker promotes a strategy that would lead to automatic nuclear armament once North Korea conducts its next nuclear test. Won also explained the “need” for South Korea to develop a nuclear arsenal can be credited to Donald Trump’s claims that South Korea and Japan should increase their payments for deployed U.S. troops.
Jun Ji-hye, “Pro-Park Lawmaker Planning Forum for Nuclear Armament,” Korea Times, July 25, 2016.
Japan Opposes a U.S. “No First Use” Policy
The Japanese government has expressed concern over reports that the Obama administration may be planning to implement a policy of “No First Use,” meaning that the U.S. would pledge never to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict. A senior Japanese government official said, “From the [standpoint of] Japan’s security, it is unacceptable.”
The Japanese government believes strongly in the idea of nuclear deterrence, relying on the U.S. nuclear umbrella for its national security.
“Japan Seeks Talks With U.S. Over ‘No First Use’ Nuclear Policy Change,” Kyodo, July 15, 2016.
Senators Speak Out on Nuclear Modernization
Groups of U.S. Senators have sent letters in favor of and in opposition to the country’s plans to spend $1 trillion to modernize its nuclear arsenal. On July 8, 14 senators, including Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee Tim Kaine, wrote to Defense Secretary Ash Carter seeking the Pentagon’s continued outspoken support for the vast program of nuclear modernization. The Senators who signed the letter are Hoeven (R-ND), Daines (R-MT), Tester (D-MT), Hatch (R-UT), Donnelly (D-IN), Heitkamp (D-ND), Rubio (R-FL), Warner (D-VA), Vitter (R-LA), Heinrich (D-NM), Barrasso (R-WY), Fischer (R-NE), Reed (D-RI), and Kaine (D-VA).
In a very different tone, 10 senators wrote to President Obama encouraging him to take numerous steps to reduce nuclear weapons spending and reduce the risk of nuclear war. The Senators who signed this letter are Markey (D-MA), Warren (D-MA), Feinstein (D-CA), Boxer (D-CA), Franken (D-MN), Merkley (D-OR), Brown (D-OH), Leahy (D-VT), Wyden (D-OR), and Sanders (I-VT).
To read the pro-nuclear weapons letter, click here. To read the letter from 10 senators encouraging a less aggressive approach to nuclear policy, click here.
UK Parliament Votes to Replace Trident Nuclear Weapons System
On July 18, Prime Minister Theresa May and the Conservative party won the vote to update current British nuclear capabilities. The vote, which Members of the House of Commons passed 472-117, clears the way for the UK to replace its four Trident nuclear-armed submarines with a new system at a cost of up to $250 billion.
George Kerevan, a Member of Parliament who is part of the Scottish National Party, asked Prime Minister May during the debate whether she is “personally prepared to authorize a nuclear strike that can kill 100,000 innocent men, women, and children.” Ms. May responded, “Yes…the whole point of a deterrent is that our enemies need to know that we would be prepared to use it.”
The UK’s Trident system is based in Scotland; 58 out of 59 Scottish Members of Parliament voted against replacing Trident.
Dan de Luce, “British Parliament Votes to Spend Big on Nukes,” Foreign Policy, July 18, 2016.
August’s Featured Blog
This month’s featured blog is “All Things Nuclear,” by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Recent titles include: “Japan Can Accept No First Use“; “U.S. Missile Defense: In Worse Shape than You Thought“; and “Nuclear Merger.”
To read the blog, click here.
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 August 29, 2007 incident in which six nuclear-armed cruise missiles were mistakenly loaded on a B-52 bomber and flown from North Dakota to Louisiana, where they sat unguarded on the tarmac for hours.
To read Mason’s full article, click here.
For more information on the history of the Nuclear Age, visit NAPF’s Nuclear Files website.
Book Review: Almighty
Almighty, by Dan Zak, is a compelling new book that exposes the intimate truths behind the 2012 Y-12 break-in through the lens of the peace-activist perpetrators. Fluidly weaving between the past and the present, this intriguing account resembles a thriller novel. As the unique background of the three activists, Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-obed, unfolds, the egregious history of nuclear weapons elucidates the United States’ futile attempt at non-proliferation.
To read the full review by NAPF summer intern Madeline Atchison, click here.
Sadako Peace Day on August 9
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will host its 22nd Annual Sadako Peace Day commemoration on Tuesday, August 9, at 6:00 p.m. at La Casa de Maria in Montecito, California. The event – featuring music, poetry and reflection – remembers the victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and all innocent victims of war.
Sadako Sasaki was a two-year-old girl living in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the morning the atomic bomb was dropped. Ten years later, she was diagnosed with leukemia. Japanese legend holds that one’s wish will be granted upon folding 1,000 paper (origami) cranes. Sadako set out to fold those 1,000 cranes, writing, “I will write peace on your wings, and you will fly all over the world.”
Students in Japan were so moved by her story, they began folding cranes, too. Today the paper crane is a symbol of peace. A statue of Sadako now stands in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. And to this day, we honor Sadako’s fervent wish for a peaceful world. For more information, click here.
Noam Chomsky to Receive NAPF Distinguished Peace Leadership Award
Noam Chomsky, one of the greatest minds of our time, will be honored with NAPF’s Distinguished Peace Leadership Award at this year’s Evening for Peace on Sunday, October 23, in Santa Barbara, California.
We’re calling the evening NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH because that’s what Chomsky is about– truth. He believes humanity faces two major challenges: the continued threat of nuclear war and the crisis of ecological catastrophe. To hear him on these issues will be highly memorable. Importantly, he offers a way forward to a more hopeful and just world. We are pleased to honor him with our award.
The annual Evening for Peace includes a festive reception, live entertainment, dinner and an award presentation. It is attended by many Santa Barbara leaders and includes a large contingent of sponsored students.
For more information and tickets, click here.
Peace Leadership in Minneapolis
As a West Point graduate, Iraq war veteran, and former U.S. army captain who has struggled through extreme childhood trauma, racism, and rage, NAPF Peace Leadership Director Paul K. Chappell will bring his hopeful message of equity in education, our shared humanity, and the skills of peace literacy to the Minneapolis area November 1-5, 2016. He will address the plenary session of the annual Missing Voices conference at St. Mary’s University on November 3. The audience will include 350 educators, administrators, and students.
To read more about this upcoming trip, click here. For a full list of Paul’s upcoming lectures and workshops, click here.
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s latest action alert encourages you to send a message to President Obama regarding the many things he could do during his last months in office to make a difference for nuclear disarmament. Proposed actions include declaring a No First Use policy, removing U.S. nuclear weapons from foreign soil, cutting funding for nuclear weapons “modernization,” and commencing good faith negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide.
To read more and take action, click here.
“What the Hiroshima survivors are telling us is that no one else should ever go through the experience they suffered. An atomic bombing creates a living hell on Earth where the living envy the dead.”
— Tadatoshi Akiba, former Mayor of Hiroshima. This quote appears in the book Speaking of Peace: Quotations to Inspire Action, which is available for purchase in the NAPF Peace Store.
“If keeping and renewing our nuclear weapons is so vital to our national security and our safety, then does the Prime Minister accept the logic of that position is that every other country must seek to acquire nuclear weapons? And does she really think that the world would be a safer place if they did? Our nuclear weapons are driving proliferation, not the opposite.”
— Caroline Lucas MP, speaking during the UK parliamentary debate over whether to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system.