Issue #241 – August 2017
|Nuclear weapons have no place in this world. Please see a special message from NAPF here.
U.S., UK and France Denounce Nuclear Ban Treaty
The U.S., UK and France have never shown enthusiasm for banning and eliminating nuclear weapons. It is not surprising, therefore, that they did not participate in the United Nations negotiations leading to the recent adoption of the nuclear ban treaty, or that they joined together in expressing their outright defiance of the newly-adopted treaty.
In a joint press statement, issued on July 7, 2017, the day the treaty was adopted, the U.S., UK and France stated, “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.” Seriously? Rather than supporting the countries that came together and hammered out the treaty, the three countries argued: “This initiative clearly disregards the realities of the international security environment.” Rather than taking a leadership role in the negotiations, they protested the talks and the resulting treaty banning nuclear weapons. They chose hubris over wisdom, might over right.
To read more, click here.
Lobbying Against Nuclear Weapons
Today, the U.S. has nearly 7,000 nuclear weapons, and we are rebuilding them to the tune of more than $1 trillion over the next 30 years. I’m determined to make my voice heard in opposing this, and help others do the same.
For many, “lobbying” is a dirty word. But I see a lobbyist simply as someone who tries to influence the position of an elected official. I use that title proudly, and I argue that we should all be citizen lobbyists on issues we care about.
To read more, click here.
After the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty: A New Disarmament Politics
A treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons was adopted by an overwhelming vote and met with loud cheers this week at the United Nations. More than 70 years in the making, the treaty offers widely agreed principles, commitments, and mechanisms for ending the nuclear weapons age. Getting here was not easy, and achieving nuclear disarmament will still be a long struggle. But the new treaty creates space and means for a creative new disarmament politics based on law and ethics and democracy that go beyond well-trodden debates on the dangers and costs of nuclear weapons and traditional practices of arms control based on step-by-step reductions that limit only the size of arsenals.
The treaty is in many ways an attempt to reaffirm—and hold humanity to—the highest universal ideals of a world of peace and justice based on law. It exposes the fundamental contradiction between nuclear weapons and the existing international system. The treaty opens with the simple declaration that the countries adopting it are “[d]etermined to contribute to the realization of the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
To read the full article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, click here.
U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy
Public Interest Groups File Suit Against New U.S. Nuclear Bomb Plant
On July 20, three organizations — Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and Natural Resources Defense Council — filed a federal lawsuit to stop construction at the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The facility is being planned in order to produce components for thermonuclear weapons through the year 2080.
Supplanting the approved plan for a single new building to house the entire UPF, the current plan involves five new buildings, along with two older buildings that do not meet environmental and safety standards. Moreover, only one of the new buildings is designed to modern seismic standards, which could have a devastating impact on public health. The lawsuit aims to force the National Nuclear Security Administration to complete a supplemental environmental impact statement prior to continuing construction.
John Huotari, “Federal Lawsuit Asks for Environmental Review of New UPF Design,” Oak Ridge Today, July 23, 2017.
Los Alamos Lab Ships Weapons-Grade Plutonium by FedEx Air
In the latest safety debacle relating to nuclear materials at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of its employees shipped 100 grams of weapons-grade plutonium, which was packaged for ground transport, by FedEx Air to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. Even though the nuclear material is reported to have arrived safely at its destinations, nuclear watchdog groups say the lab was lucky to avoid a disaster given that rapid pressure changes are possible during a flight and the packaging wasn’t appropriate for such a trip.
As Los Alamos Lab prepares to expand its production of plutonium pits for new nuclear warheads, an independent panel of federal regulators has been tasked with assessing the lab’s track record, and its ability to work with plutonium.
“National Lab Fedexed Plutonium to Lawrence Livermore,” CBS SF Bay Area, July 11, 2017.
Activists Breach German Air Base Where U.S. Nuclear Weapons Are Kept
On July 16, more than 30 American and Dutch citizens marched onto a military base in Buchel, Germany, where U.S. B61 nuclear bombs are deployed. On the base, activists lowered the American flag from the flagpole and called for a meeting with the American base commander, in order to give him a copy of the new UN Nuclear Ban Treaty adopted on July 7. After 45 minutes, police expelled all activists from the base without charge.
The next day, the base commander did finally agree to meet with the American activists, and received the text of the Nuclear Ban Treaty that they offered him.
Ralph Hutchison, “U.S. Citizens Take Action Against Nuclear Bombs in Europe,” Popular Resistance, July 18, 2017.
Nuclear Zero Lawsuits
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Dismisses Marshall Islands Lawsuit vs. U.S.
On July 31, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the lawsuit brought by the Republic of the Marshall Islands against the United States. The lawsuit sought a declaration that the United States was in breach of its treaty obligations under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and international law, and asked the court to order that the United States engage in good-faith negotiations.
The ruling from the court held that Article VI was non-self-executing and therefore not judicially enforceable. The panel also found that the Marshall Islands’ claims presented inextricable political questions that were nonjusticiable and must be dismissed.
Rick Wayman, Director of Programs for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, stated, “This ruling from the Ninth Circuit continues the trend of a complete lack of accountability on the part of the U.S. government for its nuclear proliferation, active participation in a nuclear arms race, and refusal to participate in nuclear disarmament negotiations.”
“Marshall Islands Nuclear Zero Lawsuit Appeal Dismissed in Ninth Circuit Court,” Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, July 31, 2017.
Sailor Presses Wrong Button, Causing Missile Defense Test to Fail
In June, the U.S. Navy and Raytheon conducted a test of the new SM-3 IIA missile defense interceptor in conjunction with the high-tech Aegis Combat System. The test failed when the interceptor missile combusted en route to its target.
A sailor aboard the U.S.S. John Paul Jones, the U.S. Navy’s ballistic missile defense test ship, apparently pressed the wrong button during the test mission, leading to the interceptor missile “blowing itself to smithereens.” How could an error so simple have happened? In the Aegis Combat System, there is a signaling mechanism that designates incoming targets as either hostile or friendly, which determines the actions of the missile. The sailor is reported to have accidentally pushed the “friendly” button instead of the “hostile” one.
Tyler Rogoway, “Report Says Missile Defense Test Failed Because Sailor Pushed The Wrong Button,” The Drive, July 24, 2017.
War and Peace
The Iran Deal Turns Two. Will It Make It to Three?
July 14 marked the two-year anniversary of the Iran nuclear deal, but its future is increasingly uncertain. On July 17, the Trump administration reluctantly certified to Congress that Iran has continued to comply with the terms of the deal. The decision to re-certify was highly contentious, involving long debates behind the scenes in which Trump demanded stricter policies to replace the agreement, which he considers too favorable toward Iran.
The following day, the Trump administration announced plans to reimpose sanctions on Iran that were lifted under the deal. Iran argues that adding back sanctions is an actual violation of the agreement, and stands by its right to continue testing missiles in the name of self-defense. It further emphasized its intention to “reciprocate” for the new sanctions. With more moderate advisors imploring Trump to keep the agreement, and hardliners arguing that it should be trashed, the nuclear deal may end up another casualty of ongoing clashes within the White House.
David E. Sanger and Rick Gladstone, “As Relations Worsen, Iran Says U.S. Sanctions May Violate Nuclear Deal,” The New York Times, July 18, 2017.
North Korea Advances Its Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Technology
On July 4, North Korea conducted a test of its Hwasong-14 missile, which it claims is an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the “heart of the United States” with “large heavy nuclear warheads.” The Trump administration said that the U.S. would use “the full range of capabilities at our disposal against the growing threat.”
Kim Jong-un said, “The American bastards must be quite unhappy after closely watching our strategic decision. I guess they are not too happy with the gift package we sent them for the occasion of their Independence Day. We should often send them gift packages so they won’t be too bored.” President Trump responded on Twitter, “North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy [Kim] have anything better to do with his life?”
Following the July 4 test, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency released a new assessment of its estimate of the time before North Korea would likely be able to reliably field a nuclear-capable ICBM that could hit North American cities. The DIA now estimates that North Korea could have this capability by next year.
On July 28, North Korea launched yet another ICBM. According to David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists, this latest test indicates a likely range of 6,500 miles, putting many U.S. cities within reach.
Choe Sang-Hun, “U.S. Confirms North Korea Fired Intercontinental Ballistic Missile,” The New York Times, July 4, 2017.
Ellen Nakashima, Anna Fifield and Joby Warrick, “North Korea Could Cross ICBM Threshold Next Year, U.S. Officials Warn in New Assessment,” Washington Post, July 25, 2017.
Oliver Laughland, “North Korea: Missiles Capable of Hitting New York Raise Stakes in Tense Standoff,” The Guardian, July 28, 2017.
The Story of a Man Who Survived Hiroshima and Nagasaki
On August 6, 1945, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, a Japanese man working as an engineer for Mitsubishi, was on a business trip in Hiroshima. He survived the atomic bombing that destroyed the city and killed tens of thousands of people instantly. Yamaguchi was able to make his way to the Hiroshima train station in the south of the city and got on a train to his hometown of Nagasaki. Three days later, on August 9, he was in Nagasaki when the U.S. dropped another atomic bomb there. In each case, he was within two miles of ground zero.
Mr. Yamaguchi, outspoken about the abolition of nuclear weapons, lived until 2010, 65 years after he experienced two nuclear attacks within the span of three days. He died at the age of 93.
“Double Blasted,” Radiolab, July 16, 2012.
SIPRI Study Shows Nuclear-Armed Nations Continue to Prioritize “Modernization”
On July 3, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released its annual report on nuclear arsenals. The data shows that while the overall number of nuclear weapons in the world continues to decrease, nuclear weapon-possessing states are heavily investing in modernizing their arsenals. The U.S. is obligated under the New START treaty to reduce its arsenal, but it plans to spend $400 billion over the next nine years to comprehensively update the nuclear forces it still possesses. Russia, while bound by the same treaty, is also pursuing an extensive modernization program. Each of the seven other nations with nuclear arsenals—the U.K., France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea—are either developing new nuclear weapon delivery systems, or have announced their intention to do so.
“Despite the recent progress in international talks on a treaty banning nuclear weapons, long-term modernization programs are under way in all nine states,” said SIPRI Senior Researcher Shannon Kile. “This suggests that none of these states will be prepared to give up their nuclear arsenals for the foreseeable future.”
“Global Nuclear Weapons: Modernization Remains the Priority,” SIPRI, July 3, 2017.
Nuclear Energy and Waste
Tons of Nuclear Waste Stored Perilously Close to Ocean in California
Over 1,800 tons of highly-radioactive waste is being stored at San Onofre, a shuttered nuclear power plant on the Pacific coast between Los Angeles and San Diego. This is just one of dozens of sites around the nation in which radioactive waste is being stored “temporarily,” with no safe permanent solution in sight.
The Trump Administration is considering licensing private companies to create consolidated storage sites in Texas and New Mexico, which would necessitate the transport of thousands of tons of highly-radioactive waste by rail and road from around the United States. Then, assuming a “permanent” storage solution is found at some point in the future, the waste would have to be transported again.
Ralph Vartabedian and Allen Schaben, “1,800 Tons of Radioactive Waste has an Ocean View and Nowhere to Go,” Los Angeles Times, July 2, 2017.
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 threats that have taken place in the month of August, including the August 12, 2000 incident in which the Russian nuclear-powered submarine Kursk sank, killing all 118 crew members on board.
To read Mason’s full article, click here.
For more information on the history of the Nuclear Age, visit NAPF’s Nuclear Files website.
A Brief Guide to the New Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty
The majority of the world’s countries just adopted a new treaty banning nuclear weapons, placing them in the same category of international law as other weapons of mass destruction (chemical and biological weapons) or weapons that cause unacceptable harm (landmines and cluster munitions). Despite this being the most significant development in global nuclear politics since the end of the Cold War, discussion of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is almost absent from the U.S. news media and often misunderstood in DC policy circles.
This article by Matthew Bolton, Director of the International Disarmament Institute at Pace University, provides an overview of the treaty and its contributions to international law and nuclear disarmament.
To read the full article, click here.
Inspiring Positive Social Change
NAPF Associate Martin Hellman and his wife Dorothie were interviewed about their book as part of an online series called “Inspiring Positive Social Change.” Click here to gain access to all the interviews at no charge. This interview series features passionate and inspiring leaders in the fields of spirituality, neuroscience, peacebuilding, compassion, and peace education.
The Hellmans’ book, A New Map for Relationships: Creating True Love at Home & Peace on the Planet, won praise from people as diverse as a former Secretary of Defense and NAPF’s president David Krieger. A PDF of the book can be downloaded for free. Hard copies of the book are available for purchase on the NAPF online shop.
Sadako Peace Day: Commemorating the Victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will host the 23rd Annual Sadako Peace Day on August 9 at La Casa de Maria in Santa Barbara, California. The event will feature music, poetry and reflection to remember the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, and all innocent victims of war.
NAPF Board Member Jimmy Hara will deliver the keynote address at this year’s event.
For more information on the Foundation’s annual Sadako Peace Day event, click here.
Evening for Peace: A Prescription for a Nuclear-Free World
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 34th Annual Evening for Peace will take place on Sunday, October 22, in Santa Barbara, California. The theme of this year’s event is “A Prescription for a Nuclear-Free World.” The Foundation will honor Dr. Ira Helfand and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War with the Distinguished Peace Leadership Award.
For more information, including sponsorship opportunities and tickets, click here.
Peace Literacy Summer Workshops
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation held an intensive Peace Literacy workshop in Santa Barbara, California, from July 16-21. Twenty-seven participants from around the world came together for the workshop, led by NAPF’s Peace Leadership Director, Paul K. Chappell. Among the participants were psychologists, professors, ministers, and students. To see the outline of the five-day workshop, click here.
On August 9, Chappell will deliver a free day-long workshop at La Casa de Maria in Santa Barbara. The workshop, entitled “A Skill Set for Peace in Challenging Times,” will cover every aspect of being human, from solving national and global problems, to confronting the root causes of violence and bullying, to overcoming rage and trauma. To register for this free workshop, click here.
To learn more about the Peace Literacy movement, click here.
Timeline of the Nuclear Age
Nuclear Files, a website operated by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, contains thousands of full-text primary source materials on nuclear history. It is an invaluable tool for exploring the challenges of the Nuclear Age, including information about historic nuclear events, nuclear weapon technology, government treaties, and biographies.
The Nuclear Files timeline lists many key events that have taken place throughout the Nuclear Age. The timeline has been updated to include events through the first half of 2017. Click here to view the timeline.
Tell Congress that Nuclear Weapons Are Banned
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is an important step toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. The majority of the world’s nations consider nuclear weapons to be illegal, immoral, and prohibited. We were dismayed that the United States actively boycotted this process and responded to it in a hostile manner. Responding to the newly-adopted treaty in a joint statement, the U.S., UK, and France stated, “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.”
This is yet another example of the U.S. ceding its leadership role in the world. While the majority of the world has negotiated in good faith to ban nuclear weapons, the U.S. and other nuclear-armed nations stubbornly continue to cling to the concept of nuclear deterrence.
Please take a moment today to send a message to your elected representatives in Washington, DC, letting them know about the new nuclear ban treaty. Ask them to consider this emerging legal norm prohibiting nuclear weapons as they make decisions on funding nuclear weapons programs in next year’s budget.
“The most terrifying monster lurking in the darkness of Hiroshima is precisely the possibility that man might become no longer human.”
— Kenzaburo Oe, Japanese author and 1994 Nobel Laureate in Literature. This quote appears in the book Speaking of Peace: Quotations to Inspire Action. The revised 4th edition of this book will be released in the next few weeks. Pre-order copies today in the NAPF Peace Store at a 25% discount.
“We’ve always known that nuclear weapons are immoral. Now they are also illegal.”
— Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and member of the NAPF Advisory Council, in her closing remarks at the United Nations after the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted on July 7, 2017.
“The directors of the Livermore, Sandia and Los Alamos nuclear weapons labs in truth wear two hats – the first as lab directors, the second as presidents of the for-profit limited liability corporations running the labs. This inherent conflict of interest skews U.S. nuclear weapons policy and should be brought to an end.”
— Jay Coghlan, Executive Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, in a July 21 op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal.