Issue #233 – December 2016
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Donald Trump, the Bomb, and the Human Future
Donald Trump and the Bomb are nearly the same age. Which of them will prove to be more destructive remains to be seen, but in combination they are terrifying.
Trump was born on June 14, 1946, less than a year after the first and, thus far, only nuclear weapons were used in war. Given Trump’s surprising recent election as president of the United States, his fate and that of the Bomb are about to become seriously and dangerously intertwined with the fate of all humanity.
On January 20, 2017, Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, and he will be given the nuclear codes and the power to launch the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which is comprised of some 7,000 nuclear weapons. A military officer will always be close to Trump, carrying the nuclear codes in a briefcase known as the “football.” What does this portend for civilization and the future of humanity?
To read more, click here.
Seeking Nuclear Disarmament in Dangerous Times
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has championed efforts for nations to make good on their pledges to abolish nuclear weapons. In 2009 he published a five-point proposal for nuclear disarmament, urging nuclear weapons states in particular to fulfill their promises under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to negotiate for the total elimination of nuclear weapons as well as other complementary steps to that end such as banning missiles and space weapons.
At the end of his term this year, there have been some stunning new developments after years of global gridlock and blocked efforts. At the UN General Assembly First Committee for Disarmament, 123 nations voted this October to support negotiations in 2017 to prohibit and ban nuclear weapons, just as the world has already done for biological and chemical weapons.
To read more, click here.
Giving Thanks to Our Latin American Neighbors Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons
Americans gathered around their Thanksgiving tables last week reflecting on what they were thankful for this past year. There was the potential for much angst after a year with significant division in our nation, often emphasizing differences and talk of building walls to separate us from our neighbors. In contrast, at our table, we gave thanks for our Latin American and Caribbean neighbors, celebrating their courage and the Treaty of Tlatelolco, a little-known treaty that was drafted 50 years ago this February creating the world’s first nuclear weapons free zone (NWFZ) and which ultimately served as the model for all subsequent NWFZ to follow.
In the border town of Tijuana, at its historic coastal Friendship Park adjacent the Mexican side of the wall, a monument commemorating the northwestern point of this NWFZ was unveiled this past week with great fanfare, though remarkably no coverage from the neighbor to the north, the United States.
To read more, click here.
U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy
CIA Chief Warns President-elect Trump Against Tearing Up Iran Deal
CIA director John Brennan has warned the incoming Trump administration that scrapping the nuclear deal with Iran would undermine American foreign policy, embolden hard-liners in Iran and threaten to set off an arms race in the Middle East by encouraging other countries to develop nuclear weapons. Brennan said, “I think it would be the height of folly if the next administration were to tear up that agreement.”
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), who Donald Trump has selected to take over as head of the CIA, said, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”
Dan Bilefsky, “C.I.A. Chief Warns Donald Trump Against Tearing Up Iran Nuclear Deal,” The New York Times, November 30, 2016.
Former Nuclear Weapon Workers Worry About Health Compensation
Over 900,000 people have been employed by the United States over the past seven-plus decades to develop nuclear weapons. The jobs often exposed employees to radiation and toxic chemicals, frequently without their knowledge. Recently, two federal programs meant to help some of these workers — the U.S. Department of Labor’s Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act and the Department of Justice’s Radiation Exposure Compensation Act — have experienced a surge in demand.
Since 2000, over 113,000 people have filed claims under the Department of Labor’s program, at a cost to the government of $13 billion. There also are questions about how the health of the future generation of nuclear workers will be protected. Work is now underway at the Los Alamos National Laboratory to restart an assembly line for plutonium pit production in increasing quantities over the coming decades. With numerous other nuclear modernization programs proposed, tens of thousands of new people could be at risk.
Rebecca Moss, “Cold War Patriots Gather in Los Alamos,” Santa Fe New Mexican, October 31, 2016.
Diver May Have Found Long-Lost Nuclear Bomb
A Canadian diver may have found a long-lost nuclear bomb off the coast of British Columbia. In October, Sean Smyrichinsky went diving to search for sea cucumbers. He spotted a strange object on the ocean floor. He later heard from a local fisherman about the 1950 crash of a U.S. Air Force B-36 bomber, which jettisoned its Mark IV nuclear bomb prior to crashing. The bomb was never found.
The Canadian Royal Navy is now working with Smyrichinsky to try to locate the mysterious object.
Amy B. Wang, “A Diver was Looking for Sea Cucumbers. He May Have Found a Long-Lost Nuclear Bomb Instead,” Washington Post, November 8, 2016.
Nuclear Energy and Waste
Cost of Fukushima Expected to Skyrocket
The cost of the Fukushima nuclear disaster is now expected to reach 20 trillion yen, or $176 billion. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which previously put the overall cost at ¥11 trillion, is considering passing on a portion of the costs, including for compensation and the decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, to consumers via higher electricity prices.
In addition to costs for compensation and decommissioning, the current estimate also includes dealing with seemingly endless streams of radioactive water produced as groundwater flows through the contaminated area on its way to the Pacific Ocean. This huge sum of money does not include costs for interim waste storage facilities, however, meaning the total cost of this nuclear disaster will be even higher.
“Cost of Fukushima Disaster Expected to Soar to ¥20 Trillion,” Kyodo News, November 28, 2016.
Inside the American Nuclear Waste Crisis
Nearly 100 nuclear reactors continue to operate in the United States, even as there is no viable plan in sight for safe, permanent storage of nuclear waste, which will remain highly radioactive for millennia. At Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts, the plant will still host more than 800 tons of irradiated spent fuel, even after the plant ceases producing electricity in 2019.
The United States government spent billions of dollars trying to prepare a waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but the plan proved extremely expensive, scientifically unsound and politically unworkable. The U.S. Department of Energy is now examining other possibilities, including what they call a “consent-based siting initiative.” This unethical plan would offer financial incentives to economically disadvantaged communities to serve as storage places for highly radioactive waste from around the country. In addition to the fact that this plan would take advantage of vulnerable people, transporting nuclear waste by rail and truck around the nation would pose a great danger to millions of people living along the transportation routes.
Gregg Levine and Caroline Preston, “Pilgrim’s Progress: Inside the American Nuclear-Waste Crisis,” The New Yorker, November 25, 2016.
Powerful Earthquake Near Fukushima Raised New Tsunami Fears
A powerful earthquake struck off the coast of northeastern Japan on November 21, raising new fears among area residents about another tsunami, less than six years after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that killed 18,000 people and caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Estimates of the magnitude of the latest earthquake ranged from 6.9 to 7.4, and the Japanese government quickly issued a tsunami warning for the area.
For many people in the region, this latest earthquake brought back terrible memories. “I remembered 3/11,” Kazuhiro Onuki said by phone, referring to the March 11 date of the 2011 disaster. “It really came back. And it was so awful. The sways to the side were huge.”
Ken Moritsugu, “Offshore Quake Causes Tsunamis, Nuclear Worries in Japan,” Associated Press, November 21, 2016.
Trump Likely to Continue Obama’s Plans for Massive Nuclear Modernization
Although policy details from the incoming Trump administration are extremely vague, President-elect Donald Trump is thought to be likely to continue President Obama’s program to “modernize” all aspects of the U.S. nuclear arsenal at a cost of at least $1 trillion over the next 30 years.
The Trump transition website, greatagain.gov, refers briefly to nuclear weapons modernization. The site says that President-elect Trump “will ensure our strategic nuclear triad is modernized to ensure it continues to be an effective deterrent.”
Rachel Karas, “Trump Appears Likely to Continue Obama’s Path on Nuclear Modernization,” Inside Defense, November 11, 2016.
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 December, including the December 10, 1967 detonation of a 20-kiloton nuclear device near Farmington, New Mexico, designed to release natural gas trapped in dense shale deposits.
To read Mason’s full article, click here.
For more information on the history of the Nuclear Age, visit NAPF’s Nuclear Files website.
Ten Big Nuclear Ideas for the Next President
The Ploughshares Fund has published a new series of essays entitled “10 Big Nuclear Ideas for the Next President.” Authors include Senator Dianne Feinstein, former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, Senator Ed Markey, Rep. Adam Smith, former CIA operative Valerie Plame, and the former commander of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, retired Gen. James Cartwright.
To learn more about the report, including a video of the launch event and a link to download the full report, click here.
World Medical Journal on the Growing Threat of Nuclear War
The World Medical Journal, a publication of the World Medical Association, has published an article entitled “The Growing Threat of Nuclear War and the Role of the Health Community.” The article, co-written by Ira Helfand, Andy Haines, Tilman Ruff, Hans Kristensen, Patricia Lewis, and Zia Mian, outlines the growing risks of nuclear war and the nuclear modernization programs of all nine nuclear-armed nations.
The authors conclude, “The health professions therefore have a central role in advocating for the abolition of nuclear weapons, reflecting their ethical responsibility to protect health and prevent illness.”
To read the full article, click here.
Panel Discussion on Non-Profit Management
The Herbert Kurz Business Consortium will present a panel discussion on non-profit management on December 16, 2016. The event is free and open to the public. It will feature panelists from SHARE Africa, the Center for Safety & Change, and the RCC Foundation.
For more information, click here.
16th Annual Kelly Lecture Features Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 16th Annual Frank K. Kelly Lecture on Humanity’s Future will feature legendary Hollywood director Oliver Stone and Professor Peter Kuznick, co-authors of the internationally-acclaimed documentary The Untold History of the United States.
The lecture, entitled “Untold History, Uncertain Future,” will take place on February 23, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara. Tickets start at $10 and are available here.
For more information about the Kelly Lecture series, click here.
Symposium: The Fierce Urgency of Nuclear Zero
On October 24-25, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation hosted a symposium with leading nuclear disarmament academics and activists. The symposium, entitled “The Fierce Urgency of Nuclear Zero: Changing the Discourse,” was an intimate brainstorming session designed to elicit new and innovative thinking on how to arrive at nuclear zero.
The symposium featured Noam Chomsky, Elaine Scarry, Richard Falk, Hans Kristensen, Daniel Ellsberg, and many more.
Click here to view selected items from the symposium, including video, audio, photos and transcripts.
Peace Literacy, Post-Election
Three days after the 2016 presidential election, NAPF Peace Leadership Director Paul K. Chappell visited Naropa University in Colorado to give a Veteran’s Day seminar. In conversations with students, he generated a list of human needs, including the need for purpose, meaning, trust, transcendence, and a sense of belonging. Framing his own narrative in the context of “the need for peace literacy,” Chappell shared his experience growing up in Alabama, the son of a Korean mother and a half-white, half-black father who fought in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
To read more about Paul’s trip to Colorado, click here for a blog post by Candace Walworth, Ph.D., Peace Studies program lead at Naropa.
“Nothing could be worse than fear that one has given up too soon and left one effort unexpended which might have saved the world.”
— Jane Addams, American peace activist and 1931 Nobel Peace Laureate. This quote appears in the book Speaking of Peace: Quotations to Inspire Action, which is available for purchase in the NAPF Peace Store.
“Your presidency is an unprecedented opportunity for positive change in the world. Reducing the threat of nuclear war and nuclear winter will make the United States safer and richer, and cement your status as a world leader. Please take advantage of this chance to be a real winner.”
— Alan Robock, of the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University. Dr. Robock is a primary author of contemporary studies on the climatic effects of nuclear weapons use. To read his full article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, click here.
“If we are to have a nuclear war, we can’t win it. Can we survive it? I don’t know. Nobody knows. That’s the tragedy of it – nobody knows. Anybody that tells you that this many people are going to be killed and this many are going to survive doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
— Admiral Gene La Rocque, who passed away in October 2016 at the age of 98. To read NAPF President David Krieger’s remembrance of Admiral La Rocque, click here.