Issue #234 – January 2017
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The Most Dangerous Period in Human History
It is terrifying to think of Donald Trump with the codes to launch the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Ironically, Trump himself may be the single best argument anyone could make for why the world should abolish nuclear weapons. The mix of Trump and nuclear weapons is a formula for making his term in office the most dangerous period in human history.
Trump tweets from the hip, like a crazy man. When he tweets or speaks, he often muddies the waters. His aides spend much of their time trying to calm the fears he raises in his compulsive tweeting.
To read more, click here.
I Lost Family in Hiroshima. Mr. Trump, Nuclear Weapons Are No Game.
I can’t help but feel Mr. Trump treats brinksmanship as some game. It’s hard to believe he needs reminding, but nuclear weapons are not toys, nor are they chips to be wagered in some kind of high stakes poker match. I am among a dwindling number still around who remember the first time atomic weapons were used—at that time to end a terrible world war. I had family in Hiroshima when the Enola Gay dropped its deadly payload, obliterating the entire city in an instant.
So it is with ever-increasing alarm that we must acknowledge that a man, who apparently lacks the self-control to keep his fingers from tweeting, now literally has those same fingers on the nuclear button. But beyond the question of temperament, I must ask: Does Donald Trump understand the true horror of what he can unleash in an instant?
To read more, click here.
U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy
Top Scientists Urge Trump to Abide By Iran Nuclear Deal
Dozens of top U.S. scientists sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump urging him not to dismantle the Iran nuclear deal when he takes office. The letter was organized by Richard Garwin, a physicist who was involved in designing the world’s first hydrogen bomb. The letter says that the Iran deal “has dramatically reduced the risk that Iran could suddenly produce significant quantities” of nuclear weapon materials and has “lowered the pressure felt by Iran’s neighbors to develop their own nuclear weapons options.”
Among the 37 signatories to the letter is NAPF Associate Martin Hellman, who wrote about the issue in a recent blog post.
William Broad, “Top Scientists Urge Trump to Abide by Iran Nuclear Deal,” The New York Times, January 2, 2017.
Pakistani Defense Minister Threatens Nuclear War Over Fake News Story
On December 23, Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif wrote on his official Twitter account, “Israeli (defense minister) threatens nuclear retaliation presuming (Pakistan) role in Syria against Daesh. Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear State too.”
Asif was responding to an article published by AWDNews, which quoted former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon as threatening Pakistan with nuclear weapons if Pakistan sent troops to Syria. However, Yaalon is not the current Israeli Defense Minister, and there is no evidence that Yaalon ever said such a thing.
Ben Westcott, “Duped By Fake News Story, Pakistani Minister Threatens Nuclear War With Israel,” CNN, December 26, 2016.
Threat of Hacking at Nuclear Plants Is Growing
United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told a meeting of the UN Security Council that “vicious non-state groups” are actively seeking weapons of mass destruction, and that such groups can already create mass disruption using cyber technologies. Eliasson called the hacking of a nuclear plant a “nightmare scenario.”
The Security Council meeting focused on ways to halt the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons by extremist groups and criminals.
Edith Lederer, “UN: Threat of a Hacking Attack on Nuclear Plants Is Growing,” Associated Press, December 16, 2016.
North Korea Claims It Will Test Intercontinental Ballistic Missile
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has claimed that his country is in the final stages of preparing for a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. He stated that North Korea has “achieved the status of a nuclear power, a military giant in the East which no enemy, however formidable, would dare to provoke.”
Multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions prohibit such launches by North Korea, and its missile program has been the cause of economic sanctions in the past. Meanwhile, other nuclear-armed states, including the United States, continue to test and develop intercontinental ballistic missiles with no sanctions or Security Council resolutions.
Louise Moon, “Pentagon Rebukes North Korea Over Claim It Will Test Missile that Could Reach U.S.,” The Telegraph, January 2, 2017.
U.S. Missile Defense Funding Continues to Grow, Despite Flaws
The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, first deployed in 2004, is poised to grow despite a poor testing record. The GMD system is designed to defend the United States against a surprise missile attack from a country like Iran or North Korea. However, the system has failed to intercept mock enemy warheads about half of the time.
Despite this dismal failure rate, the U.S. is searching for new locations to deploy additional GMD interceptors. Numerous locations around the United States are vying for the opportunity, primarily because of the economic stimulus that could come with the $4 billion construction cost. Currently, four GMD interceptors are deployed in California and 30 are deployed in Alaska. A new site would add around 20 more interceptors, with a capacity for up to 60.
A report by the Government Accountability Office said that GMD’s test record has been “insufficient to demonstrate that an operationally useful defense capability exists.” A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists stated that the GMD system is “simply unable to protect the U.S. public.”
David Willman, “The Nation’s Missile Defense System has Serious Flaws. So Why Is the Pentagon Moving to Expand It?” Los Angeles Times, December 13, 2016.
Nuclear Energy and Waste
Cost for Cleanup at Hanford Rises Yet Again
The U.S. Department of Energy has reported that the projected cost to clean up highly radioactive sludge at the Hanford Site in Washington State has risen another $4.5 billion to a current projected total of $16.8 billion. The Waste Treatment Plant is now over four times its original budget and more than a decade behind schedule.
Over 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge, currently stored in leaking underground tanks, await the opening of the proposed facility, which will turn the waste into glass. The facility has been under a stop-work order for three years because of serious technical doubts.
Ralph Vartabedian, “The Price Tag for Cleaning Up Nuclear Waste at Hanford Site Just Went Up Another $4.5 Billion,” Los Angeles Times, December 16, 2016.
Trump Administration May Face Pressure to Resume Nuclear Testing
With President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of former Texas governor Rick Perry to head the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), observers are worried that the agency will face pressure to resume full-scale explosive nuclear testing. The U.S. has maintained a moratorium on full-scale nuclear test explosions since 1992, while continuing to conduct computer simulations and “sub-critical” tests.
Many conservative think tanks are calling for a resumption of tests because of fears that the nuclear stockpile is no longer reliable. While the past two Energy Secretaries – Stephen Chu and Ernest Moniz – have significant backgrounds in science and physics, Rick Perry is a politician who famously championed eliminating the DOE during the 2012 presidential campaign.
As the “modernization” of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, begun under President Obama, continues, it is likely that pressure will continue to mount from the right to test the new weapons being produced.
James Glanz, “Rick Perry, as Energy Secretary, May Be Pressed to Resume Nuclear Tests,” The New York Times, December 27, 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 January, including the January 21, 1968 crash of a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber carrying four 1.1 megaton Mark 28 nuclear bombs.
To read Mason’s full article, click here.
For more information on the history of the Nuclear Age, visit NAPF’s Nuclear Files website.
Don’t Bank on the Bomb
PAX has published an update of its report “Don’t Bank on the Bomb.” The report outlines the companies around the world that produce nuclear weapons, as well as the many institutions that finance the nuclear weapon producers. The report also highlights numerous financial institutions in its “Hall of Fame” for their policies explicitly prohibiting financing nuclear weapon producers.
Read the report at dontbankonthebomb.com to find out if your bank is involved in financing the production of nuclear weapons.
Nuclear Ban Treaty Negotiations in 2017
The United Nations will convene negotiations in 2017 on “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” This new international agreement will place nuclear weapons on the same legal footing as other weapons of mass destruction, which have long been outlawed.
The negotiations will take place at UN headquarters in New York from March 27-31 and June 15 – July 7, with the participation of governments, international organizations and civil society representatives.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has published a webpage with more information about the negotiations and frequently-asked questions about the ban treaty process. Click here to view the page.
Command and Control on PBS January 10
Command and Control, the powerful documentary based on the book by Eric Schlosser, is scheduled to air on PBS stations around the United States on Tuesday, January 10.
The documentary recounts a chilling nuclear nightmare that played out at a Titan II missile complex in Arkansas in September, 1980. A worker accidentally dropped a socket, puncturing the fuel tank of an intercontinental ballistic missile carrying the most powerful nuclear warhead in the U.S. arsenal, an incident which ignited a series of feverish efforts to avoid a deadly disaster.
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.
Open Letter to President-elect Trump: Negotiate Nuclear Zero
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation has sent an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump, reminding him that, as President of the United States, he will soon have “the grave responsibility of assuring that nuclear weapons are not overtly threatened or used during [his] term of office.”
The Open Letter advises Trump of the U.S. obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to negotiate in good faith for an end to the nuclear arms race and for nuclear disarmament. It explains that nuclear deterrence is based upon on the willingness of political leaders to act rationally under all circumstances, even those of extreme stress. It goes on to say that nuclear proliferation and a renewed nuclear arms race would both make for a far more dangerous world.
Among the signers to the Open Letter are many advisors, board members and staff of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and others, including Helen Caldicott, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Richard Falk, Oliver Stone and Setsuko Thurlow, to mention just a few.
To add your name to the open letter, click here.
Peace Leadership: 2016 Year In Review
In 2016, NAPF Peace Leadership Director Paul K. Chappell reached 5,180 people directly, including 200 college-level educators and 2,550 middle and high school students, through a total of 54 lectures and 16 workshops.
Chappell gave a lecture in August 2016 at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York. He was the final speaker of their week-long “The Ethical Realities of War” series. The lecture was presented to an audience of 1,200 at the United States’ oldest summer lecture series; the video of this talk is now being used as a teaching tool.
To read more about the accomplishments of the NAPF Peace Leadership Program in 2016, click here.
“If we do not speak for Earth, who will? If we are not committed to our own survival, who will be?”
— Carl Sagan. This quote appears in the book Speaking of Peace: Quotations to Inspire Action, which is available for purchase in the NAPF Peace Store.
“Violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.”
— Pope Francis, in a message for the 50th World Day of Peace on January 1, 2017.
“Congress must not allow the Tweeter in Chief to unleash a dangerous and costly nuclear arms race.”
— Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), in a December 23 post to Twitter.