Issue #203 – June 2014
The Nuclear Zero Lawsuits are proceeding at the International Court of Justice and U.S. Federal District Court. Sign the petition supporting the Marshall Islands’ courageous stand, and stay up to date on progress at www.nuclearzero.org.
We Must End the Madness of Nuclear Weapons
Until now, no one has held nuclear-armed nations accountable for their continued possession of nuclear weapons. Last month, the Republic of the Marshall Islands courageously took the nine nuclear weapons-wielding Goliaths to the International Court of Justice to enforce compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law.
The people of the Marshall Islands are standing up to say that it’s time to end the era of nuclear madness. They are joined by Nobel Peace Laureates, and leaders and experts from every field who support this historic legal action.
We call on President Obama and the leaders of the other nuclear weapon states to fulfill their legal obligation to negotiate in good faith to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. It is not unrealistic to ask that the world’s most powerful governments start obeying the law and keeping their promises.
Nothing good has ever come of nuclear weapons. Nothing good ever will. For the sake of all humanity, current and future, it’s time to respect the law and keep the promise.
To read more, click here.
The Nuclear Zero Lawsuits: Who Will Speak for the People?
The U.N. just concluded the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee with representatives from the 189 signatory nations and of civil society. The meeting was in preparation for next year’s NPT conference and to discuss the current status of fulfilling the obligations under the treaty and in particular, the mandate of the nuclear weapons states for global disarmament. The outcome was a continued foot dragging by the nuclear states motivating a demand for meaningful steps and progress toward disarmament by the other 184 nations in view of current international events.
Recent scientific studies by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War on the humanitarian consequences of limited nuclear war have shed additional light on the danger these weapons pose. Describing a hypothetical conflict between India and Pakistan using less than ½ of 1 percent of the global nuclear arsenals, the studies confirm 2 billion people would be at risk of dying due to global climatic change.
Combined with recent scandals involving U.S. ICBM missile controllers and a growing accounting of nuclear mishaps and near misses in our nuclear forces over the years, the sense of urgency for disarmament is greater than ever. It has become a question of who will step forward and speak for humanity.
To read more, click here.
War Makes Us Poorer
When I began my senior year at West Point in August 2001, I took a class on national security that greatly influenced me. It was the first time I had seriously questioned the size of the U.S. military budget. My professor was a West Point graduate, Rhodes scholar, and major in the army. One day he walked in the classroom and wrote the names of eighteen countries on the board. He then looked at us and said, “The United States spends more on its military than the next eighteen countries in the world combined. Why do we need that much military spending? Isn’t that insane?”
My professor then explained that immense war spending impoverishes the American people. None of the students in the class said anything. I was shocked by what he told us and did not know how to respond. Disturbed by our silence, he said, “I’m surprised you all aren’t more outraged by this. Why do we need that much military spending?”
To read more, click here.
Nuclear Zero Lawsuits
U.S. Files Notice of Appearance in U.S. Federal District Court
On May 29, 2014, the United States government filed the required “Notice of Appearance” with the United States District Court, Northern District of California, San Francisco Division.
The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. on April 24, 2014 for breaches of Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Similar lawsuits were filed against all nine nuclear-armed nations (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea) in the International Court of Justice.
This filing demonstrates that the United States will indeed be appearing to defend itself and its agencies in court in this unprecedented lawsuit.
Rick Wayman, “U.S. Government Files Official Notice of Appearance,” Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, May 29, 2014.
Taking the Nuclear Powers to Court
David Swanson, host of Talk Nation Radio and a key organizer in the World Beyond War movement, interviewed NAPF Director of Programs Rick Wayman about the Nuclear Zero Lawsuits filed by the Marshall Islands. In this 30-minute interview, Rick addresses questions about why the Marshall Islands took this unprecedented action, what exactly is alleged in the lawsuits, and what to expect next.
In a different interview, Blase Bonpane, Director of Office of the Americas, interviewed NAPF President David Krieger and NAPF Distinguished Fellow Daniel Ellsberg about the lawsuits. Click here for the interview on KPFK’s World Focus program.
U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy
An independent documentary entitled “Nuclear Savage,” yet to be shown on-air or online in the U.S., exposes for the first time solid evidence of U.S. knowledge regarding the lasting effects of nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands. Screenwriter and producer Adam Horowitz is unequivocal in asserting that the evidence conclusively shows that the contamination of the Marshall atolls wasn’t an accident, as the government previously claimed, but rather was the result of a premeditated, minutely planned, and cynically executed experiment to establish the long-term effects of radiation poisoning on humans.
For instance, before insisting in 1957 that the island of Rongelap was safe for habitation, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission official Merril Eisenbud wrote, “That island is by far the most contaminated place on earth and it will be very interesting to get a measure of human uptake when people live in a contaminated environment.” The U.S. has been largely unresponsive to the islanders efforts to seek restitution. Beyond initial compensation of $150 million, the U.S. government has refused to recognize further responsibility for what it previously called an “accident.”
“Getting the story told and in the public view is hard,” Horowitz says. “But it is an important story.”
For more information on “Nuclear Savage” and to watch the preview, click here.
Peter Calder, “America’s Shame: The N-bomb Guinea Pigs,” The New Zealand Herald, May 17, 2014.
B61 Nuclear Bomb Upgrade Reaches Milestone
Sandia National Laboratory reached a key milestone in upgrading the B61 nuclear bomb. Sandia conducted a week-long wind tunnel test to measure the nuclear bomb’s performance at the speed of sound.
In one of the biggest projects Sandia has undertaken since the end of the Cold war, it is working with both the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the U.S. Air Force to extend the nuclear bomb’s lifetime by at least 20 years while adding new military capabilities.
One of the recent changes includes advancing it from “dumb” to “smart” bomb via a new guided tail kit assembly. All current B61 models are gravity bombs to be dropped over targets. They currently do not have guidance systems that could pinpoint them for greater accuracy once released.
Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons analyst with the Federation of American Scientists, has raised concerns about the modernization program, and the new tail kit for the B61 in particular. He said, “This is the first real nuclear bomb program after the Cold War that’s adding significant new capabilities. It raises the question, is the U.S. back in the nuclear bomb business?”
Kevin Robinson-Avila, “Overhauling the Nation’s Nuclear Arsenal: Sandia National Labs Achieves B61 Milestone,” Albuquerque Journal, May 18, 2014.
Is Kitty Litter Responsible for Radiation Leak?
Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico have been working to discover the cause of a radiation leak in February 2014 at the underground nuclear waste storage site, exposing at least 22 workers to elevated radiation levels. One theory now being investigated is whether kitty litter that was used to absorb moisture inside sealed barrels of nuclear waste caused a chemical reaction. Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the waste in question originated, switched from non-organic to organic kitty litter in 2013.
There are at least 500 barrels of nuclear waste containing organic kitty litter scattered among three sites: a storage cavern a half-mile underground at WIPP; the grounds of Los Alamos National Lab; and a commercial disposal site in West Texas.
Jeri Clausing, “Q&A: Is Cat Litter to Blame for Nuke Dump Leak?” Associated Press, May 23, 2014.
Air Force Flunks Stolen Nuclear Weapon Test
Security forces at a U.S. Air Force base failed to speedily recover a stolen nuclear weapon in a drill conducted in 2013. According to an Air Force review of the event, the team showed an “inability to effectively respond to a recapture scenario” due to insufficient training and lack of familiarity with “complex scenario” exercises and shortcomings in “leadership culture.”
The Air Force nuclear missile corps has faced a series of recent embarrassments, as reported in previous issues of the Sunflower newsletter. A Minuteman missile commander was removed from his post last October after the Pentagon concluded that he drank too much and cavorted with “suspect” women on an official trip to Russia. And in March 2014, the Air Force fired nine commanders at Malmstrom Air Force Base amid fallout from a cheating scandal.
Noah Rayman, “Air Force Flunked Stolen Nuclear Weapon Test,” TIME, May 22, 2014.
Nuclear Modernization: A Threat to the NPT?
Nearly half a century after the five declared nuclear-weapon states in 1968 pledged under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament,” all of the world’s nuclear-weapon states are busy modernizing their arsenals and continue to reaffirm the importance of such weapons.
Perpetual nuclear modernization appears to undercut the promises made by the five NPT nuclear-weapon states. Without some form of limitations on the pace and scope of nuclear modernization, the goals of deep cuts in and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons remain elusive and appear increasingly unlikely as continued reaffirmation of the value of nuclear weapons, sustained by a global nuclear competition, threatens to extend the nuclear era indefinitely.
Hans Kristensen, “Nuclear Weapons Modernization: A Threat to the NPT?” Arms Control Today, May 2014.
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 June, including the failed launch of a NASA satellite, which dispersed plutonium into the upper atmosphere (April 21, 1964) and the massive radioactive release at Chernobyl (April 26, 1986).
To read Mason’s full article, click here.
For more information on the history of the Nuclear Age, visit NAPF’s Nuclear Files website.
Online Course on Nuclear Weapons: Environmental, Societal, and Health Effects
Dr. Steven Starr, Senior Scientist with Physicians for Social Responsibility and a NAPF Associate, is teaching an online course through the University of Missouri entitled “Nuclear Weapons: Environmental, Societal, and Health Effects.”
According to Dr. Starr, “The course is fairly comprehensive but is designed to be accessible to those who do not already know a great deal about the subject. I think the class would be of great benefit to, among others, activists who wish to learn more about the historical and technical aspects of nuclear weapons.”
You do not have to be a University of Missouri student to register for this online course. The class begins on June 2, so don’t wait to register. For more information, click here.
NAPF Briefing Paper for the NPT PrepCom
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation published a briefing paper for the Non-Proliferation Treaty PrepCom, which met at the United Nations in New York from April 28 to May 9, 2014. The briefing paper is entitled “The Nuclear Zero Lawsuits: Bold Action to Enforce Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
The briefing paper gives a summary of the Nuclear Zero Lawsuits filed by the Marshall Islands against all nine nuclear-armed nations, followed by a copy of the application filed against the United Kingdom in the International Court of Justice.
To download a copy of the briefing paper, click here.
Disarmament Education Report for the UN Secretary-General
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation has submitted a report on its nuclear disarmament education efforts over the past two years to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The NAPF report is added to the work of other non-governmental organizations around the world and is submitted by the Secretary-General to the United Nations General Assembly every two years.
Click here to download a copy of NAPF’s report.
Remembering the U.S. Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
On August 6, 2014, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will participate in two events commemorating the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively.
NAPF’s 21st Annual Sadako Peace Day will be held at La Casa de Maria in Montecito, California, at 6:00 p.m. This year’s featured speaker is NAPF Board member Robert Laney.
NAPF Director of Programs Rick Wayman will attend a commemoration event at the gates of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where many U.S. nuclear weapons have been designed and developed. The theme of this year’s Bay Area commemoration event is “Failure to Disarm.” Rick has been invited to speak about the Nuclear Zero Lawsuits, which directly address the failure of all nine nuclear-armed nations to disarm.
More information about both of these important commemoration events will appear in the July edition of The Sunflower.
NAPF Poetry Contest Deadline is July 1
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s annual poetry contest is now accepting entries. The Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Awards are an annual series of awards to encourage poets to explore and illuminate positive visions of peace and the human spirit. The Poetry Awards include three age categories: Adult, Youth 13-18, and Youth 12 & Under.
For more information about the contest, including a full list of rules and instructions on how to enter, click here. The deadline for entries is July 1.
“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage doesn’t need to be lived again.”
— Maya Angelou, who passed away in May 2014. Her quote is featured in the NAPF book Speaking of Peace: Quotations to Inspire Action.
“The Abe Cabinet’s maneuvers for the exercise of the right to collective self-defense and creating the war-fighting system will not only destroy the Constitutional pacifism, which has ensured peace and safety of Japanese citizens, but lead to the escalation of the vicious cycle of tension in East Asia. We must stop this dangerous move in cooperation with all peace-loving people both in Japan and the rest of the world.”
— Yasui Masakazu, Secretary General of the Japan Council Against A and H Bombs (Gensuikyo). He is referring to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s desire to re-interpret Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.
“We call for urgent negotiations on a treaty to ban the use, manufacture, stockpiling and possession of nuclear weapons as a first step towards their complete eradication.”
— From a motion adopted by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) World Congress on May 23, 2014.