Issue #215 – June 2015
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Grand Bargain Is Not So Grand
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has two major purposes and together they form a grand bargain. First, the treaty seeks to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons to other countries. Second, the treaty seeks to level the playing field by the pursuit of negotiations in good faith to end the nuclear arms race at an early date and to achieve nuclear disarmament. The goal of the grand bargain, in other words, is a world without nuclear weapons.
It is the disarmament side of the grand bargain, though, where things really break down. The five nuclear-armed countries that are parties to the NPT (US, Russia, UK, France and China) appear more comfortable working together to maintain and modernize their nuclear arsenals than they do to fulfilling their disarmament obligations under the treaty. Their common strategy appears to be “nuclear weapons forever.”
To read more, click here.
Exclusive Interview With General Lee Butler
Today, General Lee Butler is 75, and he has never stopped believing nuclear arms to be an enormous danger and outrageously immoral. They permit imperfect leaders to play God, he says, and make it all too easy for the planet to be ruined for all future generations in a span of hours. He’s incredulous that scores of U.S. missiles are still kept on hair-trigger alert, poised to be launched in minutes. And he is more disillusioned than ever that defense strategists and politicians keep defending nuclear deterrence: a theory born in the 1950s that asserts nations can prevent nuclear war by keeping nuclear weapons ready for use in retaliation. Butler believed that once, fervently. But he now says deterrence probably never made much sense, and certainly is unbelievable in a world of unstable, unpredictable regional nuclear actors and terrorists who seek to actually use weapons of vast, destructive power.
Now Butler has penned his life story, a project he painstakingly worked on for many years after he and his wife, Dorene, left Omaha and moved to a gated community in Laguna Beach, Calif., in 2001. The self-published memoir, which he expects to be out this summer, recounts his boyhood in Georgia as part of an Army family and his 33-year military career starting with his graduation from the Air Force Academy in 1961. It explains in depth why he ultimately called for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, and discusses his disillusionment with government officials who, he says, have allowed shortsightedness, petty politics and bellicosity to obstruct the road to world nuclear disarmament.
In a wide-ranging interview at his house recently, Butler spoke with NAPF about the perils of nuclear weapons that arose during and just after the Cold War, and why the dangers continue. The following is an edited version of the conversation.
To read more, click here.
A certain restiveness could be felt Friday evening at the United Nations at the close of the 2015 NPT Review Conference. The draft outcome document was not adopted, though it was not this fact that seemed to bother most. The content of the final draft was unacceptably weak on disarmament, as the majority of those taking the floor lamented in their closing remarks, and the process to develop it was extremely problematic. The discontent was rather about why it had been rejected. Three states parties blocked its adoption on behalf of Israel, a non-state party possessing nuclear weapons. If the month-long review of the Treaty’s implementation and attempts to develop actions for moving forward had not already sufficiently underscored the depth of the Treaty’s discriminatory orientation privileging nuclear-armed states, the Conference’s conclusion certainly did.
But the Conference has ended, leaving interested states now with the chance to pursue effective measures for nuclear disarmament. Instead of a text that moves backwards in some areas from previous commitments and threatened to stall progress for another five years, states parties can continue to rely on the outcomes from 1995, 2000, and 2010 to guide their actions in terms of Treaty implementation. And in the meantime, there is also space for what the Washington Post describes as “an uprising” of 107 states and civil society groups. These states are “seeking to reframe the disarmament debate as an urgent matter of safety, morality and humanitarian law,” and have pledged to fill the gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.
To read more, click here.
Nuclear Zero Lawsuits
The Marshall Islands and the NPT
In a recent article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Robert Alvarez writes about the history and impact of U.S. nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands. He also explores the importance of the Marshall Islands’ Nuclear Zero Lawsuits for upholding the disarmament promises of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and the momentum of the effort to highlight the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.
Alvarez writes, “The humanitarian initiative and the Marshall Islands lawsuits have received a chilly, some might say hostile reception from the nuclear weapons states, for an understandable reason: The nuclear weapons countries are engaged in costly modernization efforts that all but guarantee the continued existence of nuclear weapons for decades, and perhaps beyond. The Marshall’s lawsuits and the humanitarian initiative both seek to make the nuclear states seriously negotiate toward nuclear disarmament.”
Robert Alvarez, “The Marshall Islands and the NPT,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May 27, 2015.
What the Nuclear Zero Lawsuits Seek to Accomplish
These are important lawsuits. They have been described as a battle of David versus the nine nuclear Goliaths. In this case, however, David (the RMI) is using the nonviolent means of the courtroom and the law rather than a slingshot and a rock. It is worth considering what these lawsuits seek to accomplish.
These are high aspirations from a small but courageous country. If you would like to know more about the Marshall Islands Nuclear Zero lawsuits, and how you can help support them, visit www.nuclearzero.org.
David Krieger, “What the Nuclear Zero Lawsuits Seek to Accomplish,” Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, May 6, 2015.
MOX Gets Golden Hammer Award for Egregious Waste
The Washington Times has awarded its Golden Hammer Award to South Carolina’s Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel facility. The MOX program, which is intended to convert 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for nuclear power plants, is viewed by many as an egregious example of government waste.
In 2004, the project was expected to cost $1.6 billion, with a completion date of 2007. Now, in 2015, over $4 billion has been spent on the project, which is only 67% completed. Congress appears likely to provide $345 million in funding for MOX in Fiscal Year 2016. At this rate, studies have shown that the lifecycle costs for MOX will reach $114 billion. The MOX plant also lost its only potential customer for the fuel, Duke Energy. No other nuclear utility has been willing to take the risk of using MOX fuel in nuclear reactors.
Kellan Howell, “Congress Keeps Funding Overbudget Plutonium Site with No Real Customers,” Washington Times, May 7, 2015.
UK Whistleblower on Trident Submarine Dangers
The safety and security of the Royal Navy’s four Vanguard-class nuclear submarines, each carrying more than a dozen Trident nuclear missiles, was called into question when William McNeilly claimed that Britain’s nuclear weapons system was an “accident waiting to happen.” The damning 18-page report includes accusations of lax security, fire hazards, and poor quality food among other things.
The Royal Navy has firmly dismissed these allegations, while some defense experts admitted that there could be elements of truth in some of McNeilly’s claims. Historically, the Ministry of Defense has downplayed incidents involving its submarines, stating that the “technical complexity of running a nuclear submarine is vast.”
Jamie Merrill, “Trident Whistleblower William McNeilly Transferred to Portsmouth Naval Base as Royal Navy Disputes his Claims About the ‘Silent Service,’” The Independent, May 22, 2015.
U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy
U.S. Conducts Minuteman Missile Test During NPT Review Conference
Three days before the end of the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, the U.S. conducted a test of a Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. The Minuteman III is the United States’ land-based missile that is capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the other side of the planet in around 30 minutes.
The test went against the call of dozens of nations at the NPT Review Conference for the U.S. and other nuclear-armed nations to take their nuclear weapons off high-alert status and to pursue negotiations for nuclear disarmament. The Air Force Global Strike Command stated that the ICBM test launch program is to “verify the effectiveness, readiness, and accuracy of the weapons system.”
Rick Wayman, Director of Programs and Operations at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, commented, “Conducting a nuclear missile test, particularly at this time, sends a clear signal to the international community that the United States believes it can continue to possess nuclear weapons indefinitely and with impunity.”
“U.S. Schedules Yet Another Controversial Minuteman III Test,” Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, May 19, 2015.
Women Cross Border Between North and South Korea
Women Cross DMZ, an international group of female peace activists led by Gloria Steinem, crossed one of the world’s most militarized borders, between North and South Korea, in order to draw attention to the need for a permanent peace treaty. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the division of the Korean peninsula. Other goals of the group were to highlight the suffering of divided families and promoting peace over war.
Mairead Maguire and Medea Benjamin, both members of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Advisory Council, took part in the action. Maguire, recipient of the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize, said, “We are here today because we don’t believe in war. You can get to human rights when you have a normal situation and not a country at war.”
“Gloria Steinem and Female Activists Cross Korean Demilitarized Zone,” The Guardian, May 24, 2015.
Transform Now Plowshares Activists Released from Prison
On May 8, a federal appeals court ruled that the government had overreached in charging three Transform Now Plowshares activists with sabotage, ordering the release of Sister Megan Rice and her two fellow activists. The group nonviolently broke into the grounds of the Y-12 Highly-Enriched Uranium Manufacturing Facility on July 28, 2012 and conducted a symbolic conversion of the site, spreading human blood and painting peace slogans on the walls.
After so much time in jail, Sister Megan Rice, 85, has no intention of stopping her anti-nuclear activism and is more committed than ever. One threat is that the federal government might challenge the recent ruling and try to have her thrown back in prison. “It would be an honor,” Sister Rice said during the ride. “Good Lord, what would be better than to die in prison for the anti-nuclear cause?”
William J. Broad, “Sister Megan Rice, freed From Prison, Is Unapologetic for Anti-Nuclear Activism,” The New York Times, May 26, 2015.
Las Vegas Mayor Opposes Nuclear Waste Shipments
In response to a Department of Energy announcement that it would begin shipping uranium waste from Tennessee for storage in Nevada, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said that she would lie down in the highway to stop the transport vehicles.
“We know what happened in the nuclear testing days,” Goodman said. “We were told at the test site, ‘These things are harmless, go out and take your children to watch these wonderful mushroom clouds.’”
“I know it would bring funds to Nevada,” she added. “Sometimes there’s other, better ways to find funding.”
James Dehaven, “Vegas Mayor Will Lie Down on Highway to Block Nuke Shipments,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, May 5, 2015.
June’s Featured Blog
This month’s featured blog is Defusing the Nuclear Threat, written by NAPF Associate Martin Hellman. Hellman is Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University and an expert in risk analysis.
Recent articles include “Solving a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma,” and “Saber Rattling Works, but Which Way?”
To read the blog, which is updated frequently, go to www.nuclearrisk.org.
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 June 3, 1980 incident in which the malfunction of a 46-cent computer chip caused U.S. warning systems to falsely display that the Soviet Union had launched 2,200 nuclear missiles at the United States.
To read Mason’s full article, click here.
For more information on the history of the Nuclear Age, visit NAPF’s Nuclear Files website.
The Growing U.S. Nuclear Threat
The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) is a network of over 30 groups around the United States, most of which are located in areas that are part of the vast U.S. nuclear weapons complex. ANA recently released a report entitled “The Growing U.S. Nuclear Threat.” The report documents numerous nuclear weapon programs that are part of the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration that are vastly over budget, have major oversight and management problems, and a general lack of accountability.
Rick Wayman, NAPF Director of Programs, wrote the executive summary for this report. Wayman wrote, “The Department of Energy’s budget is set to increase this year as in years past. The increased spending will undermine efforts to make the nation more secure. New, provocative investments in weapons programs and infrastructure will undermine non-proliferation efforts and introduce uncertainties into the U.S. stockpile. At the same time, cuts to the cleanup budget and failure to hold DOE and the NNSA accountable leave health risks unaddressed, environmental damage unrepaired, and urgent waste challenges unmet.”
To read the report, click here.
Peace Poetry Awards: Deadline July 1
The deadline for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s annual Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Awards is July 1. The contest encourages 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. Cash prizes of up to $1,000 will be awarded to the winners. For more information on how to enter, click here.
Paul Chappell Selected as CMM Institute Fellow
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Peace Leadership Director, Paul K. Chappell, has been selected as a 2015 CMM (Coordinated Management of Meaning) Institute Fellow and is one of six fellows to present at the 2015 CMM Learning Exchange and Global Integral Competence conference. This event will be held in Munich, Germany, from September 17- 20, 2015.
Chappell’s project title is “Literacy in the Art of Living, the Art of Listening, and the Art of Waging Peace.” One of the Institute’s current priorities is to promote research and interventions on selected topics that take a “communication perspective” and contribute to the common good. Proposals for the 2015 fellowships have focused on issues of conflicts and how these may be resolved or prevented by taking a “communication perspective.”
To read more, click here.
Save the Date: Sadako Peace Day is August 6
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will hold its 21st Annual Sadako Peace Day commemoration event on Thursday, August 6. This year’s event, which falls on the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, remembers the victims of the U.S. atomic bombings and all innocent victims of war. NAPF Peace Leadership Director Paul K. Chappell will deliver this year’s keynote address.
The event will take place at 6:00 p.m. at the Sadako Peace Garden at La Casa de Maria – 800 El Bosque Road, Montecito, California. The event is free and open to the public.
“Some powerful people make their living with the production of arms. It’s the industry of death.”
— Pope Francis
“Why is it that only the security of the five [nuclear-armed members of the NPT] requires nuclear weapons, whilst no one else needs nuclear weapons for their security? If the truth is that no one’s security needs nuclear weapons, then all of our security is enhanced by getting rid of nuclear weapons. If this is indeed the case, what makes it so different for the five that they feel that they have to be exempted from this universal truth?”
— Ambassador Abdul Minty of South Africa. To read his full statement, click here.
“No one can keep a straight face and argue that sixteen thousand nuclear weapons are an appropriate threshold for global safety. We are seeing nuclear nations modernize and rebuild when they could use the opportunity to reduce. There is no right to ‘indefinite possession’ to continue to retain nuclear weapons on security grounds.”
— Tony de Brum, Foreign Minister of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. To read his full statement, click here.
“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 (1860-1935), American peace activist and 1931 Nobel Peace Laureate. This quote is featured in the book Speaking of Peace: Quotations to Inspire Action, available online in the NAPF Peace Store.