Sunflower Newsletter: June 2017

June: This Month in Nuclear Threat History
June 1, 2017
A New UN Nuclear Convention Is In the Making
June 6, 2017
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Sunflower Newsletter: June 2017

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Issue #239 – June 2017

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  • Perspectives
    • Averting the Ticking Time Bomb of Nukes in North Korea by Richard Falk and David Krieger
    • U.S. Prepares to Confront Nuclear Ban Treaty with Smart Bombs by Rick Wayman
  • U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy
    • Fire at Plutonium Facility Puts Future of Nuclear Weapons Lab in Question
    • North Korea Accuses U.S. and South Korea of Nuclear Bomb-Dropping Drill
  • Nuclear Disarmament
    • Draft Ban Treaty Released Ahead of Second Round of Negotiations
  • Missile Defense
    • Highly Scripted Missile Defense Test Called a “Success”
  • War and Peace
    • Americans Who Can Find North Korea on a Map Are More Likely to Prefer Diplomacy
    • North Korea Test Fired Three Missiles in May
  • Nuclear Modernization
    • New ICBM Estimated to Cost $85 Billion and Climbing
    • Radioactive Waste Tunnel Collapses While U.S. Spends Billions on New Nuclear Weapons
  • Resources
    • This Month in Nuclear Threat History
    • Accountability Audit
    • We’re Edging Closer to Nuclear War
  • Foundation Activities
    • NAPF Representatives Lobby Congress
    • Final Negotiations for a Nuclear Ban Treaty
    • Poetry Contest Deadline Is July 1
  • Quotes

 

Perspectives

Avoiding the Ticking Time Bomb of Nukes in North Korea

Alarmingly, tensions between the United States and North Korea have again reached crisis proportions. The unpredictable leaders of both countries are pursuing extremely provocative and destabilizing patterns of behavior. Where such dangerous interactions lead no one can now foresee. The risk of this tense situation spiraling out of control should not be minimized.

To read the full article in The Hill, click here.

U.S. Prepares to Confront Nuclear Ban Treaty with Smart Bombs

On May 23, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a press release celebrating President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget. DOE specifically lauded the proposed “$10.2 billion for Weapons Activities to maintain and enhance the safety, security, and effectiveness of our nuclear weapons enterprise.”

Less than 24 hours earlier, Ambassador Elayne Whyte of Costa Rica released a draft of a treaty banning nuclear weapons. Over 130 nations have participated in the ban treaty negotiations thus far. A final treaty text is expected by early July.

No one is surprised at President Trump’s proposed funding for nuclear weapons activities; in fact, it is largely a continuation of the U.S. nuclear “modernization” program that began under President Obama. What is alarming, however, is the tacit admission by the Department of Energy that it is not simply maintaining current U.S. nuclear warheads until such time as they are eliminated. Rather, it is enhancing the “effectiveness” of nuclear weapons by incorporating new military capabilities into new weapons expected to be active through the final decades of the 21st century.

To read more, click here.

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy

Fire at Plutonium Facility Puts Future of Nuclear Weapons Lab in Question

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board will hold a hearing on June 7 to discuss the future of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the United States’ main nuclear weapons facilities. A fire broke out at a Los Alamos plutonium facility in mid-April. The Board is unsure whether Los Alamos is competent to continue to operate and handle increasing quantities of plutonium in the coming years.

Jay Coghlan, Executive Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said, “Fattening up our already bloated nuclear weapons stockpile is not going to improve our national security. New Mexicans desperately need better funded schools and health care, not expanded plutonium pit production that will cause more pollution and threaten our scarce water resources.”

Fire Raises Questions About Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Safety,” Associated Press, May 27, 2017.

North Korea Accuses U.S. and South Korea of Nuclear Bomb-Dropping Drill

North Korea lashed out at the U.S. and South Korea for conducting what it calls a “nuclear bomb-dropping drill” with B-1B strategic bombers on May 29. North Korea claimed the B-1B bombers, which are currently deployed to Guam, flew over South Korea and approached an area 80 km east of Gangneung, an eastern city near the Military Demarcation Line that serves as the border between the two Koreas.

Contrary to North Korea’s claim, the B-1B bombers no longer carry nuclear weapons, though they were nuclear-capable for a time. According to the U.S. Air Force, the conversion to an all-conventional mission for B-1 aircraft was completed in March 2011.

A report by the state-run Korean Central News Agency said, “Such military provocation of the U.S. imperialists is a dangerous reckless racket for bringing the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of a war.”

Jesse Johnson, “North Korea Blasts South for ‘Nuclear Bomb-Dropping’ Drill with U.S. B-1B Strategic Bomber,” Japan Times, May 30, 2017.

Nuclear Disarmament

Draft Ban Treaty Released Ahead of Second Round of Negotiations

On May 22, a United Nations disarmament panel released the first draft of a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. Negotiations among 130+ nations at the United Nations will resume on June 15 in New York. The agenda currently calls for a final treaty to be prepared by July 7. The United States and the world’s eight other nuclear-armed nations have thus far boycotted the negotiations.

The draft treaty would commit signers to “never use nuclear weapons” and never “develop, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

Representatives of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will be actively participating in the negotiations at the UN in the coming weeks.

Rick Gladstone, “UN Panel Releases Draft of Treaty to Ban Nuclear Arms,” The New York Times, May 22, 2017.

Missile Defense

Highly Scripted Missile Defense Test Called a “Success”

On May 30, the United States conducted a test of its Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. A mock enemy missile was launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, and an interceptor missile was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The test, which cost $244 million, was hailed as a “success” by missile defense proponents because the interceptor missile destroyed the mock incoming missile.

However, the GMD system is far from having proven itself as a viable system that can work under real-world conditions. Operators knew the date and time of the “enemy” launch, as well as the exact location from which the enemy missile would be fired. They also knew the exact specs of the enemy missile, enabling them to better anticipate its trajectory. The weather was clear, and the test took place during daylight hours. Few, if any, of these conditions are likely to be present in a real-world scenario. This makes any claim of this test being a “success” an exaggeration at best.

David Willman, “Pentagon Successfully Tests Missile Defense System Amid Rising Concerns About North Korea,” Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2017.

War and Peace

Americans Who Can Find North Korea on a Map Are More Likely to Prefer Diplomacy

A new experiment conducted in April reveals some surprising correlations between one’s political preferences and geographical literacy.

Those who were able to identify North Korea on a map tended to favor nonviolent, diplomatic approaches towards the country. Not surprisingly, they were also more likely to disapprove of direct military engagement in the region. These results tell us that in order to achieve peace, we must encourage younger generations to look outward rather than inward.

Kevin Quealy, “If Americans Can Find North Korea on a Map, They’re More Likely to Prefer Diplomacy,” The New York Times, May 14, 2017.

North Korea Test Fired Three Missiles in May

North Korea conducted three missile tests in the month of May. They were all short- or medium-range ballistic missiles. While North Korea does not yet possess a missile capable of reaching the United States, its missiles do pose a threat to U.S. troops in the region and U.S. allies such as South Korea and Japan.

Experts widely believe that North Korea is seeking the capability to strike the U.S. with a nuclear weapon as a deterrent to regime change. North Korea has cited the examples of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Moammar Gadaffi in Libya as two leaders who gave up their nuclear weapons programs and were taken down by the U.S.

Joshua Berlinger, “North Korea’s Missile Tests: By the Numbers,” CNN, May 29, 2017.

Nuclear Modernization

New ICBM Estimated to Cost $85 Billion and Climbing

The latest cost estimates for the United States to field a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system is up to $85 billion, with the estimated price tag likely to rise even further as the program progresses. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry has called for the elimination of the ICBM leg of the nuclear triad. Perry said, “The ICBM system is outdated, risky and unnecessary. Basically, it can bring about the end of civilization with a false alarm. It’s a liability because we can easily achieve deterrence without it.”

W.J. Hennigan and Ralph Vartabedian, “Upgrading U.S. Nuclear Missiles, as Russia and China Modernize, Would Cost $85 Billion. Is it Time to Quit the ICBM Race?Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2017.

Radioactive Waste Tunnel Collapses While U.S. Spends Billions on New Nuclear Weapons

On May 9, a tunnel in which radioactive waste is stored collapsed at the Hanford Nuclear Site in Washington State. This latest accident is a stark reminder of the ongoing risks presented by nuclear facilities within the United States. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has estimated that it will cost $32 billion to completely decontaminate and demolish DOE’s old, unused nuclear weapons facilities.

Meanwhile, in the budget proposal published by the Trump Administration on May 23, DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration saw a $1 billion increase over last year, up to $10.2 billion. Instead of focusing on dealing with the myriad messes already created in the process of producing nuclear weapons, the U.S. is choosing to create additional weapons, which will inevitably lead to more waste and more environmental issues.

Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, said, “The longer you wait to deal with this problem, the more dangerous it becomes.”

Tom James, “Hanford Nuclear Site Accident Puts Focus on Aging U.S. Facilities,” Reuters, May 12, 2017.

 Resources

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 June, including the start of the Korean War on June 25, 1950. The U.S. threatened to use nuclear weapons during the Korean War. The war ended with an armistice agreement, and no peace treaty was ever signed.

To read Mason’s full article, click here.

For more information on the history of the Nuclear Age, visit NAPF’s Nuclear Files website.

Accountability Audit

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) has published a new report entitled “Accountability Audit.” The report examines the extraordinary spending at Department of Energy nuclear facilities and examines ways to reduce risks and save billions of dollars across the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

To download a copy of the report, click here.

We’re Edging Closer to Nuclear War

What’s the probability of nuclear war? According to experts, it may be higher than you think. A panel of experts assembled by the popular website Five Thirty Eight seeks to answer some of the toughest questions about nuclear weapons.

Click here to read the full story.

Foundation Activities

NAPF Representatives Lobby Congress

Five representatives of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation traveled to Washington, DC in late May to take part in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s 29th annual DC Days event. Director of Programs Rick Wayman, interns Kristian Rolland and Sarah Dolan, and Board members Robert Laney and Mark Hamilton together conducted 43 meetings with Congressional and Administration offices.

In Washington, NAPF was advocating for reductions in the nuclear weapons budget, a halt to specific nuclear weapon modernization programs, Congressional co-sponsorship of a bill restricting the first use of nuclear weapons, and an increased commitment to environmental cleanup of contaminated nuclear weapon production sites.

Final Negotiations for a Nuclear Ban Treaty

NAPF Director of Programs Rick Wayman and Board Chair Robert Laney will travel to New York in June to participate in the final round of negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons. The negotiations will take place at the United Nations from June 15 to July 7.

NAPF is also a partner of the Women’s March to Ban the Bomb, which will take place in New York City on Saturday, June 17.

Poetry Contest Deadline is July 1

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation invites people of all ages from around the world to submit poems to the Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry contest. This annual series of awards 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. The deadline for entries is July 1, 2017. The winner of the adult category will receive a $1,000 prize, while the winners in the two youth categories will receive $200 prizes.

For more information and to read previous years’ winning poems, click here.

Quotes

 

“When you can make people believe absurdities, you can make them commit atrocities.”

Voltaire, French Enlightenment philosopher. This quote appears in the book Speaking of Peace: Quotations to Inspire Action, which is available for purchase in the NAPF Peace Store.

 

“A conflict in North Korea…would be probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes…. The bottom line is it would be a catastrophic war if this turns into a combat if we’re not able to resolve this situation through diplomatic means.”

— U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, speaking about the conflict between the United States and North Korea.

 

“It’s an extraordinary question when you think about it – would you order the indiscriminate killing of millions of people? Would you risk such extensive contamination of the planet that no life could exist across large parts of the world? If circumstances arose where that was a real option, it would represent complete and cataclysmic failure. It would mean world leaders had already triggered a spiral of catastrophe for humankind.”

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK Labour Party, responding to a question about whether, if Prime Minister, he would be willing to use nuclear weapons.

Editorial Team

 

David Krieger
Kristian Rolland
Carol Warner
Rick Wayman

 


Rick Wayman
Rick Wayman
Rick Wayman is Director of Programs & Operations at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

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