`AMCHI MUMBAI’ – Many questions, some lessons

by Lalita Ramdas

“Beware of the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry, [who] infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How will I know? For this I have done. And I am Julius Caesar.”     William Shakespere

My mother tells me that at the age of three my favourite past time was to be taken for a walk to the Gateway of India from Dhanraj Mahal where we lived during the war years. Occasionally she would take me into the Taj for a pastry and to talk to some of the Navy Uncles in their white uniforms because I was missing Papa who was out at sea.. Some sixty five years later – settled in this village of Bhaimala in Alibag Taluka – the magic of approaching the familiar skyline of the Gateway and the Taj hotel by boat from Mandwa is still very special – no matter how many times we have made that crossing. I wondered if those boys who landed on the night  of the 26th, had ever seen the magic of Mumbai from seaward during the day – and if they had a moment of doubt at what they had set out to demolish.

Ah Bombay, we had seen the best of times, and today we are seeing the worst of times – not just for Mumbai, India and Indians, but for our neighbours, especially for the people of Pakistan – who,like us, are victims of the legacy of colonization and a bitter partition which gave us our independence.  Bombay has been the port city which has been home to the  Indian Navy for the longest time, and as  daughter and  wife of two navy persons [both of whom rose to head the service as the first and the eleventh  Navy Chiefs,] , Mumbai was my city too. I wept tears of disbelief, anguish and anger as I watched the images of the wanton attack on so many symbols of our growing up years in South Bombay. I too shared the pride and relief of  many as the commandos and police finally ended the siege; and I too  mourned the tragic loss of innocent lives from all walks of life. Such a waste and for little apparent gain.

Today we are seeing a new group of Mumbaikers on the streets – coming from the class that has typically kept aloof from activism and any political involvement. This is a good thing in many ways, it is important that people feel strongly enough to get out and make their voices heard. as they  cry out `Enough is Enough’. It is important also to understand what has changed this time and what it is that they are saying enough to.  

Yes we the people DO need to raise our voices to protest – but let us be clear about what we are protesting for and against. Yes we the people have a right to demand that the state be responsible for our security and that politicians be held accountable. And yes, let us never forget that this right of demanding accountability and protesting its absence is one that is fundamental to every citizen in this democracy – regardless of our religion, language, caste or community, our social or economic status or our political affiliations. This has been guaranteed to us by the Constitution of India.

In the last few days I have read with mixed feelings a wide range of emails and news items from across the country as also watched the invariably dramatized images and analyses in the electronic media.. It is impossible not to be affected one way or other. I have also received several phone calls from friends – several of them Muslim – worried about what is happening, feeling the pressure to stand up and be counted among the `patriotic’ Indians; a pressure that we non-Muslims do not have to face.

One of the most disturbing mails in my inbox today was entitled `We Need Leaders like this’ – an account extolling recent actions by John Howard the Australian PM as he lashed out at Muslims in Australia in an effort to pre-empt `Islamic terror’ in his country.  And  at the end of the harangue he tells them that they either accept the laws and customs of the land or avail of the Right to Leave. We are asked to circulate this widely – with the message that this is what needs to be done in India too. The implications are chilling and it took time to sink in . In a sense it was not surprising – the slow communalization of Indian society has been taking place insidiously over decades. Only now is it being stated so explicitly. While the right wing have consciously pushed this agenda, the others who flaunt their secular credentials  have also virtually allowed this sub-text to go unchallenged.. It seems that the People of India will need to ask ourselves what kind of society we really want and the answers might be very different depending on who we are, where we live, how we live, and if we feel we belong.

The Extract below, from a piece by Suddhabrata Sengupta in a Punjabi website called WICHAAR, sums up the problem succinctly.

“While the agents of the attack in Bombay may have been genuinely motivated by their own twisted understanding of Islam, they have demonstrated that they have no hesitation in putting millions of Indian Muslims in harms way by exposing them to the risk of a long drawn out of spiral of retaliation. We need to underscore that they killed 40 innocent, unarmed Muslims (roughly 20 % of the current total casualty figures of 179) while they unleashed their brutal force on Bombay. The terrorists who authored their deaths cannot by any stretch of imagination be seen as partisans or friends of Islam. They are the enemy of us all, and especially of those amongst us who happen to be Muslims, for they jeopardize the safety and security of all Muslims in India by unleashing yet another wave of suspicion and prejudice against ordinary Muslims.”

In the course of a long and thought provoking piece which he calls the DEBRIS OF TERROR, Sengupta also speaks of the ironies and also the utter senselessness of this attack:

“No redemptive, just, honourable or worthwhile politically transformatory objectives can be met, or even invoked, by attacking a mass transit railway station, a restaurant, a hotel or a hospital. The holding of hostages in a centre of worship and comfort for travellers cannot and does not challenge any form of the state oppression anywhere.

By helping to unleash calls for war, by eliminating (unwittingly perhaps) those that have been investigating the links between fringe far right groups and home grown terror, by provoking once again the demand for stronger and more lethal legislation for preventive detention (in the form of a revived or resuscitated POTA), these terrorists have done statist and authoritarian politics in India its biggest favour.”

And it is for these reasons that it is so critical in the present context that we as responsible citizens of India, exercise both reason and restraint, before we impetuously demand carpet bombing of Pakistan;  self righteously refuse to pay taxes, contemptuously dismiss those who advocate people to people contact with our neighbours, and in the same breath, accuse Indian Muslims of being in some way the fifth columnists in our midst who have to demonstrate their patriotism and loyalty at every moment.

Over the years, through the course of my own work with human rights, peace, justice and environment, it is increasingly clear that the issue of loyalty or disloyalty , patriotism or lack of it, comes in many forms and is to be found at many levels. Patriotism is certainly not the exclusive preserve of one class or one community. We would do well to scrutinise the actions and allegiances of many who call themselves nationalists, who demand and have control over wealth and privilege; but who do not hesitate to plunder our forests, take over our fields and homes for private profit, displace millions from their homes, and then scream for financial help when the markets drop!


Yes – it is highly likely that today’s military establishment in Pakistan has encouraged and trained terrorists , but will going to war solve the core issues between us? Three wars down the road we are no closer to solving many of the intractable issues between us, including Kashmir.- so what should the road ahead look like?

Is the phenomenon of terrorism peculiar to Islam alone? Should we be going back in time and history to look at guerilla movements and the use of force by the State? Struggles for self-determination? What have been the common factors that have led people to take up armed struggle? What about those millions of decent god fearing Muslims who have no truck with terror, terrorism or Jihad – except in its real interpretation of a struggle within each individual..

Perhaps the phrase `enough is enough’ should be applied more rigorously to our own track record of violence – often genocidal – across the sub-continent – starting with partition.

The birth of Bangladesh was rooted in a basic ethnic and linguistic division among Muslims of East and West Pakistan……The Tamils and Sinhalas are locked in ethnic battles in a predominantly Buddhist country; Nepal has struggled long with violence and poverty but has also replaced  Monarchy with a Maoist government in a predominantly Hindu country.

For many of us personally the carnage and bloodshed of 1984 following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, when thousands of innocent Sikhs were slaughtered by their `Hindu’ neighbours as the state stood by and watched, was a kind of  wake up call. But 1984 also brought out the best in a whole generation of young and old citizens of the capital who dropped their work and their studies and came together in a spontaneous movement called Nagrik Ekta Manch  where hundreds of us worked days and nights  to record the gruesome catalogue of barbarity which we never thought we would see in our lifetime. We testified in commissions, we filed petitions – but the guilty were never brought to book. Never again we vowed would we permit  state complicity in the killing of thousands of innocents .

And then came the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 – perpetrated by one set of politicians while the  others who ran the state stood by and watched. To do nothing is to acquiesce? The Mumbai blasts and killings in 1992 – 93 were almost predictable. Who can sit in judgement or foretell the consequences of the  anger  that could have taken roots in  – 1984 and 1992 – especially when the Guilty were never punished?

And then it happened again to the Muslims in Gujarat in 2002; And we still did not take to the streets to protest and the architects of that genocide are today’s rulers and favoured corporate destination..

Beyond community and religion there is more to remember in this vast and ancient land where there are few records and no one cares to recount  the atrocities and injustice that  have been visited upon the dalits and the tribals over time immemorial by the genteel, cultured upper castes in this Incredible India of ours; This continues in the India Shining of the 21st Century.

How can we continue to accept the sheer ferocity and violence and torture indulged in by various formations of para military  on the people of the North East, and Kashmir to this day.  Can they really be expected to love us?

And have any of us at any time ever questioned what is being perpetrated on our own people by the state in the name of Salwa Judum to fight the Maoists or Naxals – who are also protesting injustice, oppression and years of neglect and corruption ?

So when we now come out to raise our voices – let us remember to protest first of all the many things we need to put right in our own politics, our social evils, our corruption, our inability [or unwillingness?] to provide the basic needs for nearly 50% of our people. These are the real factors that underlie  violence.

I ask myself over and over again as I see the pictures of  the lone terrorist to be caught alive, what drives them to such acts – is this the ultimate indictment of our failure as a people and a state, to create meaningful work and opportunities for youth across the region?

So before we spread more suspicion and prejudice, let us stop and think – what really needs to be done. Perhaps we need to raise our voices in favour of  continuing to dialogue  with Pakistan and its admittedly weak and fledgling elected civilian government?  Thanks to the tireless efforts of Track II and Track III efforts over a couple of decades, today we have a constituency within Pakistan that wants friendship with India and vice versa. Certainly  this helped in creating a basis and demand for democracy across the border. Any senseless action at this time can be catastrophic – especially since we are both nuclear states. So can we bear in mind that we are not against Pakistan but against the elements there who instigate and promote terrorists – and yes the pressure on them should be tough and relentless.

Today it is imperative that we work together to say NO to War Mongering – on the basis that this action against an innocent Indian state gives us the right to attack Pakistan.

It is also imperative that we fight our instinct for Islamophobia – a readiness to say we understand everything about the motives and drives of the terrorists by pointing to their `Muslim’ identity – and the other myth that the Quran sanctions violence against non-believers – and that is how we explain the roots of the attacks in Mumbai..


If we are serious about addressing terror then the only way is for us in both India and Pakistan – and the rest of the region – to reach out, work with each other – to confront, to challenge, and to mobilize the power of people to defeat the forces of violence and terror be they state or non-state actors.

For a start, in India – let us demand an immediate review and implementation of the various Commissions of Enquiry on the Police Force and their Status and Role. If this can be spearheaded from across the country – it will be difficult for the politician to postpone it any more.The issue of auditing political party funds and the present electoral process is another key area which has led to many vitiations of all norms.

Perhaps it is also a moment when we need to be looking in very different directions to find ways of working together with our neighbours – be it Pak India problems, or with Bangla desh or Sri Lanka. In this era where the concerns of Climate Change and Global warming are upper most among the potential threats to peoples and geographic regions around the world – maybe we can look at creative ways to engage with each other on ecology, on our shared maritime and marine reserves, on coastal questions, and water.There are so many pressing problems for which collective solutions need to be found – and there is nothing like working together on mutual problems to develop a better understanding of each others strengths and weaknesses. Finally, with India being the Big Brother in this region – there is a bigger onus of responsibility on us to take the constructive initiatives.

It will soon be Id – a time for celebration and introspection – may it also be a time to work for Peace. In closing I want to share with you the comments of  Bharathi, who has worked in our village home for over 15 years . After watching the endless TV channels and their often sensational projection and coverage of the agony of Mumbai – she turned to me and said simply and with no doubt in her voice “Bai – Athank tho Athank hai na? Wo kaisa Hindu ya Mussalman ho saktha? ‘ Surely Terror is  terror ? – how can it  be Hindu terror or Muslim terror?”

In her simple view of the world – there is a deep and profound sense of both tolerance and respect for humanity. Over the years she who never knew of a world outside her own village reality, has grown to love and welcome into our home our Pakistani son-in-law and members of his family; our Sri Lankan nephew in law; my two Muslim sisters – married to my brother and cousin respectively; my niece and her English husband; and most recently our  African-American son-in-law. She has interacted and understands the issues affecting  the tribal and dalit activists with whom yet another son-law works. And she treats them all with the same smiling warmth and dignity. To me she embodies all that is valuable and enduring in this sub-continent and for which I am eternally grateful because at the end of the day, this is what sustains and nurtures our weary spirits and will, Inshallah, take us into a different tomorrow..

Lalita Ramdas from Bhaimala Village, Alibag – across the harbour from Mumbai, today Sunday Dec 7 2008


January 4, 2009 at 7:21 pm 1 comment

Hedging your bets

Nuclear power versus sustainable energy security and nuclear disarmament

Xanthe Hall, Disarmament expert, IPPNW

According to the Oxford Research Group 2006 report “Global Responses to Global threats” the following are the major international threats to stability and human security:

  • climate change,
  • competition over resources,
  • global militarism,
  • and marginalisation of the majority.

Yet international terrorism shapes Western security policies much more than these, although it is more a symptom of the above listed problems than a cause. These threats are confronting us in 2008 daily in the form of food and energy crises with inflation and famine hitting the poor of the world particularly hard and causing panic in industrial nations. The UN Secretary-General has already pointed out at the G8 summit that all of these threats are interconnected and urged world leaders to tackle them. 

Competition over resources is showing itself most strongly in the energy sector where oil is already a cause for conflict (Iraq, Arctic sea bed). The scarcity of uranium combined with the optimism of the nuclear industry to feed a nuclear renaissance with hundreds of new reactors mean that uranium supply will become equally problematic. This highlights that the peaceful settlement of resource disputes depends on an adequate early-warning system and conflict prevention mechanisms, as well as the willingness to distribute resources in an equitable fashion in order to prevent the rush to military solutions. 

Nuclear terrorism

In their op-ed of January 2007 in the Wall St. Journal, the 4 elder statesmen (Kissinger, Schultz, Perry and Nunn) gave terrorism as the reason for the need to abolish nuclear weapons and their loss of faith in nuclear deterrence. There is now a widespread understanding in the Western political class that nuclear deterrence cannot work against those who are “prompted by a psychology of ‘heroic’ response to perceived aggression including the acceptance of personal death in the battle”[1]. Moreover it would be more or less impossible for a State to find a target to attack or retaliate against as terrorist organisations operate covertly and do not have large obviously military facilities. In other words, the use of nuclear weapons would only mean suicide, since the “enemy” is within. On top of this, the fear that the cat is now so far out of the bag that proliferation can no longer be held in check, supports the call for abolition. 

Meanwhile, climate change and the present energy crisis are feeding into the hands of the nuclear industry that is promoting nuclear expansion as the answer. The risk of nuclear terrorism, however, is even higher in the field of civil nuclear energy than in the military sector, because:

  • civil nuclear materials (spent fuel, medical materials) can be used in a dirty bomb, which is much easier to make than a nuclear bomb
  • an attack on a nuclear power plant or waste storage facilities would have catastrophic effects
  • Present-day technology (particularly ultracentrifuge enrichment and reprocessing) is not proliferation resistant.

Therefore, the expansion of nuclear energy increases the risk of nuclear terrorism manifold. 

A solution to climate change?

The contention that nuclear power would be an answer to climate change is simply untrue, mostly because it would take too long to make a difference and the difference would be negligible. The International Panel on Fissile Materials says:

“Nuclear power would have to expand five-fold or more to make a significant contribution to greenhouse gas reductions”. Presently there is not enough uranium for this to take place and even if it were to be found, then it is unlikely to be achieved before 2050, too late to make an impact. Projections of future nuclear growth have been consistently over-optimistic and even today, the 438 nuclear power plants worldwide still only have a generation capacity of 371 gigawatts-electric, of which only eight countries account for 80% of global nuclear capacity” 

The underlying motivation for development/expansion of civil nuclear energy is frequently to be found in security policies, not in energy needs: 

·        New countries seeking nuclear energy are frequently to be found in crisis regions, e.g. Gulf states, responding to Iran’s nuclear programme, that have large reserves of other fuel sources (oil, gas, solar)

·        India is looking for nuclear energy deals with other countries while saving their indigenous uranium for expanding their nuclear weapon arsenal

·        There is a widespread understanding that the nuclear “option” (i.e. fuel cycle capabilities) confers status and a certain amount of security in a discriminatory world – the 5 NWS have a veto in UNSC, the nuclear suppliers group decide who gets fuel, the IAEA governing board is controlled by the top 10 nuclear suppliers. Like joining the golf club, the nuclear club gives you privileges. 

And the other way round, civil nuclear programmes in countries not welcome in the club cause suspicion, which can lead to conflict or even be used as a justification for war. 

Inalienable rights

Central to the problem is the idea embedded in Article IV of the NPT that there is an “inalienable” right to civil nuclear energy. According to Wikipedia, the term inalienable rights refers to a “theoretical set of individual human rights that by their nature cannot be taken away, violated, or transferred from one person to another”, for example: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,  because they are deemed to be “necessary for human survival”. 

Even if it was the case in the 1950s and 1960s that nuclear energy was seen to be guarantor of the future with its promise of cheap, unlimited energy, the world has since developed a more ambivalent opinion of its benefits, which are strongly offset by its drawbacks. IPPNW and other NGOs would argue that it actually threatens human life because of the risks associated with radiation and accidents as well as the unresolved waste problem. Nor has it turned out to be cheap and unlimited. Yet most countries still use the term “inalienable right” to mean that it is the sovereign right of a country and cannot be taken away. It is therefore still taboo to say anything against nuclear energy in the NPT context. 

Article IV is seen to be a “pillar” of the NPT, suggesting that if taken away the whole thing might collapse. The term “inalienable” refers to the idea that the pillar of non-proliferation is contingent upon the pillar of unhindered access to nuclear energy. But there is an argument that the other two pillars – non-proliferation and disarmament – could be strong enough to hold the treaty up, if nuclear energy was not held to be an “inalienable” right. Just as the promise of Article V, that there would be access to the benefits of “peaceful” nuclear explosions, the understanding of their environmental and health consequences led to their prohibition in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, thus negating Article V of the NPT. For the same to happen with Article VI, amendment of the NPT is not necessary, but further international law would be needed which would supersede the older treaty, for instance if there were to be an additional protocol on phase-out or one on preferring assistance in the field of renewable rather than nuclear energy. 

Addressing Root Causes

Oxford Research Group proposes that an adequate response to global threats (ORG) would mean enacting a paradigm change from the “control” paradigm to a “sustainable security” paradigm. Trying to control threats without resolving their causes is ineffective. I would argue that the present conflict with Iran is a good example of this. 

·        The mistrust of Iran’s motives was caused by the discovery that Iran dealt with the illegal Khan network and did not declare the capabilities it acquired.

·        Iran, however, contends that it wanted its own fuel cycle because it could not get fuel from Eurodif, although promised and paid for (thus a fuel supply assurance was denied to NPT member), because of US sanctions.

·        The underlying causes of conflict between the US and Iran are not being addressed (similarly the conflict between the West and Islam is also only superficially dealt with, leaving out major historical issues, in particular colonialism). The only issues discussed are: enrichment, fear that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and a potential attack on Israel.

·        Also, the underlying and principal problem of the proliferation-friendly nature of certain nuclear technologies (in particular ultracentrifuge enrichment technology) is not being addressed, there is only a discussion on tightening control mechanisms – safeguards, multinational facilities, etc.

·        Another context issue is the role that Iran plays in a region of major geostrategic interest, where the fight to gain control of Iraq is central and could result in military action against Iran. 

Discrimination and Disarmament

I would contend that the same problem applies to Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, i.e. that the NWS seek to control the situation, only cutting off supply to potential future nuclear weapon states rather than dealing with the stocks built up during their provisional period of time as NWS. This means yet again, that they are not addressing the root cause of other states dissatisfaction: discrimination between “haves” and “have nots”. This is also the basic problem of non-proliferation versus disarmament. It goes to the root of the NPT bargain that determines that the NWS are not entitled to remain NWS permanently. But already we refer to them as the “P5” i.e. the “Permanent” Five. That is unsustainable. 

The problem is that we are stuck in the present and the immediate future while only talking about “Achieving a vision of a nuclear weapon-free world” and not the actual steps necessary to achieve a nuclear weapon-free world. In other words, the authors of the Hoover plan are satisfied with getting halfway up the mountain in order to have a better view of the summit, because they can’t imagine what the rest might look like. There is also a well-founded fear that the NWS may be more comfortable to stay halfway up the mountain and not bother with getting to the top, if theys feel it would be to their advantage. British renewal of Trident submarines, US programmes by many different names (RNEP, RRW, Complex 2030), new French submarines, the new Russian Topol missile, Chinese modernisation, all point to a doctrine of permanent nuclear status. 

The Model Nuclear Weapon Convention goes further than the Hoover plan and tries to imagine the actual abolition of nuclear weapons so that we can work back from there. It therefore actively “discourages the use of nuclear energy, recognising that the continued reliance on nuclear power and its potential expansion pose a challenge to verification of a nuclear weapons-free world.” 

The NWC also partially deals with the problem of nuclear terrorism by outlawing its means and materials. After abolition, it would be much more difficult for a terrorist organisation to steal a bomb and the safeguarding of materials and facilities would be much improved.  A strong verification system would make it easier to discover a diversion of fissile material or technical expertise in order to provide early warning of a terrorist threat. Banning the production of plutonium and highly-enriched uranium would equally be important steps for achieving real security from nuclear terrorism. Nevertheless, short of a complete phase-out of nuclear power, there is no absolute guarantee that spent fuel cannot be diverted and the plutonium covertly separated out, nor that uranium cannot be enriched to beyond 20%. 

The Plutonium Problem

A major problem is the question of civil stocks of plutonium. Zia Mian, of Princeton University, says:

“At present there are roughly 500 tonnes of separated plutonium in the world, enough for over 100,000 nuclear weapons. About 250 tonnes of this plutonium has been separated from civilian spent nuclear power-reactor fuel, mostly in France, Russia and the UK. The stock of civilian separated plutonium is growing and will soon be significantly larger than the amount of weapon plutonium. It is all weapon-usable.” 

On top of this, there is well over 800 tonnes of plutonium contained in spent fuel. This grows every year and would grow even more rapidly, were there to be a nuclear “renaissance”, as the proponents of nuclear energy are predicting. The present safeguarding system is inadequate to deal with a sudden expansion in nuclear energy with new facilities popping up all over the world, often in countries that have no additional protocol. For this reason, in 2003 a team of scientists at MIT questioned the wisdom of any scenario envisioning the growth of nuclear energy. 

But the United States, although it turned its back on reprocessing back in 1974 after India successfully exploded a nuclear weapon using reactor-grade material, is now returning to the idea. The plan is for the NWS and Japan to provide reprocessing services through the “Global Nuclear Energy Partnership” (GNEP) to non-NWS. This idea has stimulated a revival of  interest in reprocessing in France and South Korea. Since Germany decided to end reprocessing, the French reprocessing industry had been beginning to flag. 

Frank von Hippel says of the former US policy, which was:

“in effect, that “we don’t reprocess and you don’t need to either,” has been much more successful. During the 30-year period it has been in force, no nuclear weapon state has initiated commercial reprocessing and seven countries have abandoned their interest in civilian reprocessing… Today, Japan is the only non-weapon state that engages in commercial reprocessing.” 

The scarcity of high-grade uranium makes it more than likely that a plutonium-based expansion of nuclear power would be the only option, should we go down the “renaissance” road. Plutonium is notoriously vulnerable to proliferation, due to the problems of material unaccounted for (MUF) that could mean a diversion of material of up to the equivalent of one nuclear weapon per month in a large facility like Rokkasho in Japan[7]. If there were many more new reprocessing plants, then the resulting problem would be much greater.

The Hoover plan

The so-called Hoover plan of 2007 (Wall St. Journal, January 2007) contains the proposal that  “ an international system of secure control and supply for enriched uranium” should be developed. In a response to the second op-ed in January 2008, one of the leading Hoover Institute people Henry Rowen criticised the original op-ed in one of his own with the title “This ‘nuclear-free’ plan would effect the opposite” for its continued support of nuclear power. He said:

The offending part is that on nuclear fuel assurances, to wit: the “advanced nuclear countries should provide reliable supplies of nuclear fuel, reserves of enriched uranium, infrastructure assistance, financing and spent fuel management . . .” However, in the name of not spreading “the means to make nuclear weapons . . . around the globe,” it would do just that.

“There is a sense that Arab fear of Iran’s nuclear weapons, along with lower confidence in U.S. protection, is causing some of them to want the bomb. These governments understand that the way to do this is to follow the traditional path of building reactors for ostensible civilian purposes because the line between civilian and military uses is thin. Moreover, the economics of nuclear electric power in these countries ranges from bad to atrocious. Making big power reactors is hard and lengthy work; our subsidizing their infrastructure and fuel would not only foster uneconomic power systems, it would speed the creation of easy weapons options.” 

There are a number of suggestions of how to make control of nuclear power more effective. At the Oslo Conference in February 2008 Rose Gotemoeller puts forward the idea of an “NPT companion treaty” for states wanting to develop a nuclear fuel cycle that would allow for automatic no-warning intrusive monitoring and inspection. But she leaves the NWS outside of this, as do present IAEA safeguards, thus perpetuating the discrimination problem. 

The Hedge

Tom Graham further perpetuates the problem in his vision of achieving a nuclear weapon-free world by placing a “hedge” made out of fissile material in between elimination of the weapons and a nuclear weapon-free world.

“A third and later stage would require the complete elimination of weapons but these eight states would be allowed to keep a relatively limited amount of fissile material which could be converted into a small number of weapons as a hedge against failure of the regime.”[9]

This hedge varies in size according to the country’s status – the US and Russia get to keep the most, the P3 next and then the de-facto states get the least. This hedge is only defined in terms of so-called weapon grade fissile materials, but there is of course the other hedge: nuclear power. 

Still problematic but at least levelling the playing field somewhat, is the proposal from El-Baradei of internationalising the production and assuring fuel supply through an IAEA fuel bank, though there are still problems with the structure of the IAEA which is governed by the nuclear supplier countries and has the promotion of nuclear energy as part of its mandate. 

El-Baradei said: (Oslo, Feb 2008)

“the growing interest in mastering the nuclear fuel cycle – seen by some countries as an implicit deterrence or insurance policy – raises the prospect of a steadily increasing number of nuclear-weapon-capable states.

“(…) Control of the nuclear fuel cycle is key to curbing proliferation risks. But it must be  unambiguously under multinational control, not just managed by the leading nuclear powers. Otherwise it would fail to win the confidence of countries on the receiving end, who would perceive it as yet again perpetuating a nuclear order of ―haves and have-nots.”

“(…) The ultimate goal, in my view, should be to bring the entire fuel cycle, including waste disposal, under multinational control, so that no one country has the exclusive capability to produce the material for nuclear weapons.” 

The Blix Commission report is rather unclear which horse it is backing:

“States should make active use of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a forum for exploring various ways to reduce proliferation risks connected with the nuclear fuel cycle, such as proposals for an international fuel bank; internationally safeguarded regional centres offering fuel-cycle services, including spent-fuel repositories; and the creation of a fuel-cycle system built on the concept that a few “fuel-cycle States” will lease nuclear fuel to States that forgo enrichment and reprocessing activities.” 

These ideas are certainly better than GNEP, but still only address the fuel supply problem and not the underlying energy crisis and proliferation risks of the continued use of nuclear power. It also remains to be seen how it would be decided which countries are allowed to get fuel from such a fuel bank and, most importantly, who would do the deciding. The definition of “multinational” is ambiguous and could still be exclusive, “international” is preferable but also open to misuse. 


Finally, my conclusion is that we will only abandon the fruitless search for ultimate control over nuclear energy when we switch to positive thinking: how can we provide a guaranteed supply of sustainable energy that does not rape and contaminate the earth, give people cancer or make them sterile, endanger human security and provide the stuff for making nuclear bombs? As was said only a few days ago on a German television documentary programme “Frontal 21” in reporting on the scandalous leak of water in to the Asse nuclear dump, “what is the point in saving the climate when we poison the earth beneath it?” Only a couple of days ago, the leak of uranium into a lake in France once again highlighted this problem. And if that was not enough, yesterdays New Scientist reports that almost 4 million litres of radioactive waste have leaked into the ground from 67 of the 177 underground tanks at the Hanford site in Washington state in the USA. Most of these tanks are over 50 years old and contain more than 210 million litres of radioactive and chemical waste. 

In my opinion, once the problem of how to store solar energy has been solved, the energy crisis can also be solved. That is, if the political will is there and the giant energy companies that are monopolising the national grids stop insisting on retaining their nuclear power plants or even on building new ones. The question will be: who will pay for this nuclear renaissance? The money is needed for government investment in sustainable energy as an absolute must in order to redress decades of imbalance in the subsidy of nuclear power. Companies like Siemens should expand their renewable energy technology department and shut down their nuclear one. There are more jobs in the renewable energy market than in the nuclear industry. The German government hosted a conference in April of this year to found an International Renewable Energy Agency[11] which was attended by over 2 thirds of the world’s countries. A network of over 2000 NGOs, Abolition 2000, has been calling for the establishment of just such an agency for many years. These are the positive signs for a solution to the energy crisis. 

It is time for the energy revolution. 

[1] „Securing our Survival (SOS): The Case for a Nuclear Weapons Convention“, Chapter on Terrorism

[2] International Panel on Fissile Materials: Chapter 7 “Managing the Civilian Nuclear Fuel Cycle” in “Global Fissile Material Report 2007”

[4] „Securing our Survival (SOS): The Case for a Nuclear Weapons Convention“, Chapter on Nuclear Energy

[5]Mian, Zia, Comment: Nuclear Energy in „Securing our Survival (SOS): The Case for a Nuclear Weapons Convention“, Comment: Nuclear Energy

[6] von Hippel, Frank: „Managing Spent Fuel in the United States: The Illogic of Reprocessing“, p.4,  January 2007

[7]Barnaby, Frank and Kemp, James: „Secure Energy? Civil nuclear power, security and global warming“, Oxford Research Group Briefing Paper, March 2007

[8]Rowen, Henry: „This ‚nuclear plan“ would effect the opposite“ in Wall St. Journal, p. A15, January 17, 2008

[9]Graham, Thomas: „Zero nuclear weapons and the international nuclear non-proliferation regime“, Article VI Forum, Dublin, March 2008

[10] Contaminated US site faces ‘catastrophic’ nuclear leak, New Scientist, 9 July 2008, http://environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth/mg19926642.900-contaminated-us-site

July 28, 2008 at 8:04 pm 2 comments


by Alice Slater


There have been recent calls by former cold war leaders, Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, Sam Nunn and William Perry, for the US to make new commitments for the elimination of nuclear weapons, as well as promising statements from leading Presidential candidates that the elimination of nuclear weapons is an issue they will address or commit to if elected. This Roadmap is designed to outline how we got to where we are today in the Nuclear Age and what would be required of a new Administration if the US was truly committed to the elimination of nuclear weapons. The Roadmap notes the offers on the table for nuclear disarmament that were spurned over the years by the US and the damaging effects of US plans to dominate and control the military use of space on prospects and possibilities for reaching agreement with Russia and China on nuclear abolition. Finally, the Roadmap addresses the undeniable momentum of nuclear proliferation as we promote so-called “peaceful” nuclear technology around our planet and argues that a genuine commitment to nuclear disarmament would require a world-wide phase out of nuclear power and support for clean, safe, sustainable energy.

Despite the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, nearly 20 years ago, there are still more than 26,000 nuclear weapons on our planet–25,000 of them in the US and Russia–with thousands of bombs in those countries poised at hair trigger alert-ready to fire in minutes–and arsenals numbering in the hundreds in the UK, France, China, and Israel-with something less than that number in India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Global stockpiles have been declining from a peak of 70,000 warheads in 1986, but it was the enactment of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) in 1972 that provided an opening for a series of verified arms control agreements–SALT I, SALT II, START I and START II– that put successively lower caps on the numbers of long-range “strategic” nuclear warheads in the US and Russian arsenals. (The START agreements do not address short-range “tactical” nuclear weapons, such as the estimated 150 to 240 tactical nuclear weapons currently deployed in five NATO states– Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey[i]-or inactive and retired warheads built for weapons systems now withdrawn from operational service.)

The ABM Treaty was enacted to prevent an ever-spiraling nuclear arms race. The two Cold War adversaries agreed that the deployment of a missile shield would only provoke the other side to build more nuclear-armed missiles in order to overcome the shield. The 1993 START II agreement, ratified by Congress in 1996, limited each side to 3,500 long range missiles and was ratified by Russia in April 2000. The Duma delayed its approval because of a series of provocative actions by the US –the expansion of NATO up to the Russian border, the unauthorized bombing of Iraq, the bombing of Yugoslavia without Security Council sanction–each event occurring on the eve of an anticipated Duma vote on the treaty.[ii] At the time Russia ratified START II it also ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which went down to ignominious defeat in the US Senate as our nuclear weapons scientists gave testimony against its passage, despite Clinton’s deal-sweetener to buy their support for an end to underground nuclear explosions with a “stockpile stewardship” program.

This benign sounding “stewardship” program funded our weapons designers with billions of dollars each year from the time full scale underground testing ended, which enabled them to develop new nuclear weapons with computer-simulated virtual reality testing coupled with so-called “sub-critical” nuclear tests in which plutonium is shattered in tunnels 1,000 feet below the desert floor at the Nevada test site, without causing a “critical” chain reaction. We’ve detonated over twenty four of them,[iii] under both Clinton and Bush, and Bush is now proposing to fund the weapons labs at $6.6 billion in 2009 for research, design, testing and nuclear weapons activities, with a total budget of some $54 billion for nuclear weapons.[iv] Bush is also proposing to replace the entire US nuclear arsenal with “reliable replacement warheads”, while planning to build a whole new bombmaking complex, not withstanding the estimated hundreds of billions of dollars that will be needed in our continuous struggle to contain the enormous waste and toxic contamination across America, plaguing our nation since the Manhattan Project began.

Putin announced in 2000, upon the ratification of START II and the CTBT in Russia, that he would like to begin START III talks and reduce the long-range missiles from 3,500 to 1,500 or even 1,000 instead of the original levels contemplated for START III of 2,500 warheads. [v]This forward-looking proposal was accompanied by a stern caveat that all Russian offers would be off the table, including the START II ratification, if the US proceeded with plans to build a National Missile Defense (NMD) in violation of the ABM Treaty. Astoundingly, US diplomatic “talking points” leaked by Russia to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists revealed that the Clinton Administration was urging the Russians that they had nothing to fear from our proposed NMD as long as they kept 2,500 weapons in their arsenal at launch-on-warning, hair-trigger alert. Despite Putin’s offer to cut to 1,500 warheads, or even less, we assured Russia that with 2,500 warheads they would be able to overcome our NMD shield and deliver an “annihilating counterattack.” [vi]

Bush came into office and simply withdrew from the ABM Treaty so that he could pursue US plans “to dominate and control the military use of space, to protect US interests and investments”, as set forth in the US Space Command’s Vision 2020 mission statement and in the Rumsfeld Commission report of 2000.[vii] He negotiated the Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty (SORT) with Putin, in 2002, [viii]but compared to previous U.S.-Russia nuclear reduction treaties it fell far short. The treaty limits deployed strategic warheads to 1,700-2,200, but it has no provisions for verification, no timeline for implementation, and it allows each side to take its weapons out of storage on the first day of 2013. SORT does not call for the elimination of any warheads or delivery vehicles and does not include short-range tactical weapons. It’s a “sort of” treaty. Meanwhile, Putin declared in 2002 that he would not be bound by the START II agreement, because of the US abrogation of the ABM Treaty.[ix]

Bush has offered to engage in negotiations for a treaty to regulate a cut-off in producing nuclear materials for weapons, but he is unwilling to have any verification or monitoring provisions for the treaty, rendering the US proposal worthless. Most egregiously, from 2005 to 2007, at the United Nations, the US has been the only country in the whole world to vote NO on a resolution to ban weapons in space. In 2006, Russia argued that if all states observe a prohibition on space weaponization, there will be no arms race. Russia and China submitted a draft treaty for a space ban, in October, 2007, which the US rejected out of hand, characterizing it as “a diplomatic ploy by the two nations to gain a military advantage.” [x]

There are 187 nations which have signed the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty(NPT) in which a deal was struck that the five nuclear weapons states–the US, Russia, UK, France, and China– would give up their nuclear weapons in return for a promise from the other nations not to acquire them. India refused to agree to this arrangement, arguing that it was discriminatory and that the better course would be to negotiate for all nations to abolish nuclear weapons. Pakistan and Israel, following India’s lead, also refused to sign. North Korea has since withdrawn. The NPT required that there be a review and extension conference, 25 years later, and in 1995 the five nuclear powers, who had promised to give up their weapons, pressured the rest of the world to extend the NPT indefinitely. To secure the indefinite extension, the nuclear weapons states pledged in 1995 to work for the “ultimate” elimination of nuclear weapons, to negotiate a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) for weapons purposes, a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, and to have a “strengthened” review process every five years, with interim meetings to prepare for the five year reviews.

In 1996, in an unprecedented break with the rules of consensus at the Commission on Disarmament in Geneva, the CTBT was brought to the UN General Assembly for signatures over India’s objections that there was no provision in the treaty to preclude the continued computer-simulated virtual reality testing of nuclear weapons or ban underground “sub-critical” tests.[xi] Thus it wasn’t comprehensive and it didn’t ban tests. And less than two years after the CTBT was signed, India went overtly nuclear, arguing that it didn’t want to be left behind while the current nuclear powers reserved the right to use advanced technology to develop new weapons without full scale underground tests. Pakistan followed swiftly on India’s heels to join the nuclear club.

In 1996 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) granted a request from the General Assembly to issue an Advisory Opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. The fourteen judges voted unanimously that under the NPT there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”

In May 2000 the NPT had its first five year review after the 1995 extension conference. The New Agenda Coalition (NAC), formed in 1998, with eight nations– Ireland, South Africa, Mexico, Sweden, Brazil, New Zealand, and Egypt (Slovenia, eager to join NATO, dropped out under US pressure)–had begun lobbying other nations to press the nuclear powers for more progress on disarmament in UN meetings. Together with civil society, particularly the Abolition 2000 Network, which had produced a Model Nuclear Weapons Convention, introduced into the General Assembly by Costa Rica,[xii] the NAC had a major impact on the NPT Review as the nuclear weapons states committed to “an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.”

The final statement of the NPT Review further asserts that “the total elimination of nuclear weapons is the only absolute guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.” Additional pledges were made for practical steps to demonstrate compliance with the NPT including:

· Further unilateral disarmament

· Increased transparency by the Nuclear Weapons States of their arsenals

· Further reduction of non-strategic nuclear weapons (those with a shorter range)

· Concrete measures to further reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons systems

· A diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies (providing a basis for challenging the nuclear doctrines of the nuclear weapon states and NATO which continue to promote reliance on nuclear weapons as the “cornerstone” of their security.)

· The engagement as soon as appropriate of all the nuclear-weapons states in the process leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

. The early entry into force and full implementation of START II and the conclusion of START III while preserving and strengthening the ABM Treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability.

These new NPT commitments were made by Clinton on May 19, 2000 as the weapons labs continued to perform sub-critical tests at Nevada, lobby for a new earth-penetrating bunker- busting nuclear weapon and more “usable” nuclear weapons, and as Star Wars proceeded in full swing with Administration lawyers making frivolous arguments about the meaning of the restrictions in the ABM treaty, which Clinton appeared to be violating.[xiii] At the close of the NPT, both Russia and China took exception to the final document without actually blocking consensus, warning that if the ABM treaty were to be abrogated, the promises made could not be fulfilled. China said none of the steps above would succeed unless a treaty to maintain space for peaceful uses was phased in simultaneously.

The 2005 Review of the NPT was a disaster as the Bush Administration haggled over the agenda for two weeks of the four week meeting, objecting to any mention of the promises made by the United States at the 2000 NPT review for “an unequivocal commitment to the total elimination of nuclear weapons”, and the other incremental steps including maintaining the ABM Treaty and ratifying the CTBT. The meeting broke up without any agreement on new steps for nuclear disarmament, while at the time a brutal war was being waged on Iraq based on the false assertions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and threatened the world with a “mushroom cloud”, and a new drumbeat of hostilities was sounded against Iran and North Korea over the issue of nuclear proliferation.


One of the ironies of the NPT is that to secure the promise of the non-nuclear weapons states not to acquire nuclear weapons, the nuclear weapons states promised them an “inalienable right” to the “peaceful uses” of nuclear technology, enabling the very nuclear weapons proliferation the treaty is designed to prevent. The drafters of the CTBT were well aware that by having a nuclear reactor, a nation had been given the keys to a bomb factory when they required the signatures of 44 “nuclear-capable” nations to be included in any effort to ban nuclear tests, regardless of whether they proclaimed any intention to develop weapons.[xiv] And former U.S. CIA Director, George Tenet, said, “The difference between producing low-enriched uranium and weapons-capable high-enriched uranium is only a matter of time and intent, not technology.”[xv]

There are now 440 “peaceful” reactors in 31 countries[xvi]—all producing deadly bomb materials with 272 research reactors in 56 countries, some producing highly enriched uranium.[xvii] There are about 270,000 tons of irradiated fuel containing plutonium and other radioactive elements in storage, much of it at reactor sites. The waste is currently increasing by about 12,000 tons each year.[xviii] There are 500 tons of weapons usable plutonium already separated out of reactor waste and 1,000 tons of highly enriched uranium making about 1.5 million kilograms of weapons usable fissile materials. It takes only 5 kilograms of plutonium or 17 kilograms of highly enriched uranium to make one nuclear bomb.[xix] The Bush Administration is planning to build 50 more reactors by 2020[xx]; there are now 34 new nuclear reactors under construction in 11 countries[xxi]—to churn out more irradiated waste; on tap for bomb-making, with no known solution to safely containing the tons of nuclear waste that will be generated over the unimaginable 240,000 years it will continue to threaten life on earth. [xxii] New projects are underway to mine uranium on every continent, mostly on indigenous lands, where first peoples have suffered inordinately from radiation poisoning.

Yet countless studies report higher incidences of birth defects, cancer, and genetic mutations in every situation where nuclear technology is employed—whether for war or for “peace.” A National Research Council (NRC) 2005 study reported that exposure to X-rays and gamma rays, even at low-dose levels, can cause cancer. The committee defined “low-dose” as a range from near zero up to about ten times that from a CT scan. “There appears to be no threshold below which exposure can be viewed as harmless,” said NRC panelist, Herbert Abrams, professor emeritus of radiology at Stanford and Harvard universities.[xxiii] Tens of thousands of tons of nuclear waste accumulate at civilian reactors with no solution for its storage, releasing toxic doses of radioactive waste into our air, water and soil and contaminating our planet and its inhabitants for hundreds of thousands of years.

The industry-dominated International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been instrumental in covering up the disastrous health effects of the Chernobyl tragedy, understating the number of deaths by attributing only 56 deaths directly to the accident as of 2004.[xxiv] This was a whitewash of health studies performed by Russia and the Ukraine, which estimated thousands of deaths and tens of thousands who suffered thyroid cancer and leukemia as a result of the accident. [xxv] This cover-up was no doubt due to the collusive agreement between the IAEA and the World Health Organization (WHO), which under its terms provides that if either of the organizations initiates any program or activity in which the other has or may have a substantial interest, the first party shall consult with the other with a view to adjusting the matter by mutual agreement.[xxvi] Thus, our scientists and researchers at the WHO are required to have their work vetted by the industry’s champion for “peaceful” nuclear technology, the IAEA. For example, WHO abandoned its 1961 research agenda on human health effects of food irradiation, ceding to the IAEA responsibility for researching its safety. The IAEA is leading a global campaign to further the legalization, and consumer acceptance of irradiated foods. “We must confer with experts in the various fields of advertising and psychology to put the public at ease,” one IAEA report states, also recommending that the process “should not be required on the label.” [xxvii]Yet, the NRC study, stating that there is no safe dose of radiation, clearly justified the public’s rational fear of radiation. Today, in the face of catastrophic climate change, we now see the nuclear industry devoting its resources to public relations campaigns perpetuating the myth that the toxic technology is “clean” and “safe”.[xxviii]


IAEA Director, Mohammed El Baradei has stated:

We just cannot continue business as usual that every country can build its own factories for separating plutonium or enriching uranium. Then we are really talking about 30, 40 countries sitting on the fence with a nuclear weapons capability that could be converted into a nuclear weapon in a matter of months.[xxix]

The current flurry of negotiations and the move to try to control the production of the civilian nuclear fuel cycle in one central place, as proposed by El Baradei, would be futile. It would create just another discriminatory aspect of the NPT, with a new class of “haves” and “have-nots” under the treaty, as was done with those permitted to have nuclear weapons and those who are not. Now it is proposed that some nations be permitted to make their own nuclear fuel, while others, such as Iran, would be precluded from doing so. And in the wake of the stern warnings to Iran, and the referral of the issue to the Security Council, which has provoked Iran to begin reprocessing of nuclear fuel under its “inalienable” right, the U.S. has incomprehensibly announced its Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). GNEP is designed to control the spread of nuclear materials in which “supplier” nations would manufacture nuclear fuel rods, ship it to other countries– by rail, road and sea– to use in their reactors and then take back the irradiated fuel and reprocess it, breaking a 30-year ban in the U.S. on turning irradiated reactor fuel into weapons-grade material, first instituted by Presidents Carter and Ford.[xxx] Brazil too, recently got into the action, firing up its own major uranium enrichment plant while we were warning Iran that such action would be viewed as hostile. And six new Arab nations—Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates—have announced their intention to develop “peaceful” nuclear technology, in what appears to be an attempt to acquire civilian nuclear technology before the dominant industrial nations succeed in putting the nuclear fuel cycle and access to materials under their exclusive control.

Trying to control the reprocessing and distribution of nuclear fuels, would be going down the same path we’ve been on for the last 50 some-odd years for nuclear arms control. There is no more likelihood that France, Japan, or the U.S., for example, will surrender control of nuclear materials production, any more than the nuclear powers have surrendered control of atom bombs. We would have a long drawn-out contentious effort to establish a discriminatory regime—when, instead, we could we be expending our energy and intellectual treasure on shifting the energy paradigm to make nuclear, fossil, and industrial biofuels obsolete.

It is time for the IAEA to give up its dual mission in nuclear technology. While the Agency plays an indispensable role in inspecting and verifying compliance with nuclear disarmament agreements, it should not continue to act with a manifest conflict of interest in promoting the commercial interests of the nuclear industry.


In June 2008, 69 Members of the European Parliament from 19 countries signed a call to negotiate a nuclear weapons convention based on the draft Abolition 2000 Model Nuclear Weapons Convention[xxxi] submitted to the UN, now updated and being promoted by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) spearheaded by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. The US Conference of Mayors, responding to a call from the Mayors for Peace, led by the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, endorsed a call for negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention this June. Congresswoman Lynne Woolsey’s House Resolution 68 calls on the US to enter into negotiations to abolish nuclear weapons.

Germany has convened a series of meetings this year with 60 nations to launch in November, an initiative for an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). See www.irena.org Just as the Comprehensive Test Ban has rendered inoperative Article V of the NPT, which provided a right to “peaceful” nuclear explosions, the establishment of IRENA would supercede Article IV and the “inalienable right” to “peaceful” nuclear technology, providing a benign, non-proliferating substitute of safe, clean, abundant, energy that will help turn the world from strife and resource wars.

Public opinion supports nuclear disarmament. A 2007 poll, jointly conducted by the University of Maryland and Russia’s Levada Center, shows large majorities in both Russia and America in

favor of eliminating nuclear weapons. [xxxii] The current crisis over Iran’s intentions to exercise its legal “inalienable right” to “peaceful” nuclear technology presents an opportunity for new American leadership to negotiate an end to the nuclear age.


Take the Russians up on their offer to cut our arsenals to 1000 warheads and then take China up on its offer calling all the other nuclear weapons states (UK, France, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea) to the table to negotiate a treaty for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

· De-alert all nuclear weapons.

· Commit to never be the first to use a nuclear weapon.

  • Cut all funding for new nuclear weapons research and substitute a passive custodial program for maintenance of the arsenal during dismantlement.
  • Stop all research, design and development of nuclear weapons by any means.
  • Close the Nevada test site just as France and China have closed theirs in the South Pacific and Gobi Desert.
  • Bring all US nuclear warheads back from Europe and abandon NATO policy to rely on nuclear weapons for its security.
  • Take up Russia and China’s offer for negotiations to maintain the peaceful use of space for all time.
  • Stop any further nuclearization and militarization of space.
  • Support negotiations for a missile ban treaty.
  • Institute a moratorium on uranium mining.
  • Call for a global phase out of nuclear power and join Germany’s initiative to fund and establish the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to promote the use of clean, safe energy.
  • Support global efforts for the reallocation of world-wide subsidies of $250 billion to nuclear, fossil and industrial biomass fuels for clean, safe, sustainable solar, wind, geothermal and marine energy; and work for the reallocation of $40 billion of US subsidies and taxbreaks now supporting unsustainable energy resources to be applied to clean, safe energy.
  • Reallocate the resources saved to redress the environmental devastation and human suffering caused by nuclear mining, milling, production and testing, which have been disproportionately borne by the world’s indigenous peoples.
  • Provide adequate resources to address the toxic legacy of the nuclear age.

Alice Slater

Abolition 2000, NY

446 E. 86 St.

New York, NY 10028




July 17, 2008 at 2:41 pm 2 comments

Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War Launched in Japan

Published on Monday, June 2, 2008 by CommonDreams.org
by Alice Slater

ARTICLE 9: JAPANESE CONSTITUTION: Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. (2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

After World War II, the victorious allied powers, implementing a transition to democracy in Japan, required Japan to forego any future aggressive military action by including a provision in their new Constitution to renounce war and the threat or use of force. But by 1950, following the outbreak of the Korean War, when US General MacArthur ordered the establishment of a 75,000-strong Japanese National Police Reserve equipped with US Army surplus materials, numerous assaults have been made on the integrity of Article 9. By 1990, Japan was ranked third in military spending after the US and the Soviet Union, until 1996 when it was outspent by China and dropped to fourth place. Today, the US-Japanese joint Theater Missile “Defense” which in reality poses an “offensive” threat to China, as well as the US military bases in Japan, and other US-Japanese military cooperation have further undermined the spirit of Article 9. Presently, the Bush Administration is creating an all out assault on the peace constitution, pressuring the Japanese government to amend Article 9 in order to permit Japanese soldiers to serve in the wars of the Empire, providing fresh cannon fodder for battles in Iraq and Afghanistan and other imperial adventures yet undeclared.

The citizen activists of Japan are resisting the US led assault on their beloved peace constitution. This May in Tokyo, at the launch of a Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War, organized by the Japanese NGO Peaceboat, 15,000 people showed up for the first day’s plenary and over 3,000 people had to be turned away from the filled-to-capacity convention center, causing the organizers to set up an impromptu program outdoors for the overflow crowd where keynote speakers, including Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, rallied the participants to call on their government to preserve their constitution’s provision for the renunciation of war. This unprecedented turnout to uphold Japan’s constitution, launched a Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War with more than 22,000 people attending the three day meeting in Tokyo, and 8,000 more gathering in Hiroshima, Osaka, and Sendai to organize for peace. More than 40 countries were represented at the various plenaries and workshops with over 200 international visitors, which examined opportunities to reinforce and expand Article 9 in a new 21st century context. Article 9 was promoted not only as a disarmament measure for all the nations of the world, but as a means of redistributing the world’s treasure, now wasted at the rate of over one trillion dollars per year to feed the murderous war machine, using those funds to restore the health of the planet and end poverty on earth.

One of the most moving and inspiring presentations was the shared experiences of a young Iraqi Sunni soldier, Kasim Turki, who quit fighting in the middle of a fierce battle in Ramadhi and has now organized a team working to rebuild schools and hospitals in Iraq, joined by Aidan Delgado, an American Iraq war vet, who also laid down his arms in the middle of a battle in Iraq and took conscientious objector status, refusing to ever kill again. The two young soldiers and former enemies have become friends, sharing experiences and urging the abolition of military power and war. Their presentations were welcomed resoundingly by the participants who were inspired and moved by their fierce devotion to peace.

Although cruel wars have been common throughout human history, there has been nothing like the enormous speed up of destructive war, fueled by science and technology, suffered in this last century, starting with 20 million deaths after World War I and ending with well over 100 million deaths by the end of the 20th Century — the horrors of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda — only a few of the tragic catastrophes rendered by the instruments of war. Yet it was only in 1969, less than 40 years ago, that humanity landed on the moon and, for the first time saw the image of our fragile, beautiful blue planet, floating in space, giving us a new perspective of a unified world, sharing this small spaceship earth. It could only have been a profound influence on our consciousness that is bound to help us shift from the paradigm of war and technological domination and control to a more balanced nurturing interdependent vision for the health of earth’s inhabitants in an expanded understanding of Article 9.

The US Constitution was imperfect at its drafting, failing to consider slaves as people or to recognize women’s right to vote. Evolving consciousness led to the abolition of slavery and the enfranchisement of women. Similarly, it is hoped, by the many participants who gathered in Japan, that a transformed earth consciousness will perfect the original limited vision of the “Renunciation of War” infusing the Article 9 initiative for a global effort to stop all violence on the planet, not only for Japan, but for the whole earth. We discussed not only the violence of wars in the traditional meaning but in an expanded context of destruction against all living things and the very living systems of our planetary home itself — or as Professor Keibo Oiwa at Meiji Gakuin University characterized it in the workshop, “Linking Environment and Peace”, a Pax Ecologia.

And as we met in Tokyo, half way around the world in Berlin, only a few days earlier, Germany convened a meeting of sixty nations to launch a Campaign for IRENA, an International Renewable Energy Agency, see www.irena.org, to facilitate new reliance around the world on the safe, abundant, free energy of the sun, wind, and tides, foregoing resource wars and food shortages, currently plaguing the earth’s people as a result of a non-sustainable out of date energy regime of fossil, nuclear and biofuels. Irene, the Greek word for peace adds a unique resonance to this critical initiative to shift our dependence on energy to benign sources, plentifully distributed around our planet for all to access peacefully. Support for the establishment of IRENA was issued in the final statement of the Article 9 conference to the participants at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Conference which convened at the same time in Geneva to address issues of nuclear disarmament and proliferation.

Currently, only one other country, Costa Rica, has a constitutional provision similar to Japan’s to abolish war. At the close of the conference, Carlos Vargas, representing Costa Rica, invited the organizers to his country for a follow up planning meeting to expand the Article 9 Campaign to make peace provisions a reality in every national constitution around the world. For more information, see http://www.article-9.org/en/index.html ; http://www.peaceboat.org/english/index.html

Alice Slater, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

June 13, 2008 at 12:02 pm 2 comments

Another Perspective on the RRW “Victory”

Another Perspective on the RRW “Victory”

by Jacqueline Cabasso, Western States Legal Foundation

December 18, 2007


Yesterday it was reported that funding for the so-called “Reliable Replacement Warhead” (RRW) had been zeroed out in the FY 2008 budget passsed by the U.S. Congress.  I quickly wrote this two-part response to the announcement of the RRW “victory” (see, for example http://www.fcnl.org/issues/item.php?item_id=3065&issue_id=2), in response to an inquiry from a young colleague.  I wrote the second part after reading the Summary and Explanatory Statement that accompany the joint House-Senate omnibus appropriations bill, the FY 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act.  I offer it as an alternative and distinctly “outside the beltway” point of view.

Part I: Here’s my basic perspective. This *may* be an important symbolic victory – time will tell, especially following the rejection of the RNEP.  It seems to signal that Congress is uncomfortable with the idea of funding *new* nuclear weapons.  Nonetheless, it is a *very* small thing.  Over the years since the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapon types specifically named in budget line items have been zeroed out several times, reappearing under different names or buried in more vaguely identified budget categories.  ALSO, remember that there is an officially acknowledged *black budget* about which we know nothing.  And, bear in mind that even with a few million cut from RRW, the overall nuclear weapons R&D budget is enormous, and still higher than during the average Cold War years.  MOST IMPORTANTLY, zeroing out the RRW this year doesn’t fundamentally change *anything* about U.S. nuclear weapons policy, posture, readiness, capability, threat or lethality.  Here are a few examples:

  • The Stockpile Life Extension Program is going forward. Last I checked the Labs were working on the W-76 warhead, giving it an enhanced ground burst capability, which would improve its first strike capability. “Life extensions” are planned for other warhead models. This begs the question of what “new” means, when talking about a nuclear warhead.
  • Despite the claim made by the U.S. representative to the First Committee of the United Nations in October, that U.S. nuclear weapons are not now and have *never* been on “hair trigger” alert, they do, in fact, remain on high alert status and have taken on an even more central role in U.S. “Global Strike” planning, which has as much or more to do with the delivery systems than the warheads. (See Hans Kristenson’s rebuttal at http://www.lcnp.org/disarmament/kristensen-rebuttal_oct07.pdf) According to Bruce Blair’s rebuttal: “Both the United States and Russia today maintain about one-third of their total strategic arsenals on launch-ready alert. Hundreds of missiles armed with thousands of nuclear warheads the equivalent of about 100,000 Hiroshima bombs — can be launched within a very few minutes. The end of the Cold War did not lead the United States and Russia to significantly change their nuclear strategies or the way they operate their nuclear forces.” (See http://www.lcnp.org/disarmament/opstatus-blair.htm.)
  • The U.S. is on the only nuclear weapon state that deploys nuclear weapons on foreign territory. It is reliably estimated that 350 U.S. B-61 nuclear bombs are deployed at the following NATO bases in Europe: Aviano, Italy (50); Ghedi, Italy (40); Peer, Belgium (20); Uden, The Netherlands (20); Vulkaneiffel, Germany (20); Incirlik, Turkey (90); Lakenheath, UK (110) (Source: The Nuclear Information Project of the Federation of American Scientists

http://www.nukestrat.com/us/afn/nato.htm.) In response to an Op-ed signed by 8 European mayors who want the U.S. nukes removed from their territories, the NATO Chief announced that there are no plans to change NATO’s nuclear policy. (The Op-ed is posted at: http://www.2020visioncampaign.org/pages/319.  The article about NATO’s response is at: http://www.refdag.nl/artikel/1325579/NAVO+houdt+vast+aan+kernwapens.html.)

  • Almost nobody talks about the delivery systems or the long planning horizons *always* in place for nuclear weapons systems. Consider the following: “Advisers to U.S. Strategic Command this month urged the Defense Department to begin research and development soon for a new nuclear-weapons submarine, according to the Navy…. The review anticipated that a new program would have to begin around 2016 for the first submarine to be fielded in 2029. However, defense sources have told GSN that it now appears initial funding would be sought by 2010.” (See http://www.nti.org/d_newswire/issues/2007_11_29.html#05F6F768. Note the reliance on the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, widely dismissed by the arms control community at the time as a mere “wish list.”)
  • The details are in the fine print. With everyone continuing to sing the praises of Kissinger, Shultz, Perry and Nunn for their call for a “nuclear weapon free world,” Kissinger and Shultz have endorsed Sidney Drell’s position that “research work on new RRW designs should certainly go ahead.” (See http://www.nti.org/d_newswire/issues/2007_11_15.html#C8DB7944.) The history of military research and development strongly suggests that research and development efforts are not necessarily limited to specific weapon designs, and that even if a particular design in terminated, R&D may very well lead to new weapons concepts or modifications. It’s not over till its over.
  • The draft EIS for “Complex Transformation” (formerly Complex 2030) is expected in early January. I predict with a high degree of confidence that it will not include a plan for closing down the nuclear weapons infrastructure because the RRW isn’t currently funded. So what are they planning to spend that $150 billion on over the next 25 years?
  • The RRW vote not withstanding, the United States is not in any way shape or form acting in good faith with regard to its NPT Article VI obligation to negotiate “in good faith” the end of the arms race “at an early date” and “nuclear disarmament in all its aspects.” Here I offer two resources. One is the statement I made on behalf of the NGOs to the First Committee of the UN in October. (http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/political/1com/1com07/statements/26octcabasso.pdf.) The second is a debate between U.S. diplomat and lawyer Christopher Ford and John Burroughs of the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy, on what Article VI of the NPT legally requires of states. (http://cns.miis.edu/cns/activity/071129_nprbriefing/index.htm)
  • Finally, as I wrote in a paper presented at a recent international conference on the challenge of abolishing nuclear weapons: The Encarta Encyclopedia describes militarism as “advocacy of an ever-stronger military as a primary goal of society, even at the cost of other social priorities and liberties.” And it relates militarism to chauvinism, fascism, and national socialism. As uncomfortable as it may be for many, this chilling definition accurately describes the historical trajectory and current reality of U.S. national security policy. The threatened first use of nuclear weapons remains at the heart of that policy. While it’s important to celebrate small “victories,” we need to keep our eyes on the prize.
  • Much more detailed analysis is included in our book, Nuclear Disorder or Cooperative Security? U.S. Weapons of Terror, the Global Proliferation Crisis and Paths to Peace, available at http://www.wmdreport.org/.

Part II: It is not at all certain that this outcome is the result of efforts by anti-nuclear activists.  There are a couple of Congressmembers, Hobson and Visclosky, who didn’t like the RRW from the beginning, for reasons of their own.  I believe it would be intellectually dishonest to proclaim this a major victory.  After I wrote my initial response, I read the summary and explanatory statement that accompany the joint House-Senate omnibus appropriations bill, the FY 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act.  I found no surprises.  According to the official summary, the nuclear weapons budget is the same as FY 2007 and the RRW isn’t even gone, it’s just on hold. (http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/EnergyandWaterOmnibus.pdf)  Excerpt:

“Weapons Programs: $6.3 billion, the same as 2007 and $214 million below the President’s request.

  • Reliable Replacement Warhead: Prohibits the development of a reliable replacement warhead until the President develops a strategic nuclear weapons plan to guide transformation and downsizing of the stockpile and nuclear weapons complex.”

The explanatory statement, starting at p. 44 (PDF p. 88) provides a detailed breakdown of the funded nuclear weapons activities, including further description of the RRW and a *new* science campaign called “Advanced Certification,” and goes on to talk about the Stockpile Life Extension Program.  Under “Warhead Dismantlement” you will find funding for the Device *Assembly* Facility at the Nevada Test Site, for “additional missions.” Read on to discover funding for the “enhanced test readiness program,” Inertial Confinement Fusion including the National Ignition Facility at the Livermore Lab and the Z machine at Sandia, Advanced Simulation and Computing, *including academic partnerships*, and pit manufacturing and certification.  And it goes on. (http://www.rules.house.gov/110/text/omni/jes/jesdivc.pdf)

To sum up, from my perspective, one small line item was cut, the FY 2007 funding level was maintained, and the deck chairs were rearranged on the Titanic.  I believe that it is imperative to broaden our approach, and to educate ourselves and the public about the profound historical and economic underpinnings of the military-industrial-academic complex.  Imagine a scenario in which tens or hundreds of thousands of people around the country were calling unambiguously for the abolition of nuclear weapons *and war* and *demanding* meaningful leadership from the United States.  What kind of political space might be opened up,  and what kind of results might one expect?  Certainly not less than eliminating 3 letters (RRW) from the NNSA’s vocabulary.  We might actually get *more* and in the process begin to generate a real national debate on the *purpose* of and therefore the future of nuclear weapons, and the requirements for genuine human and ecological security.

January 17, 2008 at 8:22 pm 2 comments

Empire and Nuclear Weapons

I have included a link to a piece which is excerpted from Abolition2000 member, Joseph Gerson’s book, Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World.

Please visit
http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/4777 to view the article.

January 9, 2008 at 6:41 pm Leave a comment

Going ballistic

Khaleej Times Online

Going ballistic

by Praful BidwaiDecember 25, 2007

AMONG the many dubious ideas that former United States president Ronald Reagan embraced, two were particularly dangerous. The first was that “a limited nuclear war” with the Soviet Union could be fought and won. The second held that the US could reliably secure itself against nuclear weapons by building Star Wars-style ballistic missile defence (BMD).

BMD would detect launches of nuclear-tipped missiles using satellites and radars, and intercept and destroy them. This would render the enemy’s nuclear deterrent ineffectual. If the US took the lead in BMD, it would acquire supreme, unmatched power.

Peace-minded scientists sharply criticised these ideas. They showed that a “limited nuclear war”, deploying only 100 of the world’s then-existing arsenal of 70,000-plus nuclear weapons, would create a cloud of soot and smoke which would block sunlight for years.

This would cause a prolonged “nuclear winter”. Global food production and forestry would be devastated, creating climate havoc and large-scale hunger. This critique was fused into the great global peace movement of the 1980s.

Reagan eventually abandoned “limited nuclear war” and negotiated with the former USSR the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987, the world’s only agreement to dismantle a whole class of weapons 2,700 missiles, with a 500-5,500 km range, and their nuclear warheads. However, Reagan never gave up on BMD. Spending some $120 billion, the US developed rudimentary capabilities to engage ballistic missiles in all phases of their flight.However, Reagan’s successors desisted for long from actual BMD deployment, deferring to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (1972) with the USSR, which prohibits deployment.Things changed with George W Bush’s election as President. In 2001, he announced plans to deploy a BMD shield against about 100-120 missiles. In 2002, the US withdrew from the ABM Treaty, and gave its Missile Defence Agency a free hand to develop BMD and space-based weapons, including lasers, kinetic-energy weapons, etc.

The world was horrified. But BJP-ruled India welcomed the announcement ahead of America’s own allies.India had for decades opposed Star Wars and the militarisation of space.The US’s BMD is setting off new rivalries. The MDA has built two bases in Alaska and California for missile interceptors, costing $26 billion. It’s planning to spend $250 billion on BMD.

The US has just announced a BMD programme in central Europe, with radars in the Czech Republic and an interceptor base in Poland. Washington claims this will guard against strikes from “rogue” nations like Iran.

The ABM Treaty recognised that BMD deployment would introduce uncertainty about the workability of nuclear deterrence, on which all nuclear weapons-states (NWSs) ostensibly base their security. Deterrence assumes that NWSs won’t attack each other because they know their adversary can retaliate and inflict “unacceptable damage” upon them. This creates “balance-of-terror”-based security. Nuclear deterrence is flawed because it makes unrealistic assumptions about transparency, rules out accidents or miscalculations, and demands rational, cool-headed conduct from fallible, panic-prone decision-makers.

The search for ultimate supremacy through BMD, including the “freedom to attack” an adversary with nuclear weapons, and “freedom from attack” by his weapons, makes nonsense even of this limited stability, and creates new insecurities and dangers.

Globally, BMD will trigger off a qualitatively new arms race and militarise space. Ethically, the human race has no business to militarise space.

Strategically, militarisation will prove utterly disastrous.

With today’s technology, BMD cannot provide remotely reliable defence against missiles. It’s near-impossible to hit a bullet travelling at 24,000 kmph with another bullet travelling at the same speed with certainty.

Further, any number of inexpensive countermeasures can neutralise BMD, including cheap decoys like balloons.

It cannot discriminate between real and fake targets.

Similarly, real warheads can be enclosed in radar-reflecting balloons. Besides, infrared jamming measures can be used. These can be mastered by the 30-odd countries with missile programmes. Finally, an adversary can “overwhelm” BMD with a large number of missiles. Yet, Russia, China, Japan and India have also entered the BMD game besides the US.

On December 6, India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) fired an interceptor to destroy a Prithvi missile launched five minutes earlier. In November 2006, the DRDO had used a modified Prithvi to intercept another Prithvi. It boasts that it can develop a fully indigenous BMD shield in three years.

These claims must be taken with a pinch of salt and not just because Israeli radars were used in the latest test. The DRDO’s record inspires no confidence.All its major projects, including the Main Battle Tank, Light Combat Aircraft, and Advanced Technology Vessel (nuclear-powered submarine) have failed in some measure or other sinking thousands of crores. Its missile programme too has run into serious difficulties.However, it’s even more important to recognise that BMD is strategically dubious, destabilising and harmful to regional security. Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee admitted as much in October when he ruled out joining the US-led BMD programme. The DRDO is working at odds with this.India must not waste scarce resources on BMD. Nor should Pakistan get lured into this sordid business.

We already spend too much on the military in relation to health, education and social security. The result is our falling Human Development Index ranks. BMD will further distort South Asian priorities without producing security. The world must put an end to these fancy and dangerous programmes before they get the better of it.Praful Bidwai is a senior Indian journalist, political activist and widely published commentator

Copyright © 2007 Khaleej Times All Rights Reserved.

January 7, 2008 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

How Not to Handle Nuclear Security

I would like to share with you an article by Zia Mian, an Abolition 2000 founding member.

Link to article on Foreign Policy In FocusHow Not to Handle Nuclear Security
Zia Mian | December 14, 2007
Editor: Emily Schwartz Greco 

Foreign Policy In Focus 

The United States recently admitted that since the attacks of September 11, 2001, it has been helping Pakistan secure its nuclear weapons and the materials used to make them. Pakistan has welcomed this assistance. A former Pakistani general who was involved in the nuclear weapons complex has said that “We want to learn from the West’s best practices.”

But the U.S. track record for securing its own nuclear weapons, nuclear materials and weapons information isn’t encouraging, to say the least. If the United States can’t secure its own nuclear complex, why expect Pakistan to do it any better?

On November 11, The Washington Post reported that the United States sent “tens of millions of dollars worth of equipment such as intrusion detectors and ID systems to safeguard Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.” A week later, The New York Times, which had been sitting on the story for three years, revealed that the program was in fact much larger, “Over the past six years, the Bush administration has spent almost $100 million on a highly classified program to help Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, secure his country’s nuclear weapons.” The assistance ranged from “helicopters to night-vision goggles to nuclear detection equipment.”

The U.S. military claims to be confident about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. A Pentagon press spokesman said, “At this point, we have no concerns. We believe that they are under the appropriate control.” The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff declared “I don’t see any indication right now that security of those weapons is in jeopardy.”

Zero Locks

A concern about nuclear weapons security in Pakistan is that Islamists in the military may seize control of the weapons and try to use them. Pakistan claims to have followed the U.S. example and installed coded combination-lock switches, known as Permissive Action Links, on its weapons.

Since the 1960s most U.S. nuclear weapons are supposed to have been protected against unauthorized use by coded combination-lock switches that could only be activated by someone who knew that proper sequence of characters. These switches were introduced in 1962 by Robert McNamara when he was Secretary of Defense to ensure control over the use of U.S. nuclear weapons.

According to Bruce Blair, a former missile launch control officer, Strategic Air Command, which was responsible for the nuclear-armed missiles and bombers, installed the switches but set the combinations of all the locks to a string of zeros. The codes for launching U.S. nuclear missiles apparently stayed set at OOOOOOOO until the late 1970s. The reason? Strategic Air Command did not want there to be any problems or delays in launching the nuclear missiles because of the need to put in a more complex set of numbers.

Robert McNamara apparently did not know that the locks he had ordered to be installed on nuclear weapons were largely worthless, and that the military with direct control of the weapons were evading official instructions for securing nuclear missiles. McNamara only learned of this from Bruce Blair in January 2004. McNamara was outraged. But, as Blair observed, this is but “one of a long litany of items pointing to the ignorance of presidents and defense secretaries and other nuclear security officials about the true state of nuclear affairs.”

Wayward Nukes

Problems with securing nuclear weapons are not a matter of Cold War history. In August this year, six U.S. nuclear-armed cruise missiles were inadvertently loaded onto a bomber at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and flown across the country to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. The cruise missiles remained fitted to the bomber for 24 hours before it took off and for hours after it landed without anyone realizing that it was carrying nuclear warheads. It was “an unprecedented string of procedural failures,” according to General Richard Newton, the assistant deputy chief of staff for operations for the U.S. Air Force.

As nuclear analyst Hans Kristensen has pointed out, the incident showed “the apparent break-down of nuclear command and control for the custody of the nuclear weapons.” Put simply, the ground crews did not know, or bother to check, that they were loading nuclear weapons on a plane; the bomber’s pilot and crew did not know or bother to check that they were carrying nuclear weapons; the respective base commanders did not know nuclear weapons were leaving or arriving; and, the national authorities responsible for nuclear weapons did not know where these nuclear weapons were or that they were being moved across the country. The weapons were to all intents and purposes lost for about 36 hours.

Gates, Guards, and Guns

A key concern about nuclear security in Pakistan is the risk of radical Islamist militants making a bid for its nuclear weapons or its stock of the materials with which to make nuclear weapons. There is a growing armed insurgency in the areas bordering Afghanistan that has been spreading across Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province and into its major cities.

The United States, which has much less of a threat to worry about, has had plenty of problems trying to makes sure terrorists could not get their hands on the materials with which to make nuclear weapons. The U.S. Department of energy currently spends $1.3 billion a year on securing its facilities that contain significant amounts of nuclear weapons-useable materials through the use of fences, guards, cameras, intrusion sensors, and so on. But many of these facilities are not required or able to protect against a 19-strong group of attackers such as were involved in the 9/11 aircraft hijackings.

The failure to secure weapons materials at U.S. facilities has been exposed by exercises in which simulated attackers carried away material sufficient to make a weapon. Reports show that the security at the sites fails more than 50% of the time. The Project on Government Oversight, an independent watch dog group, has revealed for instance that during a mock attack on Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, a U.S. Special Forces team “was able to steal enough weapons-grade uranium for numerous nuclear weapons.” In a subsequent security test at the same site, the “mock terrorists gained control of sensitive nuclear materials which, if detonated, would have endangered significant parts of New Mexico, Colorado and downwind areas.”

Nuclear Know-How

A particular worry about Pakistan is that scientists and engineers within its nuclear program may share weapons information with other countries or Islamist groups. The story of A.Q. Khan is all too familiar, as is that of several senior former Pakistani nuclear scientists who were found to have met with the Al-Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan.

In the United States, there is a long and troubling history of nuclear weapons information going missing from the nuclear weapons laboratories, and ending up in unexpected places. The first and most famous atomic spy was Klaus Fuchs, who passed on the secrets of the U.S. nuclear weapons project to the Soviet Union during World War II. Fuchs claimed he did it for ideological reasons.

More recently, the Project on Government Oversight has compiled a list of reports on the loss of classified information from the U.S. nuclear complex. They found 17 incidents in 2004 alone in which classified information from Los Alamos was sent using unclassified networks. This led the Department of Energy, which manages the U.S. nuclear weapons program, to shut down all operations involving removable hard drives, laptops, CDs and DVDs, flash drives and such like, across the entire complex.

In one dramatic case, missing computer disks containing nuclear weapons information were lost and mysteriously found several weeks later behind a copy machine. In another case, classified information about nuclear weapons designs was found during a raid on a drug den. In January 2007, there was an incident in which a highly classified email message about nuclear weapons was sent unsecured by a senior Pentagon nuclear adviser and then forwarded by others. It has been described as “the most serious breach of U.S. national security.”

Nuclear People

History suggests that the most enduring problem for the security of nuclear weapons, materials and information, is the people who work in and manage the nuclear weapons complex. The United States has a nuclear weapons personnel reliability program which screens people who are allowed to work with nuclear weapons. Pakistan says it has adopted a similar program.

An independent study of the U.S. nuclear personnel reliability program found that between 1975 and 1990, the United States disqualified annually between 3% and 5% of the military personnel it had previously cleared for working with nuclear weapons. These people were removed on the grounds of drug or alcohol problems, conviction for a serious crime, negligence, unreliability or aberrant behavior, poor attitude, and behavior suggesting problems with law and authority.

Problems like this continue. In October 2006, a Los Alamos lab worker with the “highest possible security clearance” was arrested in a cocaine drug bust. One year later, the commander of a U.S. nuclear submarine was removed from his duties after it was discovered that the ship’s crew failed to do daily safety checks on its nuclear reactor for a month and then falsified the daily records to cover up the lapse.

False Security

After 60 years of living with the bomb, the United States has failed to get its own nuclear house in order. It continues to suffer serious problems with securing its own nuclear weapons, nuclear materials and weapons related information. Showing no sign of having learned from its own mistakes, the United States may only end up encouraging a false sense of security and confidence about nuclear weapons security in Pakistan.

The only sure way to secure nuclear weapons and materials is not to have them. The only way to be sure that nuclear weapons scientists do not pass information is to forbid scientists from working on such weapons. Anything short of that is taking a risk and being willing to pay the price for living in a nuclear-armed world.

Zia Mian, a Foreign Policy In Focus (www.fpif.org) columnist, directs the Project on Peace and Security in South Asia at the Program on Science and Global Security, at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs.

December 20, 2007 at 2:56 pm 2 comments

What They Said in 2007

This year celebrities, religious leaders, politicians and states people have joined the call to abolish nuclear weapons.  Watch this 90 second video summarizing what these people said in 2007.

(To go directly to the YouTube page, click here)

December 18, 2007 at 3:01 pm 1 comment

Concerns with safety at American nuclear weapon labs

The US’ three nuclear weapons laboratories have had almost 60 serious accidents or near misses in the past seven years, according to a report released last month by the Government Accountability Office.  The following article details the shocking findings of this report.



GAO concerned with safety at nuclear weapon labs

  • Story Highlights
  • Report blames “a relatively lax attitude toward safety procedures”
  • Some of the accidents have caused “serious harm to workers,” the report says
  • These include worker exposure to radiation and inhalation of toxic vapors
  • The GAO reviewed reports from Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Sandia

From Eric Fiegel and Kathy Benz

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The nation’s three nuclear weapons laboratories have had almost 60 serious accidents or near misses in the past seven years, according to a report released Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office.

It blames “a relatively lax attitude toward safety procedures” which has created “an environment where workers can become complacent about following safety requirements, and managers about enforcing them, raising the potential for accidents.”

The GAO reviewed almost 100 reports from Los Alamos in New Mexico, Lawrence Livermore in California and Sandia which has campuses in both California and New Mexico. All are nuclear weapons laboratories that handle extremely dangerous materials like plutonium.

These three facilities are overseen by the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The report cited “weaknesses in identifying safety problems and taking appropriate corrective actions,” and a lack of oversight by the NNSA for many of the problems.

“The NNSA weapons laboratories, which conduct important but potentially dangerous research, have experienced persistent safety problems despite years of effort to make the laboratories safer,” the GAO report concluded.

Some of the accidents have caused “serious harm to workers or damage to facilities,” the report said.

These included worker exposure to radiation, inhalation of toxic vapors and electrical shocks. While the accidents resulted in no deaths, they did contribute to the temporary shutdown of facilities at Los Alamos in 2004 and Lawrence Livermore in 2005.

One accident of concern took place at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico in 2000, when seven workers were exposed to “significant doses of radiation” when a piece of equipment failed.

Four of the seven required immediate medical help, according to the report. Poor worker communication and training contributed to the accident, which took place because the laboratory did not take corrective action after other similar accidents, the report said.

That mishap “ranked among the top 10 worst radiological intake accidents in 41 years of data gathering by the DOE (Department of Energy) and its predecessor agencies,” according to the report.

Also at Los Alamos in 2002, liquid chlorine dioxide unexpectedly formed and exploded during an experiment, sending debris into the air with enough force to knock out piece of wall and ceiling.

Two researchers working on the experiment escaped death or serious injury when one of them noticed temperatures rising in the equipment, and both fled the room. The accident was caused by not implementing existing safety requirements, the report said.

In another incident, a package containing radioactive material was shipped from one part of Los Alamos to another, but no warnings were visible on the package.

A worker opened it, exposing himself and ultimately others — both at work and at home — because the contamination was not discovered for 11 days. Additionally, some non-radioactive parts the worker touched and contaminated were shipped to Pennsylvania.

The GAO noted that NNSA has taken some steps to improve the safety situation at the laboratories, but “ineffective implementation” of safety guidelines has continued to contribute to accidents.

“Given the persistent nature of safety problems at the laboratories, it appears that either the identification of the underlying causes or the corrective actions taken have been inadequate,” the report said.

The GAO made several recommendations for improvement, including an annual report to Congress “on progress toward making the weapons laboratories safer, including the status and effectiveness of safety improvement initiatives, using outcome-based performance measures.”

The NNSA said it “generally agrees” with the GAO’s findings, but believes its safety record has been “favorably impressive” and its oversight of safety procedures “excellent.”

One of the congressmen who requested the report said he expects conditions at the labs will improve.

“Now that the National Nuclear Security Administration realizes the persistent safety problems associated with our national weapons laboratories, it is my hope that these problems will be corrected in a timely manner, and that employees at the laboratories will have a safer environment to work in,” said Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Kentucky.

December 17, 2007 at 3:59 pm 7 comments

Older Posts

Recent Posts