The Knoxville News has reported that multiple cases of copper being stolen from the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee have taken place in recent years, including a single heist of 1,400 pounds worth. The thefts not only raise questions about security at what is supposed to be one of the most secure sites in the U.S. nuclear weapons complex -- storing large amounts of weapons-usable highly enriched uranium -- but also about radiological safety. Y-12 officials tracked down the missing 1,400 pounds of copper, in part to make sure it did not represent a radioactive hazard to the unsuspecting purchasers of the "hot" (but fortunately, not radioactive) copper.
Nuclear power was the failed answer to the horrors of the atomic bomb - the so-called "Peaceful Atom." However, the two technologies are inextricably linked. Countries such as India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea clandestinely developed nuclear weapons using the infrastructure, technology and know-how of their "civilian" nuclear programs. Contained expansion of nuclear power across the globe only increases the chances of nuclear weapons development and is counterproductive to disarmament.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), 1,773 confirmed incidents of illegal possession, movement or attempts to illegally trade in or use nuclear material or radioactive sources occurred between January 1993 and December 2009. This figure comes from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Illicit Trafficking Database, http://www-ns.iaea.org/security/itdb.asp. The nuclear weapons and dirty bomb proliferation potential of such smuggling is immense.
BBC has reported that for the second time in less than two years, another Iranian scientist purportedly linked to the country's nuclear program has been assassinated. The Iranian regime blamed the Israeli Mossad for the 2010 assassination. The Iranian regime claims its uranium enrichment program is for electricity production. Iran, as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), does have the legal right to develop atomic power. However, the U.S., Israeli, French, and certain other governments accuse the Iranian regime of instead pursuing expanded and accelerated uranium enrichment for nuclear weapons production purposes. Of course, the U.S., Israel, and France already have nuclear weapons arsenals of their own.
Former director general (1997-2009) of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency and 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mohamed Elbaradei, has published a memoir, The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times. In the introduction, he writes:
"...One way or another we are on the cusp of significant change. If we do nothing, attempting to maintain the status quo of nuclear have and have-nots, the change will likely take the form of a veritable cascade of proliferation, or worse still, a series of nuclear exchanges. The signs are already apparent, most revealingly in the reactions of neighboring countries as real or perceived nuclear weapons threats emerge. The recent surge in the number of countries across the Middle East talking about or beginning to acquire nuclear technology and expertise is but one example. The suggestions by senior Japanese officials to open discussions about a Japanese nuclear weapons program in response to North Korea's first nuclear weapons test is yet another.
There is also an alternative. We could change course and embrace a different approach: a resolution of the asymmetry through genuine progress toward global nuclear disarmament. A new weapons reduction treaty between the global nuclear giants, to be followed by a forum in which the nuclear-weapon states begin to take responsibility for their need to disarm -- these are the pathways that could lead us toward a more secure future..." (from page 8)
Beyond Nuclear has joined with a diverse coalition of arms control, non-proliferation, peace, religious, and other groups in sending a letter urging U.S. Senate Democratic Leaders Harry Reid of Nevada, Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Chuck Schumer of New York to schedule floor action for, and win passage of, the New START Treaty with Russia concerning nuclear weapons before it is dismissed and a new Senate sworn in early next year. In addition to Beyond Nuclear, the coalition of signatories includes: Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, American Friends Service Committee, Federation of American Scientists, Hoover Institution, Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, Bipartisan Security Group, Global Security Institute, Ambassador Robert Grey (Former US Representative to the Conference on Disarmament), Center for American Progress, Methodists United for Peace with Justice, Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free World, National Security Network, British American Security Information Council, Tri-Valley CAREs, Arms Control Association, Truman National Security Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, Citizens for Global Solutions, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Council for a Livable World, Jan Lodal (Former Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense), League of Women Voters of the U.S., Peace Action, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, WAND (Women's Action for New Directions), Americans for Informed Democracy, Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers), Global Green USA, Two Futures Project, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.