RT has interviewed Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps, about the March 31-April 1 so-called "Nuclear Security Summit" convened by President Obama. Kevin discusses what is not being discussed, for the most part: both global nuclear weapons abolition, and nuclear power security risks. He also discusses the senseless shipment of weapons-usable plutonium from Japan to the U.S. on the high seas, and the unprecedented, highly risky shipment on the highways of liquid high-level radioactive waste (containing weapons-usable highly enriched uranium) from Canada to the U.S.
Beyond Nuclear advocates for the elimination of all nuclear weapons and argues that removing them can only make us safer, not more vulnerable. The expansion of commercial nuclear power across the globe only increases the chance that more nuclear weapons will be built and is counterproductive to disarmament.
President Obama's final, so-called "Nuclear Security Summit" will take place in Washington, D.C. on March 31st and April 1st. But the entire focus for the 50 heads of state in attendance will be on locking down weapons-usable nuclear materials, namely separated Plutonium-239 and highly enriched Uranium-235 (HEU).
As an IPS article reports, this is nothing new. In fact, the Nuclear Security Summits have not even done a very good job of covering even this narrow focus. Dr. M.V. Ramana, a Beyond Nuclear advisory board member, is reported as saying:
To start with, he said, all the Security summits have been very narrowly focused on just civilian HEU (Highly Enriched Uranium). Occasionally there is some talk about plutonium, but this is more the exception than the rule.
President Obama has just published a Nuclear Security Summit-related op-ed in the Washington Post, which raises more perplexing questions than it answers.
The New York Times has also reported on the global status of nuclear weapons-usable material risks, in light of the current Nuclear Security Summit. One remarkable passage quotes a U.S. Department of Energy official admitting he drank vodka during the shipment of weapons-usable highly enriched uranium out of Ukraine! (Non-proliferating under the influence?!)
In his famous Prague speech of spring 2009, President Obama infamously declared that nuclear weapons abolition would not happen in his lifetime. (The phrase was used in the title of a documentary film which critically examines the risks of the Atomic Age, and what people can do, and are doing, about it.)
And now, Obama hasn't even put nuclear weapons abolition on the agenda for this final Nuclear Security Summit of his presidency. This, even though the United States -- the only country to ever use nuclear weapons against cities (Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in August 1945) -- committed to abolish its nuclear weapons arsenal, in good faith, by signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, four long decades ago.
In an attempt to return nuclear weapons abolition to the world leaders' radar screen, Global Zero has called for a street protest and rally outside the Nuclear Security Summit on April 1st, featuring an inflatable mock nuclear missile.
On March 28th (the 37th anniversary of the Three Mile Island meltdown), Beyond Nuclear joined more than 175 groups from Japan, the U.S., and other countries in sending a letter to Japanese Prime Minister Abe. The groups called on Abe to reconsider plans to reprocess high-level radioactive waste at Rokkasho. Japan would be the only country without a nuclear weapons arsenal to reprocess high-level radioactive waste -- an activity that could give Japan enough separated plutonium to manufacture countless nuclear weapons. Japan has the technological prowess (including advanced missile technology) that -- with the necessary ingredient, separated plutonium -- it could manufacture a large arsenal of deliverable nuclear weapons in a very short period of time.
Japan's "peace constitution" currently forbids any such thing. But elements of the right wing in Japan have long supported keeping the nuclear weapons option open.
Prominent signatories of the letter to Abe include Hibakusha groups, survivors (and their descendants) of the United States' atomic bombings of Japan. (These groups have unanimously called for the abolition of not only nuclear weapons, but also nuclear power, in the aftermath of the Fukushima catastrophe.)
Japan's policy to separate weapons-usable plutonium from high-level radioactive waste risks nuclear weapons proliferation not only at home, but in other countries, such as South Korea. Other countries could respond in kind to Japan's provocative precedent. Japan's reprocessing policy risks increasing the volatility of its already tense East Pacific neighborhood (including nuclear armed China and North Korea), not to mention other international hot spots.
As Tom Clements has warned at the SRS Watch website, a "Nuclear Security Summit Effect" seems to be under way. The Obama administration appears to be moving nuclear materials, from numerous countries overseas, to Savannah River Site (SRS), South Carolina so that it can claim non-proliferation victories. But the materials are coming from relatively secure places, and could be much better secured right where they originated. Instead, the shipments -- by road, rail, and/or waterway -- are increasing the risks of accidental, or intentional (as in terrorist attacks), catastrophic releases of hazardous radioactivity, or diversion/theft of nuclear weapons-usable materials while in transit.
As Clements has documented at the SRS Watch website, "Nuclear Security Summit Effect" shipments to SRS include:
- Canadian liquid high-level [radioactive] waste to SRS: Why has DOE staunchly refused to analyze the viable option of denaturing the HEU [highly enriched uranium] contents in Canada?
- German graphite spent fuel to SRS: Why proceed with the import plans of the AVR & THTR gas-cooled reactor spent fuel when the NNSA [U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration] has determined that there is no proliferation risk of it staying in Germany?
- Swiss plutonium - 20 kg - to SRS: Why was this non-U.S.-origin material imported when it was of low risk for nuclear weapons and should have stayed in Switzerland or gone to the massive plutonium stockpiles in France or the UK?
- Import of 331 kilograms of plutonium from Japan to SRS: What will be said at the summit about the stockpile of 10.8 MT [Metric Tons] of weapon-usable plutonium in Japan, efforts to stockpile more plutonium by operating the Rokkasho reprocessing plant and why 231 kg of UK-origin plutonium is being dumped on SRS?
As reported by AP, the Japanese weapons-usable plutonium shipment, still en route by ship on the high seas, has led to the Republican Governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, calling on the Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz, to divert or "return to sender" the shipment.
Unfortunately, however, Gov. Haley's statement comes in the context of the Republican leadership of South Carolina -- including both U.S. Senators, Linsdsey Graham and Tim Scott -- calling for continued billion dollar boondoggle taxpayer funding for the white elephant known as the Mox Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at SRS.
(And Sen. Graham is responsible for South Carolina "dumping on itself." He did the dirty work for DOE in 2004 -- allowing high-level radioactive waste sludges to be abandoned in underground storage tanks at SRS. In 200 years or so, so much Strontium-90 will leak from the corroded tanks and failing grout, that the Savannah River will be unfit to drink, per Safe Drinking Water Act limits on Sr-90 concentration.)
Mox is short for Mixed Oxide (Uranium-Plutonium) nuclear fuel. The MFFF would convert many tons of excess U.S. weapons-usable plutonium into Mox nuclear fuel for commercial atomic reactor use. But the MFFF is billions of dollars over budget, and years behind schedule, with no end in sight. In fact, the MFFF construction may be fatally flawed. To its credit, the Obama administration is trying to zero out MFFF funding, to cut losses to the taxpayer. But the South Carolina Republicans are fiercely resisting the MFFF's inevitable demise.
The alternative for weapons-usable plutonium disposition? What anti-nuclear activists advocated 20 years ago: mix the separated plutonium back into the high-level radioactive waste from which it came in the first place, and treat it as what it is, ultra-hazardous high-level radioactive waste, requiring deep geologic disposal.
Nuclear power is also conspicuous by its absence from Obama's Nuclear Security Summit. Revelations from Belgium about the potentially catastrophic terrorist threats to commercial atomic reactors, is just the latest example of nuclear power's inherent security risks. They are ignored at everyone's great peril.
Thom Hartmann hosted Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps on his television program The Big Picture. On Thom's "The Best of the Rest of the News" (from the 44 minutes 45 seconds mark to the 52 minutes 08 seconds mark), Thom asks Kevin "Is Obama's Nuke Summit a Sham?"
Nuclear Heartland and an End to Land-Based Missiles: Book Talk by John LaForge, Nukewatch WI, Busboys@Takoma, March 14, 7pm
Nuclear Heartland and an End to Land-Based Missiles
John LaForge, longtime staffer at Nukewatch, regular contributor to CounterPunch, and Co-editor of Nuclear Heartland, Revised: A Guide to the 450 Land-Based Missiles of the United States (see photo, left), will discuss this new book from Nukewatch, at Busboys & Poets @ Takoma, in the Nicolás Guillén Room, Monday, March 14, from 7 to 9 p.m.
Busboys @ Takoma is located at 235 Carroll St NW, Washington, DC 20012, right on the border with the Nuclear-Free Zone of Takoma Park, MD (the Takoma Metro Rail Station, on the Red line, is a short couple blocks walk away).
This event is co-sponsored by Beyond Nuclear, Council for a Livable World, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, the Nuclear-Free Takoma Park Committee, Peace Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), and School of the Americas Watch.
About the Book
LaForge and a partner visited all 1,000 U.S. land-based missiles in 1988 to document their locations for the original Nuclear Heartland. They are the only people ever to see all 1,000 missile silos.
In a foreword, Matthew Rothschild, former Editor of The Progressive magazine, writes, “Becoming aware of these hideous weapons in our midst is the first step toward arousing people to take another run at nuclear disarmament, and that’s why Nuclear Heartland is so vitally important today,” Rothschild writes. “It shows us where the weapons are, and how they’ve almost become a part of the landscape.”
Come hear about what Dr. Helen Caldicott (Beyond Nuclear's Founding President) calls “one of the most frightening books I have ever read.” With high-level military and civilian officials calling for the complete elimination of the country’s ICBMs, the message of Nuclear Heartland could not be timelier.
About the Editor
John LaForge, 59, has worked on the staff of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, since 1992 and edits its Quarterly newsletter. He and Barb Katt visited all 1,000 U.S. land-based missiles to document their locations, and an account of their journey is published in both the 1988 and 2015 editions of Nuclear Heartland. His articles on nuclear weapons, reactors, radioactive waste and militarism have appeared in The Progressive, New Internationalist, Z Magazine, Earth Island Journal, the opinion pages of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and elsewhere. He is a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Peacevoice, and the Duluth, Minn., Reader Weekly. He has testified before British and Dutch parliamentarians on the outlaw status of depleted uranium weapons used widely by the United States. He’s been a member of anti-war Plowshares Land Trust near Luck, Wis. for 27 years, and has served over four years in jail and prison for nonviolent protests, and was a 2004 recipient of the Peace and Justice Studies Association's Social Courage Award.
If you are not able to make the book talk on Monday evening, March 14th, here is another opportunity to hear John in Washington, D.C.:
Nuclear Heartland and an End to Land-Based Missiles
Speaker: John La Forge
Place: Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, 503 Rock Creek Church Rd. NW, Washington, D.C. 20010
For more information contact Dorothy Day Catholic Worker: 202-882-9649, email@example.com
Global Zero, which attended LaForge's "Nuclear Heartland" book talk, announced:
Rally for Zero
Nuclear weapons ≠ security
On March 31 & April 1, world leaders are convening right here in DC to talk nuclear security. Not on the agenda: nuclear weapons.
That has to change. There are 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, thousands ready to fire at a moment’s notice. Nuclear weapons jeopardize global security - not strengthen it.
Join us as we rally to show world leaders that 15,000 nuclear weapons ≠ security. It’s time they take action for zero.
Who: Global Zero, the international movement to eliminate nuclear weapons, and you!
What: A rally featuring a life-size inflated nuclear missile and Global Zero movement leaders
When: Friday, April 1st, 12:00pm
Where: McPherson Square
RSVP at: http://www.globalzero.org/protest
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
In the name of national security, eight countries have tested nuclear weapons all over the world since 1945, frequently near populated places. North Korea’s claim of hydrogen bomb test draws skepticism, condemnations.
The Washington Post has created a powerful online animation depicting nuclear weapons test blasts worldwide since 1945.
Of course, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were more than "tests" -- they were attacks on cities, killing hundreds of thousands, mostly civilians.
But, as Dr. Arjun Makhijani of IEER has documented, DOE listed even Hiroshima and Nagaski as "tests" decades after the attacks took place.
As reported by CBS Evening News, concern among residents in neighborhoods of North St. Louis County around the old radioactive waste dump adjacent to a smoldering landfill fire is deepening:
Ed Smith is an environmentalist who's been studying the site. "The folks around the St. Louis metro area need to be paying attention. We're talking about the possibility, if there's a surface fire, for radioactivity leaving the site."