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Nuclear Weapons

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.

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Thursday
May012014

The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther

The Brothers Reuther. From left to right, Roy, Walter, Victor. Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI.

It is fitting, on International Workers' Day, to pay tribute to Walter Reuther.

Reuther's biographer, Nelson Lichtenstein (The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor, Basic Books, 1995) could have been referring to Walter Reuther's civil rights, social justice, and anti-war work as much as to his efforts on behalf of working people. And given that Walter Reuther, and especially his brother Victor, were very active internationally, perhaps they were also the most dangerous men in the world?

Less well known are the Reuther brothers' work for the environment and against nuclear risks.

Walter Reuther's United Auto Workers (UAW) took one of the very first high profile stands against nuclear power in the early 1960s, when it -- alas unsuccessfully, unfortunately -- attempted to stop the construction and operation of the Fermi 1 experimental plutonium breeder reactor in Monroe County, MI, just 25 miles south of Detroit. Between the Detroit and Toledo areas, some 500,000 UAW members lived within 50 miles of the big nuclear experiment on the Great Lakes shoreline. Even though the UAW did not prevail in its lawsuit against the Atomic Energy Commission at the U.S. Supreme Court (by a 7 to 2 vote), Reuther and the UAW would be proven right just a few years later. On Oct. 5, 1966, "We Almost Lost Detroit" (the title of John G. Fuller's iconic book, as well as Gil Scott Heron's ballad) when the Fermi 1 reactor core partially melted down. But it came precariously close to turning out much worse than it did.

Before Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" speech, the business plan for Fermi 1 was to make money by selling weapons-grade plutonium to the AEC for the US nuclear arsenal. Only after Eisenhower's speech, did the companies behind Fermi 1 change the plan to primarily electricity sales, as well as plutonium "recycle" for commercial reactor fuel fabrication.

Sasha Reuther, the grandson of Walter's younger brother Victor, published a documentary film in 2012 entitled "Brothers on the Line." Towards the very end of the film, U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy is quoted as saying that Walter Reuther was green before it was even invented.

In Victor Reuther's 1976 memoir The Brothers Reuther and the Story of the UAW (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston), he wrote:

"In 1964, Walter sponsored a UAW resolution stating that 'in the age of thermonuclear weapons and missile delivery' disarmament is absolutely essential." (page 358, emphasis added)

More.

Sunday
Apr272014

"Who's Minding the Nukes?"

The insignia of the U.S. nuclear missileers Stahl interviewed in this reportCBS 60 Minutes' Lesley Stahl reports on the status of U.S. nuclear-tipped missiles at silos located across five states on the Great Plains. This includes antiquated communications and computer equipment, as well as hardware problems. The report comes in the aftermath of a major shake up in the U.S. military's nuclear missile command and corps, based on a competency test cheating scandal, as well as illegal drug use, and even a drunken binge by the top U.S. nuclear missile commander while on official duty in Moscow, Russia.

The report features an interview with the author of the book Command and Control, Eric Schlosser. He has been named an Alliance for Nuclear Accountability DC Days award winner this year.

Unfortunately, the 60 Minutes report does not question the wisdom of U.S. reliance on "deterrence," based on "Mutually Assured Destruction" (MAD). This is all the more ironic, because 60 Minutes' own report touched on a number of incidents where U.S. nuclear weapons nearly caused disasters on U.S. soil. One involved a nuclear missile rocket fuel explosion caused by a dropped socket wrench, necessitating the evacuation of an Arkansas town. Another involved the accidental drop, and near detonation, of a hydrogen bomb in North Carolina, a few days after John F. Kennedy's presidential inauguration. A more recent incident, in 2007, involved the unauthorized -- and unguarded -- transfer of six nuclear warheads, by plane, from North Dakota to Louisiana. This led to the firing of the U.S. Air Force's top two officials.

60 Minutes also did not question the wisdom of U.S. plans to "modernize" its nuclear weapons arsenal, to the tune of $355 billion over the next ten years. The Republic of the Marshall Islands has filed lawsuits against the United States of America in federal district court in San Francisco -- as well as against the other countries in the world with nuclear weapons arsenals, at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, in the Netherlands -- for their failure to negotiate, in good faith, the abolition of their nuclear weapons arsenals, as called for by the four decade old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) has reported that the "exchange" of "only" 100 Nagasaki-sized nuclear weapons between India and Pakistan could cause a "mini" Nuclear Winter, and crop failures worldwide, resulting in the deaths of a billion people, or more, due to starvation.

As President John F. Kennedy famously said: "Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us."

The irony of the U.S. nuclear missileers' insignia (above left), captured for a fleeting moment in the 60 Minutes report, is conveyed by this quote from Noam Chomsky's book Pirates and Emperors: "A captured pirate was brought before Alexander the Great. 'How dare you molest the sea?' asked Alexander. 'How dare you molest the whole world?' the pirate replied, and continued: 'Because I do it with a little ship only, I am called a thief; you, doing it with a great navy, are called an emperor.'"

Tuesday
Apr222014

Godzilla's Secret History, Atomic Origins

The Huffington Post has published a cultural history, by Kevin Lankes, of Godzilla's atomic origins. The original Japanese film came out in 1954, shortly after the U.S. military's "Operation Castle Bravo" H-bomb "test" at Bikini blanketed a Japanese fishing fleet with radioactivity, contaminating its catch (some of which was then sold and consumed across Japan to unwitting families), and killing one of the crew members of the fishing boat Lucky Dragon 5 within a matter of months (more Lucky Dragon 5 crew died later from their radiation exposures).

The article quotes Charlotte Eubanks, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Japanese at The Pennsylvania State University, on the widespread cultural anxiety at the time of the film's release:

"During the U.S.-led occupation, which lasted until 1952, there was a moratorium on any press coverage dealing with the atomic aftermath in any in-depth way. The thinking was that too much attention to the atomic bombings would derail democratization efforts and would undermine U.S. authority, particularly since the U.S. had already begun using Japanese territory as a base from which to launch bombing raids on Vietnam. With the end of the occupation, some activists and journalists started to deal directly with the atomic bombings, but they were not getting much traction. People were more interested in trying to rebuild. But then there was a real game-changer. The U.S. conducted a nuclear test over the Bikini atoll and a Japanese fishing ship, the Lucky Dragon, its crew, and all their fish were exposed to the fallout radiation. When this hit the newspapers, it ignited an enormous scare, as people throughout the country feared that they had been exposed to nuclear radiation through consuming tainted fish. That was in March 1954, shortly before the release of Gojira, the opening scene of which features a fishing crew exposed to an unexplained, destructive flash of light. So, when that hit the big screens, it touched a real nerve with the Japanese public."

A new Hollywood version of Godzilla will hit theaters on May 16th. In a Daily Beast interview, the director admits that the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe has influenced the film.

Thursday
Apr102014

"Three Years After the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Disaster: Bringing he Focus Back on Life"

The fireball and mushroom cloud from Operation Castel Bravo, March 1, 1954As posted at the Fairewinds Energy Education website, Chiho Kaneko, a member of the Board of Directors of Fairewinds Energy Education, discusses how:

The Fukushima Daiichi disaster opened the door to see how this is not merely a Japanese crisis. It is a crisis that transcends geography and time. We traced the roots of this crisis back 60-years to the fishing boat Daigo Fukuryumaru, or #5 Lucky Dragon, and American efforts to force nuclear power upon the Japanese people.

The website includes a link to the video, as well as the transcript of Chiho Kaneko's remarks.

Monday
Mar312014

Karl Grossman -- "Give Light and the People Will Find Their Own Way"

Karl GrossmanThe March 25, 2014 issue of The Independent, Antioch College's alumni publication, features Beyond Nuclear board member Karl Grossman (Antioch class of 1964). The interview gives a good overview of Karl's distinguished career of investigative journalism, authorship, and teaching.

Karl first entered the field of journalism as a copyboy, during an Antioch College co-op placement at the Cleveland Press. The Press was the first newspaper started by E.W. Scripps, "quite the crusading publisher, highly active during the Muckraking Era," accoring to Karl. At age 18, Karl was inspired by the inscription above the entrance: “Give Light and the People Will Find Their Own Way.”

Karl has gone on to shed much light around the world, with a focus on the issues of nuclear power and weapons, not only on Earth, but in space. His books include Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power, The Wrong Stuff: The Space Program's Nuclear Threat to Our Planet and Weapons in Space.

Karl's 1993 EnviroVideo documentary Three Mile Island Revisited serves as an important milestone by which to remember the disaster, now 35 years on, especially considering the still-unfolding health consequences. Karl's investigation of nuclear catastrophes continues to the present day with his work in the aftermath of the triple meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi.

Asked what he's most proud of accomplishing, Karl pointed to "my journalism that helped in stopping the Shoreham nuclear power plant—the first of seven to 11 nuclear plants planned for Long Island—from going into commercial operation. I wrote hundreds of articles, did TV programs, broadcast on radio and wrote a book on this, Power Crazy. And Shoreham, although it was finished and ready to start operating, was stopped. The additional nuclear plants were never built, and Long Island is now nuclear-free."

For that and other investigative journalism, Karl has been named to the Long Island Journalism Hall of Fame. Karl says this "is quite a kick particularly because among the other 22 persons named is Walt Whitman who founded the Long Islander newspaper in Huntington." Karl's wife of 53 years, Janet, is originally from Huntington.