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. We also cover nuclear weapons issues on our international site, Beyond Nuclear International.



The Olympic Truce: Giving peace a chance


Donald Trump Is Playing a Dangerous Game of Nuclear Poker

A 1952 nuclear detonation at the Nevada Proving Grounds, which Trump has ordered to prepare for resuming tests.
A 1952 nuclear detonation at the Nevada Proving Grounds, just one year after it first opened on Western Shoshone Indian land, which Trump has ordered to prepare for resuming tests. Photograph by Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
The article reports that, late last year, the Trump administration ordered the Nevada nuclear weapons test site, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, to be ready to conduct full-scale underground nuclear weapons test within six months' notice.
However, the article reports, this...
is not enough time to install the warhead in shafts as deep as 4,000 ft. and affix all the proper technical instrumentation and diagnostics equipment. But the purpose of such a detonation, which the Administration labels “a simple test, with waivers and simplified processes,” would not be to ensure that the nation’s most powerful weapons were in operational order, or to check whether a new type of warhead worked, a TIME review of nuclear-policy documents has found. Rather, a National Nuclear Security Administration official tells TIME, such a test would be “conducted for political purposes.”

The point, this and other sources say, would be to show Russia’s Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Iran’s Ayatullah Ali Khamenei and other adversaries what they are up against.

The last full-scale nuclear weapons test was carried out at the Nevada Test Site in Sept. 1992. However, sub-critical nuclear weapons tests (conventional explosions conducted with plutonium, the data from which are put into super computers to advance U.S. nuclear weapons designs) have been carried out there since. 

The National Security Archives reported several years ago, based on previously secret documents it wrested from the U.S. government, that one-third of underground nuclear weapons tests in Nevada from 1951 to 1992, leaked hazardous radioactivity to the environment. 

William Perry, who served as Bill Clinton's Defense Secretary, warns in the article "The risk for nuclear conflict today is higher than it was during the Cold War.” This is due to new dynamics, including the fact that it's not just a bipolar, two-Superpowers show down and "balance of terror" (deterrence through "mutually assured destruction," MAD), but rather a multi-faceted stand off, with numerous nuclear-armed adversaries, including in regions of hot warfare. Perry, who served as a senior advisor to JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis, shared at a National Cathedral event several weeks ago that he went to bed each of those fateful 13 nights in October 1962 thinking it would be his last night on Earth.

The article also quotes Sam Nunn, the former Democratic U.S. Senator from Georgia:

“We have severe erosion [of nuclear weapons arms control treaties],” Nunn says. “We are going into a period of much greater risk in the nuclear arena.”

William Perry and Sam Nunn joined with Henry Kissinger and John Deutch several long years ago now, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, warning that the U.S. had better lead the way on nuclear weapons abolition, or might just live to regret it. They cited the risk of nuclear war as an existential threat to the United States. Rather than ensure U.S. survival in a dangerous world, through supposed deterrence and MAD, nuclear weapons themselves have now become a leading danger to U.S. survival in an ever more dangerous, and nuclear-armed, world.


EPA orders cleanup at St. Louis nuclear waste site

As reported by the Washington Post.

Culminating a 27-year process, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has agreed to a $237 million partial clean up of the West Lake Landfill radioactive waste dump, rather than a complete clean up estimated to cost $700 million. The article does not report on where the radioactive contamination will be transferred to.

Dawn Chapman, co-founder of the West Lake Landfill neighborhood watch-dog group Just Moms STL northwest of St. Louis, MO, is quoted in the article:

“We were hoping for full, 100 percent excavation. But we know that would be difficult to accomplish,” said Dawn Chapman, co-founder of Just Moms, an activist group that has long pushed for an extensive excavation and relocation of families near the landfill.

She said her group views Thursday’s decision as a hard-fought victory, but one that is far from guaranteed, given that the public comment and cleanup process is likely to unfold over years. “We have to stay here and watch it and see it through,” she said. “I look ahead, and I see these other big battles coming. We’re not going to blink, because you can’t … We will continue to fight to get even more [radioactive waste] removed.”

Kay Drey, president of the board of Beyond Nuclear and a decades long watch-dog on the West Lake Landfill, located in the Missouri River floodplain just upstream from major metropolitan drinking water supply intakes, attended the early morning announcement of the EPA's decision. The radioactive waste is the oldest of the Atomic Age, originating from Belgian Congo uranium ore processed in St. Louis for use in the Manhattan Project race for the nuclear bomb in WWII.

EPA's announcement comes just 11 days before HBO premieres a major new documentary about the West Lake Landfill saga entitled "Atomic Homefront."


In Memoriam: Dr. Victor W. Sidel, PSR Founding Member

January 31, 2018

Victor W. Sidel, MD, a visionary medical leader and founding member of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), died on January 30, 2018 in Greenwood Village, Colorado. Dr. Sidel's 60 years of advocacy invigorated the American medical and public health communities for the cause of peace and nuclear disarmament.

Dr. Sidel founded PSR in 1961 after meeting Dr. Bernard Lown, a cardiologist at Harvard University. He inspired physicians and health professionals to take responsibility to prevent nuclear war. In a 2013 interview with Social Medicine, Dr. Sidel said, "I want to prevent the wounds, not simply treat them." Dr. Sidel contributed to a series of articles on the medical consequences of nuclear war that were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1962. These articles spurred the formation of PSR chapters across the country.

Drs. Jack Geiger, Victor Sidel, and Sidney Alexander at the 1985 Nobel Prize ceremony

Later, Dr. Sidel became a co-president of PSR's global affiliate, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for achieving the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Dr. Sidel also served as president of the American Public Health Association (APHA) during the height of the nuclear freeze movement. When Dr. Sidel was APHA president, he established precedent by calling the prevention of nuclear war a public health priority during the APHA annual meeting.

Dr. Sidel was the author of numerous books and articles about the human consequences of war, international health, and the impact of poverty and deprivation on health and well-being. He was coeditor with Dr. Barry Levy of War and Public Health, Terrorism and Public Health, and Social Injustice and Public Health, all published by Oxford University Press.

Dr. Sidel was chair of the Department of Social Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York from 1969-1985. He then became Distinguished University Professor of Social Medicine at Montefiore and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Graveside services will be held at Temple Ohabei Shalom Cemetery, 147 Wordsworth Street, East Boston, Massachusetts on February 4, 2018 at 11:30 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) or to International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).


Documentary film "Atomic Homefront" premieres on HBO Mon., Feb. 12

Just Moms STL founders Dawn Chapman and Karen Nichols with their children and neighbors, protesting the radioactive contamination of their community in St. Louis in 2015.As reported on the film's website, where you can watch the trailer and a few clips.

Watch for screenings at cinemas near you (including Annapolis, MD on 2/11; St. Petersburg, FL on 2/22; and at the Washington, DC Environmental Film Festival sometime between 3/15-25, TBA).

Learn more about the film at "Atomic Homefront's" website.

(Beyond Nuclear board president Kay Drey of University City, MO has been a decades-long watchdog on the radioactive West Lake Landfill near St. Louis. Beyond Nuclear board member Lucas Hixon has published primary research on the radioactive contamination dumped there, and its escape into surrounding residential neighborhoods. Enter <West Lake Landfill> into this website's search field, for scores of posts about these Manhattan Project radioactive wastes, some of the very oldest of the Atomic Age, dumped illegally in the Missouri River floodplain, upstream of major metropolitan drinking water supplies.)