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.



Paducah uranium enrichment facility suffers radioactive contamination incident 4 weeks after permanently shutting down

Paducah (uranium enrichment) Gaseous Diffusion Plant. Photo credit: U.S.E.C./U.S. Department of EnergyDespite being permanently shutdown on June 1st, the Paducah facility experienced a radioactivity contamination accident on June 28th, according to a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) incident report dated July 2nd. The radioactivity contamination accident stemmed from a water leak. Given the mountain of radioactive materials at Paducah, such radioactive contamination risks to the facility, the environment beyond, and the people who live there (some directly across dirt roads from the fence line, in a community already showing signs of significantly elevated cancer incidence and death rates) will continue far into the future, despite the facility's welcome permanent shutdown.

Paducah had operated since the 1950s. In its early years, enriched uranium from Paducah supplied the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. In a very real sense, the entire Paducah complex is now a giant radioactive waste -- and toxic chemical -- site that needs to be dealt with.


Landfill fire near radioactive waste dump raises alarm in St. Louis

Kay Drey, Beyond Nuclear board member and long-time watchdog on West Lake landfillIn early May, Rolling Stone quoted Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey (photo, left), regarding a municipal garbarge dump fire burning underground precariously near a radioactive waste dump near St. Louis.

Kay is a long-time watchdog on the West Lake landfill, a radioactive waste dump in the Missouri River floodplain near St. Louis.Mallinckrodt Chemical Co. processed Belgian Congo uranium during the secret Manhattan Project race to develop the atomic bomb in the 1940s. Those radioactive wastes were then dumped at the West Lake landfill in 1973. EPA wants to abandon them in place. Kay has long worked to have them removed from the Missouri River floodplain, not far upstream from St. Louis drinking water supply intakes.

Now the Associated Press/New York Times and St. Louis Magazine have reported on "the possibility of a slow-moving disaster right before our eyes," in the words of Ed Smith of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. The former article focuses on the health risks to nearby communities if the fire reaches the radioactive waste dump, while the latter article focuses on the health damage that the radioactive wastes may have already inflicted, especially in local children downstream.


Risk of "dirty shutdown" at Paducah gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant

Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. Photo credit: USEC/U.S. Department of EnergyIn a two-part series, Geoffrey Sea of Neighbors for an Ohio Valley Alternative (NOVA) has exposed deep financial troubles which could lead to major radiological risks at the Paducah gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant in Kentucky. Mind boggling mismanagement, or worse, by U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are to blame.

Part I, entitled "Countdown to Nuclear Ruin at Paducah," was published May 22nd, and warned that there were just 9 days left to avert a "dirty shutdown" in the many miles of enrichment cells. If the uranium laden gas solidifies within the system, it will make eventual decommissioning and clean up astronomically expensive for taxpayers, and radiologically risky for workers.

Part II, "Slow Cooker at Paducah Comes to a Boil,"  was published May 28th, with only three days left to avert dirty shutdown.

Paducah has operated since the 1950s. In its early years, enriched uranium from Paducah supplied the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.

Sea reports that Paducah, which employs the highly energy intensive gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment process, has the single biggest electric meter in the country, electrified by two dirty coal plants. It is also one of the single biggest emitters of ozone layer destroying CFC-114, which also happens to be a very potent greenhouse gas.

In September 1999, Joby Warrick of the Washington Post broke the story that post-reprocessing uranium from Hanford Nuclear Reservation, containing fission products and transuranics, had been secretively run through Paducah. Local residents, such as Ron Lamb, had already been long protesting Technetium-99 in his drinking well water, however. Paducah whistleblower Al Puckett helped expose a secret dumping ground for radioactive and hazardous wastes on site. Such revelations help to explain the high cancer rate amongst Paducah workers and area residents.

As Sea reports, USEC is still seeking a $2 billion federal loan guarantee from the Obama administration for its proposed American Centrifuge Plant at Portsmouth, Ohio. Newly confirmed Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has deep ties to USEC, both during his time in the Clinton DOE, as well as afterwards, as a paid private consultant.


Write letters of support to nuclear resisters

The Nuclear Resisters are encouraging the anti-nuclear and anti-war community to write letters of support to imprisoned activists around the world, including Greg Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice and Michael Walli, currently imprisoned and awaiting sentencing for their breach of security at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, TN. Please visit the Nuclear Resisters special webpage to write to imprisoned activists. Boertje-Obed, Rice and Walli will not be sentenced until mid-September. Even the Bush-appointed judge opined that "It is preposterous that Congress would pass a law that would not distinguish between peace protestors and terrorists." However, because the three were convicted of sabotage, which is considered under law as "an act of violence" against the United States, some thought the judge faced no other legal choice but to remand them in custody for now. Activists maintained a vigil outside the courthouse during the trial (Pictured. Photo by Felice Cohen-Joppa).


"Prophets of Oak Ridge" convicted, face up to 30 years in prison

Illustration by Jeffrey Smith in the Washington Post's "The Prophets of Oak Ridge" storyThe Washington Post ran a long piece in its Style section on April 30th, telling the story of "The Prophets of Oak Ridge" -- three Plowshares anti-nuclear weapons activists, who penetrated deep into the HEUMF (weapons-grade Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility), supposedly one of the most secure sites in the United States. The coverage included artistic renditions of the Plowshares action (see left, for a depiction of the scene when Y-12 nuclear weapons complex security officers first encountered the three non-violent activists).

Today, a jury in a federal court room in Knoxville, TN convicted Catholic Nun, Sister Megan Rice (age 83), Vietnam vet Michael Walli (age 64), and Catholic Worker Greg Boertje-Obed (age 57) on multiple counts. The three face up to 30 years in prison, for supposedly intending to injure the national security of the United States.

The Washington Post, as well as OREPA (the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance), have provided coverage of the court proceedings.