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The Saga of "Usable Nukes"
The idea of new small nuclear weapons for tactical use, especially in the battlefield against opposing ground troops is not new. In the 1950’s, the United States developed a nuclear artillery shell that had the same power as the original Hiroshima device. Also developed was a rugby football sized rocket powered howitzer designed for forward ground troops to use on the battlefield. After September 11, 2001, the United State’s administration adopted a policy to rejuvenate nuclear weapons development and to begin to tool up again to design, test, and deploy new nuclear weapons. Among new nuclear weapons planned was a nuclear “bunker buster”formally named the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) that could destroy hardened deep underground enemy bunkers.
In May 2005, PSR published a paper entitled: Projected Casualties Among U.S. Military Personnel and Civilian Populations from the Use of Nuclear Weapons Against Hard and Deeply Buried Targets. This 20-page paper is an excellent discussion of the RNEP concept and the health consequences.
Download and read the paper from the following link:
Iowa PSR reported on these issues in past newsletters. Here are some excerpts:
|New “Usable” Nukes???
IPSR News, Volume 2, Number 4, November 2003
The picture at the right is of the May 25, 1953 U.S. nuclear test in Nevada, code named XX-12 Grable. In this test, a 15 kiloton nuclear shell was fired by a 280 mm artillery gun. To date, this was the only time a nuclear artillery shell has ever been fired.
In late 2003, at the request of the current Administration, the U.S. Congress allocated funds to begin research into development of new “usable” nuclear weapons similar to XX-12 Grable.
The Davy Crockett
Those who attended Iowa PSR’s September 11, 2004 Conference in Des Moines will already be familiar with the amazing Davy Crockett, a device that, as one of the attendees commented, “has Al Qaeda written all over it.” IPSR News Volume 3, Number 3, Novermber 2004
See Book Review on John McPhee’s, The Curve of Binding Energy, IPSR News Volume 4, Number 1, August 2005.
Back from the Brink
IPSR News Volume 3, Number 3, November 2004
…Just before Thanksgiving , Republican David L. Hobson of Ohio, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water development, helped divert the rush back to the brink by seeing to it that the 2005 budget did not contain the $27 million desired by the present administration to continue research on modifying two existing warheads for the earth-penetrator, or "bunker-buster," role. This new “usable” nuclear weapon, would have cost about $500 million to develop over the next five years.
But that is not all. Funds to select a site for a $4 billion new facility to build plutonium pits was cut. And a further $9 million to study new low-yield nuclear weapons [more “usable” nukes] was also cut. The Washington Post reported that the administration was caught by surprise by the cut and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) that oversees nuclear weapons programs was disappointed. NNSA is already considering what to put in the 2006 budget. Ω
PSR Security Alert 10/26/05
Dear Friends, I am writing with great news. The administration has withdrawn support for the nuclear bunker buster, the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator. As a result, Congress has stopped all funds for the program. The administration has said it will concentrate instead on conventional options for attacking dangerous WMD sites if necessary. Your support has been vital in this campaign. Over the past three or four years PSR activists have sent close to 100,000 emails to Congress, as well as thousands of faxes, appealing for the nuclear madness the bunker represents to be stopped. Now we have won. Last year the administration was forced to cancel its Advanced Concepts Initiative, an open ended new nukes design program. Now its main new nuke program, the RNEP, is gone. Thank you for your hard work in persuading Congress to change its mind. Together, the strength of our arguments has overcome the combined might of the labs and the neo-cons who wanted to pursue this hellish vision of nuclear war fighting.
P.S. If you follow the link below, you'll find the AP story (Washington Post 10/25/05) that broke this great news.http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/25/AR2005102501712.html
A Prescription for Mental Health in an Age of Nuclear Weapons
by David E. Drake, D.O., PSR Member
From IPSR News Volume 4, Number 1, August 2005
Remarks Delivered at the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Memorial at The Capitol Bell
Des Moines, Iowa August 9, 2005
Nucleomituphobia is a term I came across recently. It’s interesting that a term actually exists that means “An abnormal and persistent fear of nuclear weapons.” It brings to mind the question of what would a ‘normal’ versus an ‘abnormal’ fear of nuclear weapons look like! Isn’t it indeed a crazy time to think about ‘normalizing’ the fear of nuclear weapons?! Those of us here tonight have the fear, but also the hope of change. In talking about a prescription for mental health in an age of nuclear weapons, I want to start with the idea of interdependence and move to the idea of community.
The Dalai Lama wrote:
“Today we are so interdependent, so closely interconnected with each other, that without a sense of universal responsibility, a feeling of universal brotherhood and sisterhood, and an understanding and belief that we really are part of one big human family, we cannot hope to overcome the dangers to our very existence – let alone bring about peace and happiness.”
In beginning to think about this brief presentation tonight, I sent out an e-mail to numerous friends to get their own thoughts. One response [from Terry] especially struck me:
“The wisdom exists. The question is – do we have a true sense of where we are in the evolution of our species to courageously apply the wisdom? Do we really get that we are on the cusp of serious choices that will affect not just us, but the nature of our global survival? ….Our energies are best placed as Gandhi said...’to be the change we want to see in the world’.”
My prescription for mental health in this nuclear age is the following:
Rx #1 Remember you are not alone in this struggle – we need to do this together. Join in communities which are concerned with the fate of our planet – through your church, synagogue, mosque, meditation sitting group, and others. Invest in your future, the future of children generations from now – by becoming active – continuing to be active – seeing this struggle as long term. Pace yourself. It may never be over – but we cannot let the status quo remain the status quo.
Rx #2 Live your life fully. This is what it’s all about. Work on and repair connections with your family. Find and take opportunities to find beauty and joy in your life, in this wondrous world in which we live.
Rx #3 Continue to write letters to the editor; respond to those e-mail requests to add your name to petitions; lobby your legislators; get involved in politics at all levels; support or join peace, justice, and environmental organizations – like WILPF, the AFSC, GreenPeace, the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, PSR – the list goes on. Support those who see themselves as called to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience - facing arrest with jail or prison time. Let us thank them for their bravery and their witness in our names.
Rx #4 Experiment with starting and ending each day with a positive meditation.
With thanks to my friend and mentor, Charlie Day, I came up with the following: May all beings be happy, healthy, harmonious, and peaceful. May this time of contemplation help me to bring compassion; thoughtfulness; not over-reacting to anger, aggression, or violence by others as well as envy and jealously in myself. May I bring humility and a sense of humor – especially about myself. May I help bring about peace and justice – in my family, my community, this country, and this world.
And lastly, bringing us back to community once again – I have come to appreciate the words from the anthropologist, Margaret Meade:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”
The next step is up to each of us – as individuals and together.
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Is Nuclear Power SMART? From IPSR News Vol. 4, No. !, August 2005
On April 15, 2005 the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids Gazette ran an editorial entitled “Include nuclear in energy policy.” The editorial was written in support of the Energy Bill that was approaching final voting this summer after three years of debate. Sadly the editorial supported return to nuclear power generation. The editorial reminds us that air pollution from coal is responsible for excess illness and death, and we are dependent on foreign oil. The editorial supports development of solar and wind power generation. Yet, the editorial urges “a leading role for the best alternative energy source currently at hand: nuclear fission.”
The editorial goes on: “Nuclear power is inexhaustible, non-polluting and far safer than other energy sources. Hundreds of plants have operated for decades in the Western world without exposing a single worker or member of the public to dangerous radiation.” This is an incredible statement. One’s memory drifts back to Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979. Not a single new nuclear power plant could be licensed in the United States since. And Chernobyl. Remember Chernobyl in 1986? According to a CNN web site posting June 8, 2005:
“More than 3 million of Ukraine's 50 million people were affected by the disaster, caused when an unauthorized experiment in Reactor No. 4 went awry. Thirty-one people died immediately when a power surge triggered an explosion, and thousands more are believed to have died since then from the disaster's effects. The explosion came early in the morning of April 26, 1986, and spewed into the air -- over Ukraine, Belarus and other areas outside the then-Soviet Union -- 30 to 40 times the radiation of the bombs the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Contamination ruined countless stores of food and damaged agriculture and livestock. Mutations surfaced as time went on. Radiation spread across Europe and eventually registered over the entire Northern Hemisphere.” Chernobyl was one of the greatest industrial accidents in history. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, Russians, and Belorussians had to abandon entire cities and settlements within the thirty-kilometer zone of extreme contamination. Estimates vary, but it is likely that some 3 million people, more than 2 million in Belarus' alone, are still living in contaminated areas. Children were sent away to never return, thyroid glands permanently damaged. The fallout plume from the Chernobyl meltdown drifted across other eastern European countries and contaminated the arable land over vast areas. The hundreds of tons of concrete dropped over the Chernobyl reactor core to form a “sarcophagus” is still hot, aging, and cracking from the intense heat of the still active reactor core within. The core cannot be physically approached and will remain dangerously active for thousands of years.
The 30 odd U.S. nuclear power plants that have been decommissioned over the last 40 years remain contaminated sites. The clean-up cost is imponderable. Another 104 U.S. nuclear power plants are still in operation. These sites will remain contaminated for thousands of years.
Finally, the Gazette editorial dismisses the problems of disposing of nuclear power plant waste as “unreasonable fears.” None of the waste from U.S. nuclear power plants that has been generated since the first plant opened more than 40 years ago has been disposed (see box below). The waste is still all stored on site, much of it above ground or in open pools. If the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository is ever actually opened, it will be completely filled by power plant waste estimated to have been produced by 2011. And then only after tens of thousands of truck, train, and boat shipments have moved the waste across the country, in some cases for distances of more than a thousand miles. Much of this waste will be moved through Iowa.
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Nuclear Power and Children's Health
The Nuclear Policy Research Institute (NPRI) has announced release of a 30-minute DVD in August 2005 titled Nuclear Deception that is a compilation of highlights from the two-day symposium entitled Nuclear Power and Children’s Health: What Can You Do? held in Chicago October 2004. The symposium was cosponsored by Chicago PSR (see IPSR News, Vol. 3, No. 3 for more details).
This video is an indispensable educational tool for anyone that wants to learn about nuclear power. The DVD also showcases the realistic alternatives to nuclear power, solar and wind, that are more efficient, less expensive, and less harmful to the health of people. IPSR has reviewed this DVD. It is faithful to the original two-day symposium and is a knock-out. It will be perfect for house parties and showing before a wide variety of groups. It will stimulate discussion. Get a copy! The DVD can be purchased for $20 from NPRI’s office at 202-822-9800 or online at www.nuclearpolicy.org.