Click the links below to access articles from our Winter 2017-18 Quarterly Newsletter. Individual articles are also tagged by issue category.
Cover and Back Page
Click the links below to access articles from our Winter 2017-18 Quarterly Newsletter. Individual articles are also tagged by issue category.
Cover and Back Page
By Hans Kristensen
NATO reportedly has quietly started its annual “Steadfast Noon” nuclear strike exercise in Europe. This is the exercise that practices NATO’s nuclear strike mission with “dual-capable aircraft” [equipped for nuclear weapons] and the B61 tactical nuclear bombs the United States deploys in Europe. In addition to nuclear-capable aircraft from Belgium, Germany, Italy and The Netherlands, local spotters have also seen Czech “Gripen” jet fighters and Polish F-16s.
The United States will likely also participate with either F-16s from Aviano AB in Italy or F-15Es from RAF Lakenheath in England. The non-nuclear aircraft from Czech Republic and Poland are participating under NATO’s so-called “Snowcat” (Support of Nuclear Operations with Conventional Air Tactics) program, which is used to enable military assets from non-nuclear countries to support the nuclear strike mission without being formally part of it. Polish F-16s have participated several times before, including in the Steadfast Noon exercise held at Ghedi Air Base in Italy in 2010. This year’s Steadfast Noon exercise is taking place at two locations: Kleine Brogel Air Base in Belgium and Büchel Air Base in Germany. Both bases each store an estimated 20 US B61 nuclear bombs for use by the national air forces.
This is the second year in a row that the exercise has been spread across two bases in two countries. Last year’s exercise was held at Kleine Brogel Air Base (in Belgium) and Volkel Air Base (in The Netherlands). The multi-base Steadfast Noon exercises often coincide with or proceed or follow other exercises such as “Decisive North” and “Cold Igloo.” There are currently an estimated 150 B61 bombs deployed at six bases in five European countries. Weapons were previously also deployed at England’s Royal Air Force Base Lakenheath but withdrawn sometime between 2004 and 2008. Weapons were also withdrawn from Araxos Air Base (in Greece) in 2001.
Consolidation but not complete withdrawal also happened in Germany and Turkey. In addition to the countries with nuclear-capable aircraft—Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey (note that the status of Turkey’s nuclear role is unclear, but its F-16s are still nuclear-capable), and the United States. There will likely be participation from other NATO countries under the Snowcat program.
NATO is adjusting its nuclear posture in reaction to the newly adversarial relationship with Russia. The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review is expected to reaffirm the continued deployment and modernization of US nuclear weapons in Europe. But there is a push from hardliners inside NATO to increase the readiness and planning for the dual-capable aircraft. Others say it is not necessary.
Last month several B-52 bombers were “forward-deployed” to Europe, in support of NATO and many see that as sufficient “signaling” at the nuclear level. Moreover, NATO’s reaction to Russia is focused on providing non-nuclear defense to Europe.
In a broader context, the nuclear exercise has not been officially announced and NATO is very tight-lipped about it because of the political sensitivity of this mission in mainly western NATO countries. The secrecy of the exercise is interesting because NATO only a few weeks ago complained that Russia was not being transparent about its “Zapad” exercise.
—Hans Kristensen directs the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. He wrote this piece Oct. 17 for the FAS online.
Click the links below to access articles from our Fall 2017 Quarterly Newsletter. Individual articles are also tagged by issue category.
Cover and Back Page
US Nuclear Weapons in Germany Slammed by Protesters, Politicians (continued from Cover)
Renewable Generation Overtakes Nuclear Years Earlier Than Expected
Hurricane Winds & Reactor Risks
South Korea will abandon nuclear power
Spectacular Costs Force More Reactor Construction Halts
In July, a Nukewatch-organized delegation of US peace activists joined ongoing protests against the deployment of US nuclear weapons in southwest Germany at the Büchel Air Base.
The group joined hundreds of activists from northern Europe that were part of dozens of nonviolent actions that took place between March and August. The efforts forced a reluctant media to take note of US nukes in Germany. News of the protests was widespread and ultimately prodded top politicians and even the current Foreign Minister to call for removal of the US bombs, all in the midst of a national election campaign.
Notable among the 11-person US delegation were seven war resisters who have served a combined total of 36 years in US jails and prisons for protests against nuclear weapons and the war system. After one particularly audacious action by four of the delegates and a German colleague, the German press took up our group’s humorous self-appointed moniker: the “prison gang.”
The delegation, representing seven states and the District of Columbia, also helped put a spotlight on US and NATO plans to replace the current arsenal of B61 H-bombs deployed across Europe with an expensive new version. The new bomb is being touted as the first ever “smart” or precision nuclear weapon and aimed with a new tailfin attachment, making it unprecedented. New nuclear weapons are unlawful under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty which the US and Germany have both ratified.
Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance in Tennessee—where the thermonuclear core for the new “B61-12” might be manufactured—said about joining the group, “It is important that we show this is a global movement. The resistance to nuclear weapons is not limited to one country.” The new B61-12 program will cost over $12 billion if production is authorized sometime after 2020. “Büchel is scheduled to get new H-bombs. Nothing could be stupider when 90% of Germans want them out and the when the world wants to abolish nuclear weapons,” Hutchison said.
In fact, a March 2016 public opinion poll conducted by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), found that 93% of Germans want nuclear weapons banned; 85% agree that US nuclear weapons should be withdrawn from Germany; and 88% said they oppose US plans to replace the current weapons with the new B61-12.
Dubbed “International Week” by Campaign Council organizers in Germany, July 12-18 had over 60 people—from Russia, China, Mexico, Germany, Britain, the US, The Netherlands, France, Belgium and Germany—participate in vigils, trainings, networking, blockades, “go-in” actions, marches, media work, and simply enjoying peace camp. The effort was part of the five-month-long effort—“20 Weeks for 20 Bombs”—launched on March 26, 2017 in conjunction with the start of the final negotiations at the United Nations for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
While the US delegation was itself a “first” in Germany’s anti-nuclear campaign, the group chalked up a string of additional firsts during its week of nonviolent actions.
On July 15, Susan Crane, of the Redwood City, California Catholic Worker and I walked through the base’s main gate and talked for 30 minutes with military guards and local police about whether their orders to protect nuclear war planning are lawful. While we were repeatedly ordered to leave, and Susan, a participant in five Plowshares disarmament actions, eventually sat down and had to be carried out, we were neither arrested or charged. “They don’t want to arrest internationals and draw attention to the nuclear weapons,” said long-time disarmament activist and Büchel peace camp organizer Marion Küpker.
On July 16, about 35 activists streamed through the base’s flimsy outer gate and then through a heavy steel inside fence which was mistakenly left unlocked. While two people symbolically brought down the US flag, at least 30 others eagerly traipsed through the open fence, squeezed through another vehicle gate, and then fanned out across the broad entryway to inspect the exclusive surroundings and their gaudy display of retired war planes on pedestals. The Dutch activists, most of them from the Amsterdam Catholic Worker, were as shocked as anyone to be able to place a few dozen loaves of “bread, not bombs” on and around the memorialized “gods of metal.” All the while, Dominican Sisters Carol Gilbert and Ardeth Platte of Baltimore, Maryland, read aloud the text of the new international Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and called for the base commander to come and accept a copy of the treaty.
The next day, July 17, during an early-morning blockade of the base by 30 protesters, the sudden appearance of the commander, “Oberstleutnant” Gregor Schlemmer who arrived on foot, thoroughly shocked the group which had locked arms and stretched banners across the road to his base. It is positively unheard of in the United States for high-ranking Air Force officers to meet openly with anti-war activists. Commander Schlemmer looked at ease and appeared to listen intently as Sister Ardeth explained the newly-minted nuclear weapons ban treaty, and then he calmly accepted her copy before leaving.
Later on July 17, after nightfall, a group of five, me included, got deep inside the base, and for the first time in 21 years of protests against the US bombs, we occupied the top of one of the large bunkers potentially used for storing nuclear weapons. (Experts later reported that they are probably kept elsewhere on the base.)
After hiking along shadowy farm roads, shushing through dark rows of corn, clipping through the base’s outer fence, crossing a brightly lit air base road, and tramping noisily through a few wooded brambles, our small group cut through a second chain-link fence. We bumbled past a giant hanger and under the wing of a jet fighter parked in the open, and reached a set of double chain-link fences surrounding four tall, earth-bermed bunkers. After cutting the two non-electrified, unlit fences without tripping a single alarm or even having the lights snap on, the five of us scurried up to the top of the wide-topped, sod-covered concrete Quonset hut. No motion detector or alarm, no Klieg light or guard had noted our intrusion at all. We spent over an hour chatting, star gazing, checking our radiation monitor, and enjoying being flabbergasted that our implausible plan had worked. This was supposedly a severely controlled H-bomb storage depot, but we’ll never know. We didn’t try breaking into it.
Steve Baggarly, 52, of the Norfolk, Virginia Catholic Worker, suggested we label the bunker’s giant metal doors, so he and I scratched “Disarm Now” into the paint and this finally alerted some guards. We hustled back up to the top and we were all soon surrounded by vehicles, moving spot lights, and heavily armed soldiers searching on foot with flashlights. Still unnoticed because of the darkness and our elevation, we decided to announce our presence by singing “Vine & Fig Tree.” This prompted the patrol for the first time to look up. We were detained, and after an hour of being searched, photographed and lectured, Commander Schlemmer, summoned from bed at 2:30 a.m., gathered us for a short lecture. He said what we’d done was “dangerous” and that sneaking onto a military base “isn’t supposed to be fun.” Of course he was unaware that the five people before him had served a combined total of 19 years incarcerated for such actions. All of us—Baggarly, Susan Crane, Bonnie Urfer, Gerd Buentzly, of Herford, Germany, and myself—were released without charges.
News of aging peace activists occupying a nuclear weapons base unnoticed was widely reported in the press. The news moved Green Party Bundestag Deputy Tabea Rössner on Aug. 7 to lambast the “theme park” level of base security. Thanks to Rössner’s high-profile criticism, the head of the Social Democratic Party Martin Schulz unexpectedly called for the ouster of the US weapons, smack in the middle of his national campaign for the Chancellorship. A week later, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, during a press briefing in Washington, DC, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, endorsed Schulz’s call for removing the US nukes. Of course nuclear weapons are the last thing anyone wants to contemplate, so it takes focused inventiveness and a level of personal risk to get the public and the lawmakers to face the Bomb. Sometimes it works.
This summer’s “Twenty Weeks for Twenty Bombs,” made regular headline news thanks to the efforts of the nation-wide Campaign Council “Büchel is Everywhere: Nuclear Weapons-Free Now!” and its international coordinator Marion Küpker of Hamburg. After years of outreach and solidarity work, the five-month peace camp near the gates of Büchel Air Force Base, and its well-known use of nonviolent direct action, was endorsed by all 50 peace groups and organizations in the the Campaign Council which now includes mainstream bodies like International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms, and the DFG-VK, Germany’s oldest anti-war organization.
*The US delegates were Steve Baggarly, Kathy Boylan, Zara Brown, Carmella Cole, Susan Crane, Sr. Carol Gilbert, OP, Ralph Hutchison, John LaForge, Leona Morgan, Sr. Ardeth Platte, OP, and Bonnie Urfer.
See our photo gallery of the US delegation here.
This article was edited for length, with permission, from the original post at: www.haulno.org
In December 2016, Indigenous anti-nuke and sacred sites organizers formed volunteer-based Haul No! to raise awareness, organize, and take action to protect sacred lands, water, and health from the toxic threat of radioactive uranium ore transport from the Grand Canyon to the White Mesa Mill. In March 2017, Energy Fuels Inc. (EFI), the owner of Canyon Mine and White Mesa Mill (the only commercially operating uranium processing plant in the US), announced that it could start mining uranium in June 2017. Haul No! kicked into gear and started organizing an awareness and action tour along the 300-mile planned haul route.
Haul No! initiated the tour on June 13, 2017 in Bluff, Utah, just 20 miles south of the White Mesa Mill. Since 1979, the mill has processed and disposed of some of the most toxic radioactive waste produced in the US. Energy Fuels stores the mill tailings in “impoundments” that occupy about 275 acres next to the mill, which was built on sacred Ute Mountain Ute land. The site includes more than 200 rare and significant cultural sites, several of which have already been destroyed by Energy Fuels.
The White Mesa Mill is currently undergoing renewal of its Byproduct Radioactive Material License and Groundwater Quality Discharge Permits.
Ute Mountain Ute residents of White Mesa joined Haul No! and shared their experiences with the Bluff community. Ephraim Dutchie spoke about the spiritual quality of the land and the environmental racism they experience from mill workers, pro-mill residents, and law enforcement. “They don’t care about our community they only care about money. White Mesa is not the only community that will be affected by this. Keep water pure and land sacred,” Ephraim said.
Bluff and White Mesa residents expressed great concern that their drinking water will be contaminated by further milling. In the past two years alone, two spills have occurred en route to the mill. Both involved trucks from the Cameco Resources uranium mine in Wyoming, and one spill spread radioactive barium sulfate sludge along US Highway 191.
The next day, Haul No! met up with Ute Mountain Ute organizers at the White Mesa Mill. Haul No! volunteer Leona Morgan, who also organizes the Radiation Monitoring Project, donned her hazmat suit and mask to monitor radioactive pollution at the entrance of the mill. Part of the crew went directly to the mill site to bring the message that we want them to shut down. Yolanda Badback, White Mesa Concerned Community Organizer, confronted EFI workers as law enforcement agents arrived in response to a call regarding trespassing and vandalism. Yolanda stated, “This was our land and now it’s poisoned, Energy Fuels has no right to be here.” There were no issues aside from a warning.
Our next stop was Oljato, Utah, which is located within the iconic Monument Valley. Oljato Chapter was the first to pass a resolution opposing transport in December 2016 and has long been plagued by abandoned uranium mines.
More than 523 abandoned uranium mines remain throughout the Navajo Nation, where Diné families have been subject to decades of radioactive contamination. The Navajo Nation banned uranium mining and milling in 2005 and transport of radioactive materials in 2012, though this matter is one of conflict due to lack of jurisdiction over state and federally-controlled highways such as EFI’s planned Canyon Mine haul route. This point is a policy focus of Haul No!
While two of our group headed to Blanding, Utah to testify at a White Mesa Mill hearing, the rest of the crew headed to Kayenta. Folks there stated that they’ve already seen trucks that look like uranium hauling barreling through their town. We clarified that at this point we know that uranium and arsenic-laced water from Canyon Mine was being transported in unmarked vehicles, and that this may be un-permitted—but no ore has been mined or transported. It was very clear that those in attendance do not want any more radioactive transport through their community.
At the Tuba City Flea Market, our table volunteers heard constant accounts of cancer and passing of relatives due to work at the Tuba City Rare Metals mill. From June 1956 to November 1966, the mill processed 796,489 tons of uranium ore. In 1988, Department of Energy started cleaning up this Superfund site, where a layer of soil and rock remains the only covering over 2.3 million tons of hazardous waste. A rock dam surrounds the radioactive waste to control runoff water that flows into nearby Moenkopi Wash.
During our presentation that evening, Leona asked how many of the 40 or so people in attendance had a relative or were themselves directly impacted by uranium mining or milling, and everyone raised their hands. All expressed strong opposition to further transport of radioactive materials through their lands.
Our tour continued on Monday, June 19 in Flagstaff, where 65 people attended our presentation. The next day our crew and local residents delivered a petition to Flagstaff City Council calling for a resolution and ordinance to oppose uranium transport. The City of Flagstaff has jurisdiction over a small part of the transport route and organizers see this as a possible stopping-point to safeguard all communities.
On Tuesday, June 20 we made it to Cameron, where everyone at our tour stop had been directly impacted by uranium mining and expressed great concern of high-level radioactive ore coming through their lands. The small community has faced uranium contamination for decades. Cameron officials have already expressed that they are willing to block uranium transport if necessary.
The Haul No! Tour culminated at the Red Butte Gathering hosted by the Havasupai Tribal Council, June 23-25. We set up camp near Sacred Red Butte on traditional Havasupai homelands about 4 miles from Canyon Mine. Haul No! offered training in Non-Violent Direct Action and gave updates on the mine and transport issues. We listened to talks, participated in prayer walks, and round danced in blistering Arizona temperatures. We will focus more on the Red Butte Gathering in Part 2 of the Haul No! Tour Report Back.
On July 5, 2017, our request for “Consideration of Council Action to Oppose Uranium Transport” was approved despite a surprise appearance by Energy Fuels President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Chalmers, who claimed that the transport is not more dangerous than other transport that happens on a daily basis. He also informed the Council that EFI’s preferred route would go north of the San Francisco Peaks and not through Flagstaff. The agenda item will be discussed at the City of Flagstaff regular council meeting on October 10, 2017.
—Arianne Peterson and Leona Morgan helped edit this article.