HERE IS THE US GOVERNMENT’S 2018 NUCLEAR WEAPONS POLICY and LANGUAGE ON USING NUCLEAR WEAPONS KNOWN AS THE “NUCLEAR POSTURE REVIEW”
HERE IS THE US GOVERNMENT’S 2018 NUCLEAR WEAPONS POLICY and LANGUAGE ON USING NUCLEAR WEAPONS KNOWN AS THE “NUCLEAR POSTURE REVIEW”
Trying to trivialize nuclear weapons the way he makes light of sexual assault, beating up critics, deporting millions, shooting someone in the street, bombing civilians, or torturing suspects, Donald Trump blithely “tweeted” about the US arsenal in December 2016. The Chief Twit typed, “The US must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
Mr. Trump’s handlers were trying to steal thunder that day—Dec. 23rd—from the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) where most of the world literally was coming to its senses regarding nuclear weapons, voting overwhelming in favor of a resolution to begin negotiating a treaty banning them. The remarkable Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons or Ban Treaty was then adopted by the UNGA on July 7, 2017 (voting 122 to 1), and will take affect when it’s ratified by 50 states. Then, last Oct. 6, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was declared the Nobel Peace Prize winner for its successful effort to see the UN adopt the Ban Treaty. But the US government was having none of it.
The Obama and Trump administrations didn’t just publicly oppose and obstruct progress on the ban treaty, but last October the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported on the colossal price tag of the two presidents’ mutual pro-nuclear stampede in the opposite direction. The CBO’s report (“Approaches for Managing the Costs of US Nuclear Forces, 2017 to 2046”) projects that the government’s plan to rebuild the entire US nuclear arsenal from top to bottom, including new warhead production facilities, would cost $1.2 trillion between 2017 and 2046.
As I noted last week, this staggering sum involves contested plans to produce: · new nuclear-armed long-range bombers, land-based missiles, missile-firing submarines, and their propulsion reactors ($772 billion); · new nuclear cruise missiles; · the first guided or “smart” gravity H-bomb, and jet fighters to carry them ($25 billion); · a rebuilt complex of laboratories and production facilities, in Tennessee, New Mexico and Missouri ($261 billion); and · replacement command and control systems that enable the ongoing threat to use the weapons ($184 billion). Allocating the $1.2 trillion by department, the CBO estimates that $890 billion will go to the Pentagon, and $352 billion to the Department of Energy (DOE) and its bomb-building wing known as the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
While the CBO’s cost estimate is flabbergasting, the agency “lowballed” its estimate by at least $541 billion according to Robert Alvarez, a former DOE senior policy advisor. Writing in the Washington Spectator, Alvarez notes that by excluding the costs of environmental restoration and waste management in the 70-year-old nuclear weapons complex, the CBO “hides” or downplays more than half-a-trillion dollars. The $541 billion “comes from the same congressional spending account” as the $1.2 trillion weapons complex upgrade, Alvarez notes, raising the actual inflation-adjusted total estimate to $1.74 trillion. Clean-up costs were perhaps left out to reduce the hair-raising sticker shock usually prompted by trillions in new federal spending.
Ignoring or belittling the toxic and radioactive legacy of decades of US nuclear weapons production is a longtime practice among weapons proponents. One Livermore National Lab design engineer told me 30 years ago over the phone, “We like to cook. We don’t like to do the dishes.” Ditto the Republican Congress which is weakening clean-up requirements at the plutonium-poisoned bomb plants around the country.
The $1.7 trillion weapons complex “rebuild” was originally proposed by President Obama who reportedly agreed to it as a quid pro quo for Senate Ratification of the New Start Treaty with Russia. The nearly $2,000-billion weapons bonanza appears to be a zero-sum tribute to inflation, since it won’t increase the size of the nuclear arsenal. Another couple of trillion will have to be diverted however, if, as reported by NBS News last Oct. 11, President Trump’s summertime demand for a ten-fold increase of the arsenal size is enacted. It’s only a partial relief that no one takes Trump seriously, and that Secretary of State left the July meeting calling him a “F___ing moron.”
Senate Finance Committee Chair: “We don’t have money anymore”
While debating the Republican’s recent $1.5 trillion tax cut, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, spoke about the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) which needed its appropriation renewed after expiring last Oct. 1. CHIP subsidizes health exams, doctor visits, prescriptions and other medical care for children in 9 million low-income families. Mr. Hatch actually said on the record: “[T]he reason CHIP is having trouble is because we don’t have money anymore.” Mr. Hatch had just given away CHIP’s budget times 100 over in a single tax cut gifting industrialists and the super-rich. With proposed austerity budget cuts like the Republicans’ Oct. 2017 budget gouging $1 trillion from Medicaid and nearly $500 billion from Medicare—and over half of federal discretionary funds lavished on the Pentagon—Mr. Hatch must have meant we don’t have money any more except for weapons and war. — John LaForge
On Jan. 11, the Huffington Post posted a leaked draft of the Trump Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, the government’s most detailed unclassified nuclear weapons and war planning and preparation document, the first since April 2010.
The NPR is used to provide smart-sounding euphemism and theoretical distraction to reporters and scholars who sometimes write about nuclear weapons. Since such weapons can only produce firestorms and massacres that neither medics nor hospitals can begin to respond to, the government uses cool, technical terminology to sell the “need” and “usefulness” of the devices to tax payers.
Nuclear Watch New Mexico* in Santa Fe keeps a critical eye on programs and problems at the state’s two nuclear weapons design and production laboratories, Los Alamos and Sandia. In the following, Nuclear Watch NM provides expert analysis of the latest official gibberish.
The new Review begins with “[m]any hoped conditions had been set for deep reductions in global nuclear arsenals, and, perhaps, for their elimination. These aspirations have not been realized. America’s strategic competitors have not followed our example. The world is more dangerous, not less.” The Review then points to Russia and China’s ongoing nuclear weapons modernization programs and North Korea’s “nuclear provocations.” It concludes, “We must look reality in the eye and see the world as it is, not as we wish it be.”
If the US government were to really “look reality in the eye and see the world as it is,” it would recognize that it is failing miserably to lead the world toward the abolition of the only class of weapons that is a true existential threat to our country. As an obvious historic matter, the US is the first and only country to use nuclear weapons. Since WWII the US has threatened to use nuclear weapons in the Korean and Viet Nam wars, and on many other occasions.
Further, it is hypocritical to point to Russia and China’s “modernization” programs as if they are taking place in a vacuum. The US has been upgrading its nuclear arsenal all along. In the last few years our country has embarked on a $1.7 trillion modernization program to completely rebuild its nuclear weapons production complex and all weapons based on land, in the air and at sea.
Moreover, Russia and China’s modernization programs are driven in large part by their perceived need to preserve strategic stability and deterrence by having the ability to overwhelm the US’s growing ballistic missile defenses. Ronald Reagan’s pursuit of “Star Wars” (fed by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s false promises of success) blocked a nuclear weapons abolition agreement in 1988 with the former Soviet Union. In 2002, George W. Bush unilaterally withdrew the US from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which has been a source of constant friction with the Russian government ever since.
More recently, at Israel’s request, the US blocked the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the UN from agreeing to a conference on a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East (Israel has never signed the treaty). As an overarching matter, the US and other nuclear-armed treaty signatories have never honored the Treaty’s Article VI mandate “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament…,” in effect since 1970. As a consequence, last year more than 120 countries at the UN passed a nuclear weapons ban treaty which the US vehemently denounced, despite the fact that there have long been ban treaties on chemical and biological weapons which the US has not only supported but also sought to enforce.
With respect to North Korea’s nuclear provocations, that regime is clearly seeking deterrence against the US. North Korea’s infrastructure was completely destroyed during the Korean War, and its people later witnessed the destruction of the Iraqi and Libyan regimes neither of which had nuclear weapons.
Finally, the NPR purports to be about “deterrence” against hostile threats. However, the US’s true nuclear posture has never been just deterrence, but rather the ability to conduct nuclear attacks, including pre-emptive first strikes. This is why the US (and Russia) keep thousands of nuclear weapons instead of the few hundred the other nuclear powers keep for just deterrence. Keeping and improving the ability to use nuclear weapons is the underlying reason for the $1.7 trillion “modernization” program (another euphemism) that is actually developing new nuclear weapons, instead of maintaining a few hundred, known to be “useful” for 50 years, while pursuing nuclear disarmament.
Beyond preserving and upgrading the enormous land, sea and air-based nuclear arsenal, the new NPR calls for:
1) Near-term development of a low-yield nuclear warhead for existing Trident missiles launched from new submarines.
2) New sub-launched nuclear-armed cruise missiles.
3) Keeping the 1.2 megaton B83-1 nuclear gravity bomb “until a suitable replacement is identified.” [Hiroshima times 80]
4) “Provide the enduring capability and capacity to produce plutonium ‘pits’ [warhead cores] at a rate of no fewer than 80 pits per year by 2030.”
5) “Advancing the W78 warhead replacement to FY19… and investigating the feasibility of fielding the nuclear explosives package in a Navy flight vehicle.”
Obvious problems with these five programs are:
1) An adversary won’t know whether a Trident sub-launched nuclear warhead is a new low-yield or an existing high-yield warhead. In any event, any belief in a “limited’ nuclear war is a fallacy that shouldn’t be tested. Once the nuclear threshold is crossed at any level, it is crossed, and lower-yield nuclear weapons are all the more dangerous for being potentially more usable.
2) Sub-launched nuclear-armed cruise missiles are inherently destabilizing as the proverbial “bolt out of the blue,” and can be the perfect weapon for a nuclear first-strike. Moreover, this is redundant to nuclear-armed cruise missiles that are already being developed for heavy bombers.
3) The National Nuclear Security Administration largely justified the ongoing program to create the B61-12 (the world’s first “smart” nuclear gravity bomb) by being a replacement for the 1.2 megaton B83-1 bomb. Does this indicate doubts in the $13 billion B61-12 program? And will it lead to a bump up in the number of nuclear weapons in the US’s arsenal?
4) To date, the talk has been up to 80 pits per year, not “no fewer than.” Also, the 2015 Defense Authorization Act required that the capability to produce up to 80 pits per year be demonstrated by 2027. The NPR’s later date of 2030 could be indicative of longstanding plutonium pit production problems at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. That delay and hints of higher than 80 pits per year could also point to the pit production mission being relocated at the Savannah River Site, which is under active consideration. In any event, future plutonium pit production pit production is not needed for the existing nuclear weapons stockpile, but is instead for future new-design nuclear weapons.
5) “W78 warhead replacement… in a Navy flight vehicle” is code for so-called Interoperable Warheads, whose planned three versions together could cost around $50 billion. These are arguably huge make work projects for the nuclear weapons labs (particularly Livermore), which ironically the Navy doesn’t even want (Navy memo, Sept. 27, 2012; https://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Navy-Memo-W87W88.pdf). It is also the driving reason for unnecessary future production of more than 80 pits per year.
Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch’s Executive Director, concludes with a grim prognosis: “The new NPR does not even begin to meet our long-term need to eliminate the one class of weapons of mass destruction that can truly destroy our country. It will instead set back arms control efforts and further hollow out our country by diverting yet more huge sums of money to the usual giant weapons contractors at the expense of public health and education, environmental protection, natural disaster recovery, etc. Under the Trump Administration and this NPR, expect Medicare and social security to be attacked to help pay for a false sense of military superiority.” (*Nuclear Watch New Mexico, 903 W Alameda St #325, Santa Fe, NM 87501) — John LaForge
By John LaForge
Donald Trump has threatened North Korea with “fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen,” and speaking to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 21, he promised to “totally destroy” the country of 25 million. If such cold-blooded threats came from a dictator or a terrorist, the public could brush them off, but the bombasts came from the commander in chief of the largest military force in history, whose annual $700 billion military budget surpasses the combined total of the next eight biggest war departments (China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, UK, Japan and Germany).
In 1985, a group of eminent US scientists issued an eye-popping report detailing the likely consequences of a large-scale war with nuclear weapons. The Minneapolis Star and Tribune headline blared from Sept. 13 that year: “Scientists: Nuclear war would mean worldwide famine death of billions.”
That warning seemed to jump off the page. An enlarged copy of the grim reminder has been on the office bulletin board for decades. Back then, the scientists explained, among the consequences of a large-scale nuclear war between the former USSR and the United States. “…the primary mechanisms for human fatalities would likely not be from blast effects, not from thermal radiation burns, and not from ionizing radiation, but, rather, from mass starvation.” The US National Academy of Sciences study said, resulting in nuclear winter and “the loss of one to four billion lives.”
Thirty years later, scientists and doctors dramatically adjusted the mathematics of doomsday taking heed of new information about nuclear weapons-caused firestorms and climate disruption. Left out of those grim calculations was the effect of mass firestorms caused by nuclear weapons being detonated on urban areas. In her book Whole World on Fire (Cornell Univ. Press, 2004), Lynn Eden notes, “For more than 50 years, the US Government has seriously underestimated damage from nuclear attacks.”
“The failure to include damage from fire in nuclear war plans continues today,” Eden wrote. “Because fire damage has been ignored for the past half-century, high-level US decision makers have been poorly informed, if informed at all, about the extent of damage that nuclear weapons would actually cause. As a result, any US decision to use nuclear weapons almost certainly would be predicated on insufficient and misleading information. If nuclear weapons were used, the physical, social, and political effects could be far more destructive than anticipated.”
“For nuclear weapons of 100 kilotons or more, destruction from fire will be substantially greater than from blast. … air temperatures in the burning areas after the attack would be well above the boiling point of water; winds, hurricane force,” Eden reported.
In a 1995 letter to Eden, Harold Brode of the Defense Nuclear Agency, which conducted research on nuclear weapons effects, wrote, “The fact is that fire tends to lead to complete destruction in this context…. Because of the enhanced likelihood of spread in the event of a nuclear explosion in an urban center, fire damage is very likely to far exceed blast damage.”
Today, with the US president threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea’s 25 million people, and with three US Navy aircraft carrier battle groups conducting large-scale exercises in the Asia-Pacific involving over 22,500 personnel, it’s worth recalling that fires from even a very “limited” use of a small number of modern nuclear weapons would create so much soot and ash that the consequent collapse of agriculture could cause the famine death of two billion people.
This was the conclusion of Ira Helfand, MD, who wrote “Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People at Risk,” 2nd Edition (November 2013), for the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and Physicians for Social Responsibility.
What nuclear war planners in the US Navy and the Air Force, or ignorant sociopaths like Mr. Trump ignore or fail to grasp is this (from Whole World on Fire): “Within tens of minutes after the cataclysmic events associated with the [nuclear] detonation, a mass of buoyantly rising fire-heated air would signal the start of a second and distinctly different event—the development of a mass fire of gigantic scale and ferocity. This fire would quickly increase in intensity. In a fraction of an hour it would generate ground winds of hurricane force…”
In April 2014, a group of US atmospheric and environmental scientists published a corroborating paper titled, “Multi-decadal global cooling and unprecedented ozone loss following a regional nuclear conflict.” Its authors, Michael Mills, Owen Toon, Julia Lee-Taylor, and Alan Robock reported that, “A limited, regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan in which each side detonates 50 15 [kiloton] weapons could produce about 5 Tg [teragrams] of black carbon” from mass fires. A teragram/Tg is 1 million metric tons.
These five metric tons of black carbon, the report notes, “would self-loft to the stratosphere, where it would spread globally, producing a sudden drop in surface temperatures and intense heating of the stratosphere. … The combined cooling and enhanced UV [ultra violet radiation] would put significant pressures on global food supplies and could trigger a global nuclear famine.” Of course, much of the black carbon would be radioactive as well, causing long-lived contamination of water and agricultural products, and the consequent bio-concentration in the food web.
Mills, Toon, Lee-Taylor and Robock conclude that with this understanding of the impacts of a mere 100 “small” Hiroshima-sized nuclear detonations (actual US bombs are far more powerful), the world should be motivated to demand “the elimination of the more than 17,000 nuclear weapons that exist today.”
US EPA Says Higher Radiation Levels Pose ‘No Harmful Health Effect’
In the event of a radioactive dirty bomb or a reactor disaster in the United States, emergency responders can safely tolerate radiation levels equivalent to thousands of chest X-rays, the Environmental Protection Agency said in new guidelines that ease off on established safety levels. The EPA’s determination sets a level 10 times the drinking water standard for radiation recommended under President Barack Obama. It could lead to the Trump Administration weakening radiation exposure rules, say watchdog groups critical of the move. —Ari Natter, Bloomberg.com, Oct. 16, 2017
Republican Chair of US Radiation Watchdog Agency Secretly Urges its Abolition
The chairman of a panel charged with protecting workers at nuclear weapons facilities as well as nearby communities has told the White House he favors downsizing or abolishing the group, despite recent radiation and workplace safety problems that injured or endangered people at the sites it helps oversee.
Republican appointee Sean Sullivan, a former Navy submarine officer, told the director of the Office of Management and Budget in a private letter that closing or shrinking the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board he chairs is consistent with President Trump’s ambition to cut the size of the federal workforce, according to a copy of Sullivan’s letter. It was written in June and obtained recently by the Center for Public Integrity. —Patrick Malonee and R. Jeffrey Smithe, Center for Public Integrity, Oct. 19, 2017
German Greens Want Last US Nuclear Weapons Ousted
The German Green Party wants the next coalition government to push for the removal of all nuclear warheads stationed in Germany, a document seen Nov. 15 by Reuters showed. The discussion paper on military and foreign policy did not mention the United States, which is believed to have 20 nuclear warheads at a military base in Büchel in western Germany.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, is trying to secure a fourth term through an unlikely coalition with the ecologist Greens and pro-business Free Democrats after her conservative bloc lost support to the far-right in an election in September. During the campaign last summer both the Social Democrat candidate for Chancellor, Martin Schulz and Germany’s current Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, called for the removal of US nuclear weapons.
“Within NATO, we want to ensure that the remaining nuclear weapons in Germany are withdrawn and we want to suspend the modernization programme,” read a section in the document stating the Green Party’s position. —Reuters, Nov. 15, 2017