Nukewatch Quarterly Fall 2015
The new Revised Edition of Nukewatch’s groundbreaking 1988 book Nuclear Heartland is now available from Nukewatch. Edited and expanded by Nukewatch staffers John LaForge and Arianne Peterson, the book includes updated maps and directions to the 450 remaining Minuteman III nuclear missile silos, as well as a foreward by Matthew Rothschild, former Editor of the Progressive magazine, and an afterword by long-time Nukewatch Co-Director Bonnie Urfer.
Because so many citizens have the mistaken impression that our land-based ballistic missiles have all gone the way of the Berlin Wall, Nukewatch is eager to remind everyone that 450 of the anachronistic and destabalizing missiles are still deployed on alert status: they are as vulnerable as ever to ill-behaving missile crews, incompetent commanding officers, and hair-raising computer glitches.
And, as in the 1980s when Nuclear Heartland first appeared, the missile silo sites are just as accessible and in need of protest and resistance as they’ve ever been.
Please see the back cover of this Quarterly to order your copy and copies for your local libraries.
Below are some excerpts from the Revised Edition:
From the New Introduction
Much has changed in the missile fields since the appearance of Nuclear Heartland in 1988.
The original Guide to the 1,000 missile silos of the United States brought much-needed attention to the mostly ignored or unknown presence of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in the Great Plains.
Today, public criticism of nuclear weapons and war policy is on the rise around the world, in part because of revived recognition of and interest in the indiscriminate effects and the outlaw status of weapons of mass destruction. A well-publicized series of three international conferences on the health and environmental effects of nuclear weapons, along with the growth of several new anti-nuclear coalitions around the world, have re-energized the abolition movement after a rather long lull in popular protest—brought on by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War, the seemingly endless War on Terror, and the urgent compound crises of climate change, resource depletion, population growth, and pollution.
Over half of the 1,000 Minuteman missiles we charted 27 years ago have been withdrawn, and three entire missile fields have been decommissioned. The ICBMs of Missouri, South Dakota, and Grand Forks, North Dakota are now all gone. In addition, 50 of the 200 missiles once deployed in Wyoming around F.E. Warren Air Force Base—flights P, Q, R, S, and T—were deactivated as of August 19, 2008, and have been permanently removed….
Additionally, the Pentagon announced on April 8, 2014, that to comply with the New START agreement, 50 more Minuteman IIIs would be removed from around Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.
Still, 25 years after the end of the Cold War, 450 Minuteman IIIs poison the Great Plains with their thermonuclear warheads and their constant threat of unlimited mass destruction.
Oddly, the National Park Service in South Dakota and the State Historical Society of North Dakota have turned former missile silo sites into “historical” landmarks—as if the era of intercontinental nuclear madness were a thing of the past. …
The United States currently has about 7,100 nuclear warheads, down slightly from its 1994 total of 7,770. About 2,080 warheads are deployed or launch-ready on missiles and bombers, and another 2,680 are in storage and could be hastily brought into use. The military keeps roughly 2,340 other “retired” but intact warheads in storage awaiting dismantlement mostly at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico….
Today’s Minuteman III missiles are still expensively clothed, housed, and maintained on “alert status” in three fields of 150 missiles each: at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota; at F.E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne, Wyoming; and at Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, Montana. As of February 2015, each missile carries a single warhead, either the 335-kiloton W78 or the 300-kiloton W87.
From chapter III, “The Drawdown”
Political motivations and strategies aside, reality in the nuclear heartland changed forever on September 27, 1991, when President George H.W. Bush ordered the standdown of all 450 Minuteman II missiles. Dick Cheney, then the Secretary of Defense, announced, “This morning I have signed the ‘execute’ order taking our strategic bomber force and our Minuteman II missile force off alert status, thereby implementing the first part of the President’s decision.” Within 72 hours of the order, missile crews at the three affected wings in Montana, Missouri, and South Dakota “safed” their missiles by traveling to each silo and manually inserting pins that made launch impossible.
The START I treaty required that the missiles and warheads be removed and dismantled, the silos destroyed to a depth of more than 19 feet below ground level, all communication cables cut, and the underground launch control centers deactivated and filled with dirt. The Air Force was responsible for removing the warheads, which were sent to the Pantex facility in Texas—where they were made—for dismantling, and it shipped the missiles themselves to a facility at Hill AFB in Utah to be disassembled and stored. This part of the decommissioning process lasted from December 1991, when the first warhead was removed, through 1995, when the final Minuteman II missile was pulled from its silo. After this and other sensitive equipment was removed from the silos, the Army Corps of Engineers and its contractors, tasked with demolishing the launch facilities they helped to build, took over the sites at the three fields whose silos would be destroyed in compliance with the treaty: those at Grand Forks AFB in northeastern North Dakota, Whiteman AFB in Missouri, and Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota.
Did Protests Factor into Missile Field Closure Decisions?
Decommissioning 450 Minuteman II ICBMs, which had one warhead each compared to three on each Minuteman III, was the most efficient way for the US to comply with START I, while keeping the highest possible number of deployed warheads. The decision about which Minuteman launchers, or silos, would be destroyed along with them proved more complicated. Eventually, the Pentagon decided to move its Minuteman III missiles from Grand Forks AFB in North Dakota to the Montana wing controlled by Malmstrom AFB, so that Minuteman II silos in Montana would remain active while those that had held Minuteman IIIs in Grand Forks were destroyed. But why go to the trouble of transporting these 120 missiles—and their warheads—over 700 miles?
From chapter VII, “The Breakdown”
In the near future, the Air Force plans to eliminate 104 Minuteman III silos, 50 silos at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, 50 at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, and four Minuteman test silos used for experimental launches at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Destruction of the Montana silos began in February 2014 and was expected to be complete in early 2015. Destruction of the 50 silos in Wyoming is to take place in 2015 and 2016, and demolition of the test-launch silos in California is scheduled for 2017.
Still, the United States is moving ahead with plans for new nuclear weapon production. Warheads for the so-called Long-Range Stand Off weapon, the B61-12 “smart” H-bomb, and something tentatively called an interoperable warhead.
The fiscal year 2015 Defense Authorization Act directs the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to ramp up production of the plutonium cores of nuclear warheads known as “pits,” to demonstrate a production capacity of 80 pits per year for at least a 90-day period in 2027. According to Los Alamos National Laboratory, plutonium pit production is not needed to address aging of the plutonium, but only if new warheads are to be built using new pits (as opposed to reused ones from decommissioned weapons). The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability reported in April 2015 that the NNSA has not shown a “need” for new pits to maintain the nuclear weapons stockpile, “yet the plans move forward with inexplicable momentum.”
Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group in New Mexico, told the Guardian the only reason that new H-bomb production is even being considered at all is simply private greed. This may come as quite a shock to some, but for-profit corporations now run all the US government’s nuclear weapons labs. They were privatized in 2006. One reason weapons development stumbles on in the face of nearly universal public sentiment in favor of nuclear abolition, is, Mello says, “The business model of the nuclear weapons labs is to blackmail the government into continuing excessive appropriations,” and continued, “The nuclear weapons labs are sized for the Cold War, and they need a Cold War to keep that size.”
By Dr. Helen Caldicott
Nuclear Heartland: Revised is one of the most frightening books that I have ever read. How we are still surviving on planet earth is a mystery to me. Every single American should read this book and after imbibing the information, they should rise to their full moral and spiritual height to take on the treasonous entities that now imperil our survival. These are the US Navy and Air Force, and the numerous corporations including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and others who make these monstrous weapons of mass destruction documented in the book. The people engaged in these treasonous activities are the real terrorists of our age. Let us name them, out them and remove them from the enormous power that they control.
Nuclear Heartland: Revised is an excellent compendium of the missile bases scattered around the Midwest in various farms and benign locations, with the bases mapped out in detail by people who care about preservation of the creation. These maps insult the senses when visualized. The book also documents the brave souls who have trespassed on the missile silos and poured blood on them and prayed that the never be used.
And it documents the sorry state of affairs among the US Air Force officers that control and run the missiles, the lack of esprit du corps, the boredom of their jobs as they sit below the Earth waiting at any minute to destroy most life on Earth. So much so, that many of them have been fired in the last few years for misconduct, drug abuse and sleeping on the job. And most amazingly in this day and age, the launch crews still operate with floppy discs and telephone lines that frequently malfunction.
—Helen Caldicott, a co-counder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, is the author of eight books including Nuclear Madness and Missile Envy. She recently edited Crisis Without End: The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe.
By Kathy Kelly
Why would anyone want to sow razors in a loaf of bread? The heartland of the US should be used to grow needed crops, not harbor weapons of mass destruction. I recall being deeply moved, during the height of the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, as Nukewatch activists raised these issues.
They helped educate and radicalize numerous communities. Equipped with Nuclear Heartland as a guidebook, activists defied the buildup of US intercontinental ballistic missiles buried under Midwestern fields. Some hammered on the missile silos, some planted corn, while still others organized walks, vigils, and teach-ins. As political elites pursue a new cold war and the menace of nuclear weapons continues to build, Nuclear Heartland: Revised Edition reliably extends our horizons for renewed nonviolent resistance.
—Kathy Kelly is a Co-cooridinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and the author of Other Lands Have Dreams: From Baghdad to Pekin Prison.