Call To Action
NUCLEAR-FREE FUTURE MONTH: TIME TO PHASE OUT NUCLEAR POWER AND START NEGOTIATIONS ON A TREATY TO ABOLISH NUCLEAR WEAPONS!
It has been 68 years since the United States dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing much of their populations in an instant. Tens of thousands more died from injuries or radiation sickness in the months that followed. The rest were condemned to live their lives in fear of radiation-induced cancers, and their descendants to this day face increased risk of health effects caused by genetic damage.
The U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and the second on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. For decades, these dates have been adopted as times to pause to remember the victims, and also to remember that the threat posed by nuclear weapons remains with us. They also are a time to reflect on the broader dangers created by the global spread of nuclear technology as a means to generate nuclear power. Despite the inherent risks of nuclear power generation, demonstrated decisively by the 2011 catastrophe at Fukushima, the immense global nuclear industry continues to push for new nuclear deals, always claiming that the next generation of nuclear power plants will be safe and affordable, despite a record of broken promises stretching back to the dawn of the atomic age.
All stages of the nuclear chain, from mining to power production to testing and storage of waste, expose surrounding populations to extremely long-lived mutagenic radionuclides that can lead to birth defects, cancers and other devastating diseases. As recognized in the Moorea Declaration, adopted by the Abolition 2000 Conference held in Moorea, Te Ao Maohi, (French Occupied Polynesia) in 1997, “colonised and indigenous peoples have, in the large part borne the brunt of … nuclear devastation – from the mining of uranium and the testing of nuclear weapons on indigenous peoples land, to the dumping, storage and transport of plutonium and nuclear wastes, and the theft of land for nuclear infrastructure.”
Building out from the Hiroshima-Nagasaki anniversaries, since 2006, United for Peace and Justice has declared August “Nuclear Free Future Month,” providing an opportunity for groups opposed to nuclear weapons and power to spread their message and to stimulate recognition of the relationship between nuclear technologies and the broader crises engendered by the deepening polarization of wealth and political power and by economic growth and technology choices that are ecologically unsustainable. The regime of “security” backed by the constant threat of nuclear annihilation underscores an urgent need for the redefinition of human security. Generating the immense amounts of energy necessary to fuel a society addicted to growth with technologies that risk lethal contamination of the homes and cities they power, and of the natural world around them, manifests the unsustainable character of a society that places endless material accumulation above all.
Nuclear power and nuclear weapons are extreme examples of technologies chosen not to serve the common good, but rather to serve the power strategies of immense, unaccountable organizations that have come to dominate the global economy and society. A common characteristic of these strategies is that a fraction of the population grabs most of the benefits while everyone bears the risks. It’s time to end the nuclear cycle for good, and to make the transition to technologies that work within the rhythms and limits of the biosphere and within institutions designed for democracy not for the power of the few.
Our main vehicle for coordinating activities and disseminating information will be the United for Peace and Justice Nuclear Free Future web pages at www.nuclearfreefuture.org, where you will find a variety of action ideas and educational resources. We encourage you to post your group’s planned activities to the calendar you will find there. Please share your plans for Hiroshima-Nagasaki memorials this August, but please think outside the traditional bounds and plan and share additional educational events and actions throughout the month. Please help us spread the word!
Early in his first term, President Obama announced his commitment to “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Four years later, there has been little progress towards that goal. The new START treaty with Russia, touted by the Obama administration as its greatest achievement in arms reduction, in fact did little to change nuclear deployments. Obama only obtained Senate consent to the treaty by agreeing to modernize the nuclear arsenal and the weapons facilities that sustain it, a plan that will add billions of dollars to nuclear weapons budgets every year for the foreseeable future. This promise to the nuclear establishment is one of the few Obama seems determined to keep: while funds for basic services, civilian infrastructure, and the environment are savaged by the budget sequester, the President’s budget request increases nuclear weapons spending to shelter the arms makers from the sequester’s effects. Even after the treaty limits are met, both the U.S. and Russia still will have thousands of nuclear weapons deliverable by aircraft and missiles based on land and sea, enough to destroy human civilization in a day. China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom all possess nuclear arsenals large enough to destroy a country and to inflict significant damage on the biosphere. It is these actually existing nuclear arsenals that pose the greatest threat to humanity, yet the governments that possess them devote far more attention to eliminating nuclear weapons that don’t exist—those that might be obtained by “proliferators” or “terrorists.”
Today, nuclear-armed states are involved in conflicts around the globe, confronting one another directly or indirectly from the war in Syria to resource-driven territorial disputes in Northeast Asia. Those who hold power on all sides see such conflict as inevitable, as something that at best can be “managed” in the ways they always have: in elite negotiating forums that exclude the vast majority of humanity from decisions that affect us all, and by endless preparation for war. Endless preparation for war, what we now call “deterrence,” always has failed, spiraling into rounds of great power wars each of which proved more savage and destructive than the last. In a world bristling with atomic weaponry, human civilization likely will not survive another.
This one-sided focus on nuclear weapons proliferation rather than disarmament has led to deepening discontent outside the nuclear-armed states. Frustrated by the lack of progress in traditional negotiating forums such as the Conference on Disarmament and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conferences, coalitions of countries have joined in new initiatives. The 2012 session of the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolutions to hold a High-level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament, and to establish an Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) “to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons.” In March of this year the government of Norway hosted a conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, attended by representatives of 127 states, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other elements of civil society. A second such conference will be hosted by Mexico in Mexico City in early 2014.
These new initiatives give cause for hope, but the nuclear-armed states—where half the people in the world live and where the most powerful military-industrial complexes exert enormous influence– have resisted them. The U.S., together with Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China – all of the nuclear armed permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – boycotted the Oslo conference on Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons. The U.S. the U.K. and France explicitly rejected the establishment of the Open Ended Working Group and any outcome it may produce. The continuing refusal of the original nuclear weapons states to comply with their disarmament obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), together with what is viewed by many as the use of nonproliferation as a stalking horse for old-fashioned geopolitical agendas, has eroded not only the NPT but increasingly the entire structure of the post-World War II international legal order. The response from national elites who see themselves as potential targets for regime change by nuclear armed states may be, as in the case of North Korea, to attempt to build a nuclear arsenal of their own. The nuclear-armed states have done their best to weaken the reciprocal nature of the NPT nuclear disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation obligations. The most likely result is neither nonproliferation nor disarmament, but global nuclear lawlessness. All of this reinforces the need for reinvigorated disarmament movements in the nuclear weapons states and in the United States, which stands at the apex of the global war system, most of all.
There also is cause for hope in the struggle to end the dangerous practice of generating electricity with nuclear energy. The immense and continuing disaster at Fukushima seriously damaged the prospects for the global nuclear industry. Almost all of Japan’s nuclear power reactors remain shut down. A number of countries either have announced plans to phase out nuclear power or have canceled nuclear power projects. There is renewed opposition in countries long committed to nuclear energy, including France and the U.S. Here too, however, the enormous institutions of the nuclear establishment are using their economic power and political influence to fight back.
For example, a Canadian corporation, Energy Fuels Inc., has recently purchased several U.S.-based uranium mining companies and is reopening mining shafts 17 miles south of the Grand Canyon National Park on land which is sacred to the Havasupai Indians who have been in the region for 800 years, and is upstream and upwind of their homes. The implication for the health of the local population is significant.
The inextricable connection between nuclear weapons and nuclear power always has run both ways. The capacity to sustain a nuclear fuel cycle and to operate reactors provides much of the technological base for the production of nuclear weapons. But the potential to acquire nuclear weapons also provides a political base for an expensive and dangerous technology that otherwise would be hard pressed to compete with other ways to generate electricity. The common technology and materials base provides a rationale for governments to shroud the development of nuclear technology in secrecy, concealing both the risks and the full costs. “Civilian” applications of nuclear technology then provide a glamorous, high-tech gloss over the underlying deadliness of the entire enterprise: “Atoms for Peace,” and promises of electricity “too cheap to meter.”
This drama is playing out again in countries with elites striving to join the top tier of a stratified global economy, where large scale, centralized electricity generation is a first priority to power privileged new enclaves of production and consumption. This time around, however, there is a globalized nuclear industry, centered in the original nuclear weapons states and in Japan, eager to push the process forward, even in countries where elites may have no interest in acquiring nuclear weapons. With reactor sales scarce in countries with publics long familiar with the ecological and economic effects of nuclear power, the home countries of the nuclear industry are striking deals for nuclear cooperation and sales with elites of rising economies from India to Turkey to Vietnam. Here at home, the Department of Energy recently announced that it is partnering with Babcock and Wilcox, also a major military nuclear contractor, in developing a new generation of small modular reactors, continuing the tight relationship between the civilian and military nuclear enterprises.
ENDORSE THE CALL
This call was initiated by the United for Peace and Justice Nuclear Disarmament/Redefining Security Working Group. We invite other groups to endorse this Call and participate in Nuclear Free Future Month. If your organization would like to be added to the following list of endorsers to help work for a nuclear free future, please follow this link to fill out and endorsement form.. Circulate the Call among progressive organizations in your community and connect with others who are organizing against the war machine. Seek peace, be part of the solution. No Nukes! No Wars!
JOIN THE PLANNING GROUP
Groups planning Nuclear-Free Future month through the United for Peace and Justice Nuclear Disarmament/Redefining Security Working Group include the following. If you’d like to get involved please send an e-mail message to Jackie Cabasso, working group convener:wslf (at) earthlink.net .
MAKE A DONATION or VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME!
Please consider joining these groups by making a donation of $25, $50 or $100 (or more!) to support the Nuclear Free Future Month website and related resources. Or volunteer your time and skills. Donate online or make your check payable to United for Peace and Justice and mail it to PO Box 607, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10017. Be sure to note on the memo line: “Nuclear-Free Future Month”.