Reading Room

Citizens Watch Newsletter April 2000

Public Action and the Non-Proliferation Treaty

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' April 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

In 1995, Tri-Valley CAREs received its United Nations accreditation and participated in the historic Review and Extension Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). At that time, the NPT was extended indefinitely and an "enhanced review" process was instituted to monitor treaty compliance.

The NPT, signed in 1968 and entering into force in 1970, brokers a deal between the nuclear haves and have nots. The five then-declared nuclear weapons states (the U.S., USSR [now Russia], Great Britain, France and China) all signed the NPT and thereby agreed to give up their nuclear weapons. In return, the nonnuclear nations signing the treaty agreed not to acquire any such weaponry. To date, 188 countries have signed- making the NPT the most wide-reaching arms control agreement in human history. Three nations are noteworthy by their absence, Israel, India and Pakistan.

The central, most pressing problem of the NPT regime, however, is the intransigent refusal of the five nuclear weapons states to live up to their disarmament obligations.

This fundamental lack of compliance with the treaty not only fails to motivate Israel, India and Pakistan to give up their nuclear capabilities and join the NPT as nonnuclear states, it threatens to unravel the whole fabric of the treaty. Why-reason the have nots-should we continue to categorically forego the nuclear option if the nuclear-armed nations are unwilling to live up to their end of the bargain?

This is where public action, especially the participation of non-governmental organizations like Tri-Valley CAREs, can make a difference.

Beginning the week of April 24, we will send a contingent of six people to the U.N. to participate in this, the first five-year Review Conference since the NPT's extension in 1995.

We will provide technical information on the U.S. "Stockpile Stewardship" program to key countries pressing for disarmament. We will highlight alternatives the U.S. could pursue that would enhance, rather than damage, nonproliferation goals. We will also discuss de-alerting and other positive measures.

In meetings with the U.S. government, we will advocate for changes in nuclear policy. With nonnuclear states, we will stress the importance of each nation's voice being raised for disarmament.

By our presence, governments will know that people care about creating a workable nonproliferation regime-and that there is active public support in the U.S. for disarmament.

Nuclear Crisis and the Non-Proliferation Treaty

By Jimmy Carter, from the Washington Post, February 23, 2000
reprinted in Tri-Valley CAREs' April 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Every five years, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) comes up for reassessment by the countries that have signed it. This is the treaty that provides for international restraints (and inspections) on nuclear programs. It covers not only the nuclear nations but 180 other countries as well, including Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Libya. An end to the NPT could terminate many of these inspections and open a Pandora's box of nuclear proliferation in states that already present serious terrorist threats to others.

Now it is time for the 30-year-old NPT to be reviewed (in April, by an international assembly at the United Nations), and, sad to say, the current state of affairs with regard to nuclear proliferation is not good. In fact, I think it can be said that the world is facing a nuclear crisis. Unfortunately, U.S. policy has had a good deal to do with creating it.

At the last reassessment session, in 1995, a large group of non-nuclear nations with the financial resources and technology to develop weapons -- including Egypt, Brazil and Argentina -- agreed to extend the NPT, but with the proviso that the five nuclear powers take certain specific steps to defuse the nuclear issue: adoption of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by 1996; conclusion of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, and "determined pursuit" of efforts to reduce nuclear arsenals, with the ultimate goal of eliminating them.

It is almost universally conceded that none of these commitments has been honored. India and Pakistan have used this failure to justify their joining Israel as nations with recognized nuclear capability that are refusing to comply with NPT restraints. And there has been a disturbing pattern of other provocative developments:

  • For the first time I can remember, no series of summit meetings is underway or in preparation to seek further cuts in nuclear arsenals. The START II treaty concluded seven years ago by presidents George Bush and Boris Yeltsin has not been seriously considered for ratification by the Russian parliament.

  • Instead of moving away from reliance on nuclear arsenals since the end of the Cold War, both the United States and NATO have sent disturbing signals to other nations by declaring that these weapons are still the cornerstone of Western security policy, and both have re-emphasized that they will not comply with a "no first use" policy. Russia has reacted to this U.S. and NATO policy by rejecting its previous "no first use" commitment; strapped for funds and unable to maintain its conventional forces of submarines, tanks, artillery, and troops, it is now much more likely to rely on its nuclear arsenal.

  • The United States, NATO and others still maintain arsenals of tactical nuclear weapons, including up to 200 nuclear weapons in Western Europe.

  • Despite the efforts of Gens. Lee Butler and Andrew Goodpaster, Adm. Stansfield Turner and other military experts, American and Russian nuclear missiles are still maintained in a "hair-trigger alert" status, susceptible to being launched in a spur-of-the-moment crisis or even by accident.

  • After years of intense negotiation, recent rejection by the U.S. Senate of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was a serious blow to global nuclear control efforts and to confidence in American leadership.

  • There is a notable lack of enforcement of the excessively weak international agreements against transfer of fissile materials.

  • The prospective adoption by the United States of a limited "Star Wars" missile defense system has already led Russia, China and other nations to declare that this would abrogate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which has prevailed since 1972. This could destroy the fabric of existing international agreements among the major powers.

  • There is no public effort or comment in the United States or Europe calling for Israel to comply with the NPT or submit to any other restraints. At the same time, we fail to acknowledge what a powerful incentive this is to Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt to join the nuclear community.

  • The U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency has been recently abolished, removing an often weak but at least identifiable entity to explore arms issues.

I believe that the general public would be extremely concerned if these facts were widely known, but so far such issues have not been on the agenda in presidential debates.

A number of responsible non-nuclear nations, including Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden have expressed their disillusionment with the lack of progress toward disarmament. The non-proliferation system may not survive unless the major powers give convincing evidence of compliance with previous commitments.

In April, it is imperative that the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty be reconfirmed and subsequently honored by leaders who are inspired to act wisely and courageously by an informed public. This treaty has been a key deterrent to the proliferation of weapons, and its unraveling would exert powerful pressures even on peace-loving nations to develop a nuclear capability.

All nuclear states must renew efforts to achieve worldwide reduction and ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons. In the meantime, it requires no further negotiations for leaders of nuclear nations to honor existing nuclear security agreements, including the test ban and anti-ballistic missile treaties, and to remove nuclear weapons from their present hair-trigger alert status.

Just as American policy is to blame for many of the problems, so can our influence help resolve the nuclear dilemma that faces the world.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is chairman of the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tri-Valley CAREs Wins Health, Environmental Awards

from Tri-Valley CAREs' April 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

* Award Winning *

Tri-Valley CAREs is proud to announce that it has been selected to receive two very important honors.

* Health Advocate *

We at Tri-Valley CAREs have won an award from the Alameda County Public Health Department for our "activism and advocacy around nuclear issues related to the Lawrence Livermore National Lab." The award will be presented by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on April 4.

* Environmental Advocate *

We are also honored to receive an award for our efforts to obtain a comprehensive cleanup of contaminated soil and groundwater at the Lab's main site and site 300. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region IX will present Tri-Valley CAREs with its 2nd annual Earth Day award to community groups on April 18.

* Members *

These honors go to each of you, our members -- to each of you who cares about health & the environment, who reads fact sheets, attends meetings, participates in public hearings, and so much more. Congratulations to all!

Groups Petition to Bar BNFL Contracts

by Bob Schaeffer
from Tri-Valley CAREs' April 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

A coalition of more than 40 organizations, including Tri-Valley CAREs, petitioned DOE to ban British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) and its subsidiaries from holding contracts in the U.S. nuclear weapons complex "due to the firms' global record of repeated, serious violations of environmental laws... as well as a pattern of lies, deceptions and false statements to the public and governmental officials."

The petition continues, "These activities, which have jeopardized worker and community health and safety around the world, should disqualify BNFL from participating in any work in the U.S. weapons complex."

DOE has the power to bar corporations from participating in agency contracts to protect the public interest.

Other nations have already acted against BNFL after a series of scandals involving the firm. Japan recently forced BNFL to take back a shipment of plutonium-based nuclear fuel because data about its contents was intentionally misstated.

Due to similar concerns, Germany has suspended nuclear imports from BNFL. Ireland and several Scandinavian countries have demanded the shutdown of BNFL's Sellafield, England plant for polluting the Irish Sea with radioactive wastes.

The Ministry of Defense in London recently started a review of BNFL's contract to manage the U.K.'s nuclear weapons factory. And, an investigation by Britain's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate concluded that the company had repeatedly falsified data about nuclear materials.

This pattern provides ample grounds for DOE to cancel existing contracts and bar new ones.

Fail Safe, a Movie

by Marylia Kelley, with material from Kevin Martin and Project Abolition
from Tri-Valley CAREs' April 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

What if a computer malfunction were to trigger an accidental nuclear war? This is the premise of "Fail Safe," a live-TV drama based on the 1964 movie of the same name. The remake will star George Clooney, Richard Dreyfuss, Harvey Keitel, Brian Dennehy and Noah Wyle. It is slated to show on CBS at 9 PM on Sunday, April 9.

"Fail Safe" is fictional, but it dramatizes a nuclear scenario that could occur at any time. Today, the U.S. and Russia keep over 5,000 nuclear warheads on 24 hour, hair-trigger alert in a posture called "launch on warning." This leaves decision-makers mere minutes to make the most momentous and horrific determination in human history -- whether to let loose nuclear weapons that will kill millions instantly and condemn many millions more to a slower, more agonizing death.

"Fail Safe," the movie, may serve as a wake up call to mainstream America, just as "The Day After" did in the 1980s. For, despite claims to the contrary, there will be no "magic shield" that will protect us -- or the Russians.

However, there are true, practical steps that both nations can take to prevent an accidental nuclear war.

STEP ONE: Take all nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert. This will provide the assurance that nuclear Armageddon will not be ushered in by machine error. De-alerting will buy decision-makers the precious, human, time they need to find out what's really going on before responding.

STEP TWO: Negotiate disarmament measures with the aim of eliminating nuclear weapons world wide, in accordance with Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. This would remove the threat of a deliberate, as well as an accidental, nuclear war.

Invite friends over on April 9 to watch "Fail-Safe," not to scare them but to motivate them to action. Follow up with a group discussion, by writing letters, by calling the White House (800-456-1111) and by becoming more active in a local peace group -- such as Tri-Valley CAREs.

Working together, we can make a difference!

Citizen's Alerts: Calendar section from Tri-Valley CAREs' April 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

April 14 - 17
Keep Space for Peace
Washington, DC
(352) 337-9274 for details

Join activists from across the country, and around the world, for 4 days of information sharing and protest in Washington, DC. Come and say "No" to U.S. plans to weaponize space. For information, contact Global Network Against Nuclear Power and Weapons in Space at the number above.

Wednesday, April 19
"Site Team" meeting - public invited
Livermore Public Health Assessment
6:30 PM, Arroyo Seco school
5280 Irene Way, Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Because Livermore Lab's main site and site 300 are both "Superfund" cleanup sites, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is conducting a public health assessment of area residents. So far, we give the federal health agency a mixed review. They have done some useful things and some decidedly unhelpful things. Tri-Valley CAREs holds a seat on the "site team" to help guide the health assessment, but public participation by the community at large is also needed to keep it on track. Come and tell what's true for you and your family. Let the health agency know what's important to you as they proceed with their study. Meeting topics will include radioactive tritium and plutonium.

April 16 - 23
Peace Walk
Las Vegas to the Nevada Test Site
(702) 646-4814 for details

Join the annual Easter "Holy Week" walk to the Nevada Test Site. While Catholic-led, this walk, sponsored by Nevada Desert Experience, is open to people of all faiths and beliefs. Call the number above for more information. Additional events sponsored also by the Western Shoshone, the Shundahai network and others will take place at the Nevada Test Site in May during the week of Mothers Day. Call for details, and check our May Citizen's Watch.

Thursday, April 20
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:30 PM, Livermore Library
1000 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

Join us. Help give our members, staff and volunteers a rousing send off as they prepare to journey to the United Nations for the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference and to the halls of Congress in our nation's capital.

Friday, April 21
Good Friday witness and action
6:45 AM, Livermore Lab
Corner of East Ave. and Vasco Rd.
(510) 548-4141 or (510) 663-8065

Sponsored by the Ecumenical Peace Institute and Livermore Conversion Project, this year's homily will be delivered by Barbara Graves, a Quaker and long-time activist with the American Friends Service Committee. The service will culminate in a procession to the gates of Livermore Lab. Following the action, Tri-Valley CAREs will host a community meeting from 10 AM to Noon. Light refreshments will be provided.

April 24 - May 19
Non-Proliferation Treaty
Review Conference
United Nations, NY
(925) 443-7148 for details

A contingent of Tri-Valley CAREs members, staff and friends will travel to New York to advocate for de-alerting and disarmament. Call us to find out how you can help.

May 1 - 15
International Call-In Days
Stop Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD)
White House (202) 456-1111
Congress (202) 224-3121

This is an important time to press President Clinton and your representatives in Congress to abandon costly, destabilizing and dangerous proposals to develop and deploy BMD. Please see our March 2000 Citizen's Watch for background information.

Tuesday, May 2
Tri-Valley CAREs' Board meeting
7 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs offices
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Tri-Valley CAREs' Board meets once each quarter. Current members are: Janis Kate Turner, President and Chair; Martha Priebat, Treasurer; Fran Macy, Secretary; Don King, Will Easton and Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs' Executive Director. If you think you might like to become a board member in the future, call Janis at (925) 443-4372.

Thursday, May 4
Public Hearing
Livermore Lab site 300
6 PM, Community Center
300 East 10th St., Tracy
(925) 443-7148 for details

Join us for this important opportunity to comment on the "Proposed Plan" to remedy radioactive and toxic pollution at Livermore Lab's site 300, located between Livermore and Tracy. Please see the insert for details and "talking points." We have fact sheets available in English and Spanish. Our bilingual Community Organizer, Ren?Steinhauer, will be on hand to assist members of the public with translation at the meeting. We will also have an info table there. (Note: There will not be a mailing party in May so that our members & volunteers may attend this important public hearing. See you there.)

May 7 - 10
12th Annual "D.C. Days"
Nuclear Accountability for the New Millennium
(925) 443-7148 or (202) 833-4668

For 11 years now, the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a national network in which Tri-Valley CAREs is a member, has hosted four days of trainings and meetings with decision-makers in DC. We will be there for this, the 12th annual "DC Days" event, to raise the concerns we all share and to advocate for the policy changes that we all need.

Back to Citizen's Watch Index