Reading Room

Citizens Watch Newsletter July 1998


U.S. Atomic Audit:

$5.5 Trillion

and Rising

by Stephen Schwartz, with additions by Marylia Kelley

from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 1998 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The cumulative cost of U.S. nuclear weapons is nearly $5.5 trillion (in constant 1996 dollars), according to an unprecedented new study, "Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940," published by the Brookings Institution Press. This is up from the $4 trillion initially estimated in 1995 by the study due to more and better data collected over the years.

When the average projected future-year costs for dismantling nuclear weapons and managing and disposing of nuclear waste are included, the total rises to more than $5.8 trillion.

That amount of money, represented as a stack of $1 bills, would stretch more than 459,000 miles, to the Moon and nearly back again.

Based on 4 years of research, including access to previously classified government documents, "Atomic Audit" reveals that government officials have never fully understood either the annual or the cumulative costs associated with building and maintaining the nuclear stockpile and have never attempted to track the total costs over time. In fact, few government officials sought to find the answer.

This lack of oversight, when combined with pervasive nuclear secrecy, meant that U.S. officials could not weigh the perceived benefits of deterrence against its actual costs.

"In order to make informed decisions about how best to spend our tax dollars, the public and policymakers require accurate and timely information on how and why public funds are being expended," says Stephen I. Schwartz, the book's editor and Director of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Cost Study Project. "In the realm of nuclear policy, budgetary data have too often been fragmentary or unavailable, rendering such matters fiscally and politically unaccountable. Now, an honest and informed debate can finally begin."

Among the book's significant findings:

? From 1940 through 1996, expenditures for nuclear weapons exceeded the combined total federal spending on education, training, employment, and social services; agriculture; natural resources and the environment; general science and space research; community and regional development (including disaster relief); law enforcement; and energy production and regulation.

? Eighty-six percent of U.S. nuclear weapons expenditures went toward deploying offensive and defensive weapons and building and maintaining command, control, communications, and intelligence systems to facilitate their use. Seven percent of the total went toward developing and manufacturing the actual nuclear explosives-more than 70,000 warheads in all.

? Although the Cold War has ostensibly ended, U.S. nuclear weapons expenditures remain extraordinarily high. The U.S. currently spends $35 billion a year, or 14 percent of the defense budget, on these efforts. This amounts to more than $96 million a day. About $25 billion of the total goes toward operating and maintaining the nuclear arsenal, with the remainder used for managing and cleaning up nuclear waste, verifying arms control agreements, and conducting research into ballistic missile defenses.

? The U.S. now spends $4.5 billion a year on nuclear weapons research, development, testing and engineering through its "stockpile stewardship" program, up from the $3.7 billion annual average during the Cold War.

The costs of U.S. nuclear weapons are measured in more than just dollars.
For decades, U.S. officials ignored or downplayed the serious health and environmental costs of producing and testing nuclear weapons.

By one measure, an estimated 70,000 to 800,000 people worldwide have died or will die prematurely from a fatal cancer attributable to fallout from U.S. atmospheric testing. Thousands more were harmed when government officials placed the production of nuclear weapons ahead of the health and safety of workers and surrounding communities.

In the U.S. today, vast areas of land remain severely contaminated. Where cleanup can be accomplished at all, it will require hundreds of billions of dollars and extend to 2070 and beyond.

"Nuclear deterrence is often compared to an insurance policy," says Schwartz. "But few homeowners would purchase insurance without knowing their annual premiums. Fewer still would purchase a policy that by design increases the likelihood of the very event for which one was insured. Yet that is precisely what is happening."


Plutonium Sampling Update



by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 1998 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Background:

Plutonium, a dense, deadly, long-lived radioactive metal has been found in three Livermore parks above the amounts "expected" due to world-wide fallout from nuclear weapons tests. The highest levels were discovered in Big Trees Park, where concentrations measured up to 1,000 times higher than attributable to global fallout. The source of the plutonium is known to be Livermore Lab. Questions remain, however, regarding the extent of the contamination, the pathway(s) by which the plutonium traveled from the Lab to the community, whether there are other likely "hot spots" in the area and the extent to which the community gets to decide what is an "acceptable risk" for its children, among other things. Tri-Valley CAREs' long-standing efforts to bring attention to this problem received a boost when a report by state and federal health agencies recommended follow-up measures to address both the plutonium in the parks and the plutonium-contaminated sludge given to residents as a soil conditioner in the 1960s and 1970s. As our readers know, the Lab then jumped ahead of the public's ability to fully comment.

Where We Are Now:

Since then, we have won additional opportunities for public involvement--starting with extra time for community members to give input into the Lab's proposed sampling plan. Next, we got assurances the plan was, indeed, a "draft," and that public comments would be incorporated into a "draft final" and circulated before any plan was finalized. Through our Technical Assistance Grant with the EPA to monitor cleanup at the Lab, we were able to hire a technical advisor on sampling methods, Dr. Owen Hoffman of SENES of Oak Ridge. Too, we were also able to make his services available to the community members of the "Site Team" who are guiding the public health assessment process. (Copies of Tri-Valley CAREs' and SENES' comments are available on request.)

Next Steps:

DOE and the Lab plan to release a draft final sampling plan by the end of this month. The EPA will then sponsor a public meeting to discuss the plan in early August, before it is finalized and the sampling begins. (EPA has prepared a three-page fact sheet on the process, also available on request.)


Abolition News...


by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 1998 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

** Reps.: Lynn Woolsey has introduced House Resolution 479 to urge the Prez to start negotiations on a treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons. CA Reps. who have signed-on so far are: Stark, Lofgren, Miller & Filner. H Res. 479 is still open for cosponsors.

** Clerics: 75 U.S. Catholic bishops issued a report condemning the U.S.
policy of nuclear deterrence as "morally abhorrent" and an "excuse" for the continued possession and further development of nuclear weapons via "stockpile stewardship." Internationally, the Conference of the Franciscan Family issued a letter calling on nuclear nations to end the continued development of nuclear weapons and move to their "total elimination."

** Grassroots: Lots of activity here! Abolitionists in South Asia are mobilizing, including a new organization called MIND (Movement in India for Nuclear Disarmament). Closer to home, we will host the next No. CA gathering of Abolition 2000.

** Britain: The British gov't has announced it will unilaterally cut in half its Trident submarine-launched nuclear warheads. This initiative is thought to mean Britain will cancel the 7 new Trident missiles it had ordered from the U.S. Other elements are reported to include as yet unspecified changes in the "alert" status of the warheads and less secrecy in general. The Guardian newspaper followed up the announcement with an editorial titled: "Nuclear Virtue, But Why Deploy at All?"



** Print Bites: All the News That Fits to Print



by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 1998 newsletter, Citizens Watch

** Nuclear Mea Culpa. In a "think piece" titled Nuclear Reactions, Max Frankel, former executive editor of the New York Times wrote of the media: "Even as we campaigned against every other kind of segregation and discrimination, we rarely questioned the perverse logic of nonproliferation: that exclusion was a benefit for the excluded... [W]e should have insisted that 'I've got mine, Jack' is not a formula for communal safety... If I and other observers had resisted the nuclear club's double standard and exposed its hollow assumptions about human nature, the world might by now have devised more effective international controls over atomic weapons... Instead we have... provoked a chain reaction..."

** More "Low-Level" Plutonium, Anyone? A new government study on the Ward Valley low-level nuclear waste dump, commissioned by Barbara Boxer and George Miller, validates public suspicions about the safety of the proposed site and the record of the project's licensee, U.S. Ecology and its parent company. The GAO found that the parent company, American Ecology, had dumped much larger quantities of plutonium at its other "low-level" waste dumps than had previously been reported- including 450 pounds in WA, 47 pounds in NV and 140 pounds in KY. Initially, the company said that it would allow only a few ounces of plutonium into its Ward Valley, CA facility, but later it revised that number upward to 124 pounds. The GAO found that numerous environmental issues remain unresolved at Ward Valley, including the possibility the dump may contaminate the Colorado River. In other Ward Valley news, the state PUC reported that the new dump will likely cost Californians $1 billion in higher electric bills. This is because of a requirement that Calif. utilities use Ward Valley if it opens, regardless of the cost.

** Now for Some High-Level Waste. The state Attorney General's Office recently declined to file a lawsuit requested by the CA Coastal Commission to stop DOE's plans to transport nuclear fuel rods via the Concord Naval Weapons Station through northern CA and the Feather River Canyon, and on to Idaho. In June, the Commission voiced concern over the plan's possible impact on fisheries, as the nuclear cargo will compete with oil tankers while navigating under the Golden Gate and up the Carquinez strait. DOE refused to agree to additional review, so the Commission had sought help from the Attorney General, saying it had a good case despite an earlier legal loss by Contra Costa County and the City of Concord. DOE maintains it may begin shipping the nuclear rods sometime later this month. Stay tuned.

** And Transuranic Waste, too. Here the news is a little more encouraging.
Our colleagues in New Mexico have succeeded in delaying the opening of WIPP once again. DOE told a federal court judge it would not attempt to send any TRU waste to WIPP at least until August 14, the day the judge plans to rule on our friends' motion for preliminary injunction.

The ** Print Bites this month appear to share a common thread: Nuclear weapons and nuclear waste threaten the safety of all life. We need to undertake a scientifically and publicly credible process for making decisions about the nuclear waste we have already generated, and, most of all, we need to stop making more!


Action Alert -- Phone and Boycott Nestle'



from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 1998 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

with thanks to Grandmothers for Peace, International, the organization spearheading the boycott

Nestle', Nukes and Armageddon: Call 1-800-258-6728

The movie "Armageddon" has a theme inspired by Livermore Lab - nukes to save us from asteroids. Further, Nestle' has decided to capitalize on the movie with a new "Nuclear Chocolate" candy bar for our children, complete with a "Chocolate Chain Reaction" logo. In a statement, Nestle' said: "The word 'nuclear' is used in a fun, 'cool' manner to communicate the product's energy." Call and tell Nestle' that there is nothing fun or cool about nuclear weapons, nuclear fallout or nuclear waste. Join this boycott.


Tri-Valley CAREs' -- "Inner Visions"


by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 1998 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

We extend our appreciation to all who contributed to the thoughtful and heartfelt discussion that surrounded our name change. After going around the room at our June meeting, so that each person had an opportunity to speak, the group decided to become Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment).

Community is a key concept as we sincerely struggle daily, albeit imperfectly, toward a world in which power is acknowledged and practiced as an outgrowth of cooperation instead of a product of domination. At the same time, as Don so eloquently put it at the meeting, we wish to continue to ally ourselves with all "good citizens," a term that in our view encompasses the courageous individuals born of all nations who "protest war and the destruction of the environment" as a core value of their global citizenship. The work of abolishing nuclear weapons and safeguarding our communities from toxic threats continues. Thus, we who engage both each other and the effort to create positive change are strengthened by our time together, and will "keep on keeping on" with it.

Next, we are considering changing the name of the newsletter- perhaps to "Community Watch." However, the "Nuclear Weapons Complex Watchdog," with "Watchdog" set-off in bigger letters, also has appeal. If you have some ideas, let us hear them. We will be revamping the masthead to incorporate our logo, at a minimum.

Finally, a number of us participated in a Saturday strategic planning retreat, focusing mostly on Tri-Valley CAREs' 1998 and 1999 goals and challenges - with respect to achieving our program objectives and developing further as an organization. Notes will be handed out at our July meeting. And, we invite you to join in these endeavors!

Marylia Kelley
Tri-Valley CAREs
(Communities Against a Radioactive Environment) 5720 East Ave. #116, Livermore, CA USA 94550

www.igc.org/tvc/ is our website, currently under construction (925) 443-7148 - is our phone
(925) 443-0177 - is our fax

Working for peace, justice and a healthy environment since 1983, Tri-Valley CAREs has been a member of the nation-wide Alliance for Nuclear Accountability in the U.S. since 1989, and is a co-founding member of the international Abolition 2000 network for the elimination of nuclear weapons in 1995.

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