Bush Pushes Nuclear Weapons Development In U.S.
By Sarah Olson
t r u t h o u t Report
Friday 01, September 2006
In the face of increased Congressional opposition to US nuclear weapons development, the Bush administration appears to be making an end run around governmental checks and balances. The bizarrely named Divine Strake project is a 700-ton explosive experiment, first scheduled to detonate at the Nevada Test Site in June of this year. Thanks to furious grass-roots opposition to the proposal, Divine Strake has been twice delayed, and is currently projecting a detonation date of no sooner than early 2007.
But as the Department of Defense attempts to justify this explosion, many say the government is simply obfuscating and delaying: the blast, they say, is a simulated nuclear explosion designed to provide important test and calibration data for existing and possibly new nuclear weapons. It will happen at the Nevada Test Site after the elections, and it will kick up a 10,000-foot mushroom cloud potentially full of Cold War-era radioactive dust.
Further, as the UN Security Council deadline for Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program passes, and hostilities throughout the Middle East increase, many find the possible threat of US nuclear weapons development to be an unnecessary exacerbation of hostilities. The Bush administration, they say, is engaging belligerent nuclear swashbuckling, and as a result, it is putting US citizens in danger.
What Is Divine Strake And Why Should We Care?
Divine Strake is a planned test explosion managed by the Department of Defense's combat support organization, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). According to DTRA spokesperson Irene Smith, "Divine Strake would consist of a surface detonation of 700 tons of ammonium nitrate-fuel oil, or ANFO, above a tunnel, constructed for multiple research efforts. The amount of explosive was selected to produce the energy needed to cause differing levels of ground shock - severe to light - along the length of the tunnel."
Divine Strake is not a nuclear weapons test; it's also not a conventional weapons test. It is simply 700 tons of explosives deposited into the ground and detonated. According to Smith "Divine Strake would not use a nuclear device or nuclear weapon materials, and would not test a weapon." Perhaps it is the uncertainty of precisely what Divine Strake is all about that has local activists so concerned; that, and the threat of a 700-ton explosive disturbing the Cold War-era radioactive dust.
There are two largely interconnected types of objection to the Divine Strake explosion. The first is that Divine Strake appears to be a test to simulate a nuclear weapons explosion, and as such it puts the United States on a path towards a new generation of nuclear weapons. The second is that if Divine Strake were to be detonated at the Nevada Test Site, the blast is likely to unsettle radioactive dust from the Cold War-era nuclear tests.
Utah Congressman Jim Matheson wrote DTRA's director that he was greatly concerned that Divine Strake was an attempt to build low-yield nuclear devices. The DTRA budget, Matheson writes, "states that the demonstration 'will develop a planning tool that will improve the warfighter's confidence in selecting the smallest proper nuclear yield necessary to destroy underground facilities while minimizing collateral damage.' That sounds like preparation for a low-yield nuclear weapon to me."
'Children Of The Bomb'
Preston J. Truman is the director of Downwinders, an organization advocating for the rights of those downwind from Cold War-era atomic testing at the Nevada Test Site. He was born in 1951, the year the atomic testing started. "It was like a big carnival," Truman says. "We were encouraged to go watch history being made. The government said there was no danger."
First the sheep in the area started dying. Then people began to die too. A 1997 National Cancer Institute Study - the most comprehensive study of the effects of atomic testing at the Nevada Test Site to date - estimated fallout from nuclear weapons testing generated anywhere from 10,000 to 75,000 cases of thyroid cancer. Political activism in the 1980s revealed documents admitting the government knew the danger to downwind populations, even at the time of the tests.
According to Truman, this disaster is easily repeatable. "Divine Strake is just a steady step toward resuming testing. Another round of nuclear weapons development could make us all downwinders."
A lawsuit filed on behalf of two Western Shoshone tribes and downwinders from Nevada and Utah is attempting to stop Divine Strake based on these same health concerns. Attorney Robert Hager accused the Department of Defense and Bechtel of Nevada of "junk science" and intentionally failing to conduct proper soil samples.
Opposition to nuclear testing and nuclear weapons development isn't a radical issue for people in the southwest, according to Truman. Nearly everyone knows someone who has cancer. Nearly everyone in his generation has been affected by the tests. "Those of us who were children of the bomb are in charge now. We said, 'You're not going to do this to our children. To our grandchildren. No more downwinders. Enough.'"
HEAL Utah's Vanessa Pierce agrees this is an issue shared by many in the west. "When you lose a part of yourself because the federal government put you in harm's way, that's not a transgression you can ever forgive or forget. This goes to the very core of human survival."
'Divine Strake Is An Important Wake-Up Call'
Jacqueline Cabasso is the executive director of the Western States Legal Foundation. She says it's important to understand that Divine Strake is not a nuclear weapons test; it's a test to evaluate the effect of existing nuclear weapons. This distinction should not mollify concern about nuclear weapons use. To the contrary..
Worse still, she says, the US public doesn't fully understand the reality of US nuclear position. "There is no public discussion or debate about US nuclear weapons. Their existence, their purpose, or their future. Yet they are integrally related to our wars."
"In every aspect, the nuclear weapons program is moving forward. Billions of dollars have been spent. This Divine Strake test is a tiny point of this program that has become visible. But there are many interconnected programs also happening just below the radar of public scrutiny." For example, on Wednesday, even as we discussed Divine Strake, the Nevada Test Site was conducting a subcritical nuclear test.
Divine Strake has a certain symbolic importance. The more the US appears to be considering nuclear weapons use - appears to be moving forward with nuclear weapons development and testing - the more other countries will consider themselves in danger. But, Cabasso says, it's important to consider Divine Strake within the context of the existing nuclear arsenal and the ongoing conventional weapons testing. "This is just one of many, many ongoing tests. Divine Strake should be seen as a wake-up call."
NUCLEAR WASTE SITE LOOKS DOOMED!
Utah politicians praise decisions by BIA, BLM
By Suzanne Struglinski Deseret Morning News
Friday, September 8th, 2006
WASHINGTON — Private Fuel Storage no longer has a lease to use tribal lands to store nuclear waste in Tooele County in the wake of decisions made by two Interior Department agencies Thursday.
Utah politicians said the decisions leave almost no chance that the waste shipments will come to the state.
"This is the period at the end of the sentence," Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said. "It does it for us. This is the best news Utah has received in a long time."
In two separate decisions, the Bureau of Indian Affairs disapproved a lease that allowed PFS to use Skull Valley Goshute Indian reservation land, and the Bureau of Land Management refused to grant the rights of way needed to build transportation methods needed to move tons of used nuclear fuel through the state and to the storage site.
"They can't get it to the reservation, and they have no site because they have no lease," said Denise Chancellor, Utah assistant attorney general. "I believe this is the end of the line."
The decisions create more tough obstacles for PFS. The company received its license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission earlier this year, lost several original investors and still waits for a response from the government to a request they do business together. PFS was originally made up a eight nuclear utilities that wanted to create an interim storage site for 40,000 tons of nuclear waste because the permanent federal storage site is so overdue.
The federal site, now planned for Nevada's Yucca Mountain, was supposed to open in 1998, but will not open until at least the next decade. Most utilities store spent fuel on site but face rising costs or space constraints.
Chancellor said she felt "euphoric" Thursday, reflecting on the 10-year battle against the project. The state fought against the project getting a license and still has a legal case pending in federal appeals court against it. She said from a legal standpoint, these are final decisions issued by the Interior Department, and she could not think how they could be changed.
"PFS is dead. It's that simple," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who announced the Interior Department decision Thursday. Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, said the department did what "we expected them to do."
"This comes as very welcome news," Cannon said.
Private Fuel Storage spokeswoman Sue Martin said neither she nor consortium chairman John Parkyn had received or reviewed the documents from the Interior Department late Thursday, so she could not comment on their contents.
"We have to take a look at exactly what their reasoning is and what this all consists of," Martin said. She added that Hatch's proclamation that the project is dead "is a bit premature." Hatch, however, said that any notion that PFS could still put waste in Utah after Thursday's news is "pure hogwash."
"With this action, all but one nail has been driven into the PFS coffin," said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah. "Now we just have to get PFS to surrender its license. Putting an above-ground, high-level nuclear storage dump right next to a test and bombing range never made sense, and it never will."
NAJA Receives $90,000 Grant From Ford Foundation
VERMILLION, S.D._The Native American Journalists Association has received a $90,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to enhance general operations and educational programs to better serve a growing membership.
The three-year grant will allow NAJA to continue improving or creating a variety of projects, including a radio camp for high school students next year. A majority of the grant, however, will be used to supplement an education director's salary and improve office operations.
"Students are a big portion of our organization," NAJA President Mike Kellogg (Navajo) said. "It is important to have someone in a position to handle their needs."
Jon Funabiki, former deputy director of Ford's Media, Arts and Culture Unit who has been working with NAJA for several years, said giving to NAJA was an investment in the future.
"The Ford Foundation is delighted to offer support to the Native American Journalists Association, both through this new grant of $90,000 and through the Challenge Fund for Journalism," Funabiki said.
"We believe that NAJA and its members play a critical role in strengthening both Native American media and the mainstream media's news coverage of Native communities. Sadly, stereotypes, bias and lack of understanding continue to seep into the news media's depiction of Native American communities and concerns. We look to NAJA to provide leadership on these issues."
The grant also will be used for leadership and fundraising training for NAJA's board of directors, marketing strategies to promote membership, and leadership training for staff. NAJA also plans to update equipment for office personnel.
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