by Judith Mohling (Peace Train)
My friend, Matt Nicodemus sang and played his wonderful composition about caring for the world at a Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center gathering recently. The chorus goes, “This is our world, We’re gonna do what we need to, Take care of it.” Being with others after a delicious picnic under a gorgeous sunset singing this together was powerful. Yes, we must take care of our world!
Many people think that one way to take care of our world is to use nuclear power. But with the nuclear industry’s history of radioactive leaks, accidents, the clear connection to nuclear weapons production, and the fact that production of electricity from splitting apart uranium atoms is an inherently unstable process liable at any moment to be out of control, it certainly doesn’t seem to be safe, or clean or logical. There is also the problem of nuclear waste and the fact that there is no place on earth where the waste from the nuclear reactors that produce nuclear power can be stored safely.
The intimate connection between nuclear power production and nuclear weapons is inescapable. “Because nuclear weapons are designed to be the Hammer of God, the ultimate arbiter of power, any country that is under external threat will logically seek to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent—which was their stated benefit and contribution to world peace,” according to Friends of the Earth who also point out the extremely polluting and dangerous mining and refining of uranium necessary to run nuclear plants and the thousands of tons of CO2 the plants emit.
And, they add, one in five uranium miners in the Southwest has contracted some form of cancer.
It may be possible that the U.S. government and other governments around the world are attracted to nuclear power not for its supposed “environmental benefits” but that they want more nuclear power because of its connection to nuclear weapons production. For example,North Korea—a country that didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction—watched the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and quickly drew the logical conclusion that it needed to develop and test its own nuclear weapon as fast as possible. This fact is well understood by the U.S. government, which is doing all it can to prevent a nuclear power program developing in Iran despite Iran having the legal right to do so.
So, those in the anti–nuclear power movement have always argued that it is the link between military and civilian nuclear programs, which drives a new and even more terrifying arms race.
There are four states with undeclared stockpiles of nuclear weapons developed from civil programs, and it is no coincidence that they are in some of the most volatile, militarized—and hence dangerous—areas of the world: Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea. Experts estimate forty more countries are capable of developing nuclear weapons as the nuclear club continues to expand.
Ex-president Jimmy Carter has accused the United States of being at the forefront of efforts to undermine the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) after setting up a nuclear technology exchange with India in 2005 that revealed that the United States was committed to a “first strike” policy—even against countries without nuclear weapons: “The United States is the major culprit in the erosion of the NPT. While claiming to be protecting the world from proliferation threats in Iraq, Libya, Iran and North Korea…the U also have abandoned past pledges and now threaten first use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states.