Category Archives: kernwapens | nuclear weapons

Marshall Islands suing India, Pak, UK for not stopping N-race. Here’s why

CATCH News | Aleesha Matharu | 8 March 2016

Marshall Islands, a US protectorate until 1986, is trying to press India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom to curb their nuclear programmes.

And it has a very good reason for making this move. In the early days of the Cold War, the United States detonated 67 nuclear bombs over the Marshall Islands as part of its atomic weapons test programme.

Now, over a half-century later, the small Pacific nation will at last have its day in court.

The island nation has filed nine lawsuits – Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and the US – alleging that despite their suffering, the world’s nuclear powers have failed to comply with the terms of the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Britain has signed the NPT, but not India and Pakistan. Together, the three countries are expected to argue that the Marshall Island’s claims are beyond the Hague court’s jurisdiction and should not proceed any further.

Yet activists have said just getting the case to the United Nations was a victory in itself.

While the US has refused to participate, preliminary hearings are underway for the first time at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague in what many activists see as a step towards highlighting the issue of nuclear disarmament.

“It’s a shame that the other six nuclear armed states have decided that for them there was no need to respond,” said Phon van den Biesen, a lawyer for the Marshall Islands.

Will this accomplish anything?

The Marshall Islands is pursuing global disarmament as a result of its “particular awareness of the dire consequences of nuclear weapons,” according to court documents.

While it seems unlikely that the lawsuits will result in complete disarmament by world powers, but the hearings show that global tribunals can give a voice – however slight – to small nations.

Also, the International Court of Justice hasn’t issued an opinion on nuclear weapons since 1996. As Dapo Akande, professor of international law at Oxford University, told Reuters: “The success will be in putting the issue back on the agenda. … This is as much as the Marshall Islands can hope for.”

What damage was done by the tests by the US?

Several of its atolls were vaporised entirely. Many people were killed and over the ensuing year, people suffered birth defects never seen before and cancer as a result of contamination.

Tony deBrum, a Marshall Islands representative, said he watched one of the US nuclear tests in his home country as a nine-year-old boy while fishing with his grandfather.

“The entire sky turned blood red,” he told judges.

Bikini Atoll, which hosted 23 nuclear tests, remains uninhabitable. While the descendants of the residents relocated prior to the nuclear testing have long wanted to return to the atoll, residual radiation has forced them to remain in exile.

A 2012 UN report estimates that the atoll suffers from “near-irreversible environmental contamination.”

On the island of Runit, in nearby Enewetak Atoll, the US military constructed a massive concrete dome to house tons of radioactive waste.

Never meant as a permanent fix, the dome now leaks radioactive materials into the surrounding environment.

In 2014, the Two-Way reported on the lasting impact of those tests: “Although islanders were relocated from Bikini and Eniwetok atolls – ground zero for the majority of the tests – three other Marshall atolls underwent emergency evacuations in 1954 after they were unexpectedly exposed to radioactive fallout. The Marshallese say they’ve suffered serious health issues ever since.”

So why isn’t Marshall Islands dragging the US to court?

It tried.

As the Two-Way reported when the case was filed in 2014, the island chain attempted to file suit against all nine countries believed to possess a nuclear arsenal: “In court documents, the Marshall Islands argues that the 1958 NPT, which did not come into force until 1970, amounts to a compact between nuclear haves and have-nots. Non-weapons states essentially agreed not to try to acquire nuclear weapons in exchange for weapons states moving toward disarmament, the Marshalls says.”

Why is India complying?

The ICJ has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan because they already recognised the ICJ’s authority.

Despite not having signed the NPT, India and Pakistan had an obligation under “customary international law” to negotiate and eventually reduce their nuclear arsenals.

“Contrary to the obligation to pursue in good faith negotiations on nuclear disarmament… India’s conduct includes the quantitative build-up and improvement of its nuclear arsenal,” deBrum said.

Armed with new U.S. money, NATO to strengthen Russia deterrence

Reuters | Robin Emmott – Brussels | Feb 5, 2016

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg holds a news conference during a meeting of the NATO foreign affairs ministers at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 1, 2015.  REUTERS/Yves Herman

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg holds a news conference during a meeting of the NATO foreign affairs ministers at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 1, 2015. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Backed by an increase in U.S. military spending, NATO is planning its biggest build-up in eastern Europe since the Cold War to deter Russia but will reject Polish demands for permanent bases.

Worried since Russia’s seizure of Crimea that Moscow could rapidly invade Poland or the Baltic states, the Western military alliance wants to bolster defenses on its eastern flank without provoking the Kremlin by stationing large forces permanently.

NATO defense ministers will next week begin outlining plans for a complex web of small eastern outposts, forces on rotation, regular war games and warehoused equipment ready for a rapid response force. That force includes air, maritime and special operations units of up to 40,000 personnel.

The allies are also expected to offer Moscow a renewed dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council, which has not met since 2014, about improved military transparency to avoid surprise events and misunderstandings, a senior NATO diplomat said.

U.S. plans for a four-fold increase in military spending in Europe to $3.4 billion in 2017 are central to the strategy, which has been shaped in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

The plans are welcomed by NATO whose chief, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, says it will mean “more troops in the eastern part of the alliance … the pre-positioning of equipment, tanks, armored vehicles … more exercises and more investment in infrastructure.”

Such moves will reinforce the message from U.S. President Barack Obama, in a speech he delivered in Estonia in 2014, that NATO will help ensure the independence of the three Baltic states, which for decades were part of the Soviet Union.

Lithuanian Defense Minister Juozas Olekas openly described Russia as a threat in comments to Reuters last June, but many European countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are wary of upsetting the continent’s biggest energy supplier.

With such concerns paramount, diplomats and officials say NATO will not back requests for permanent bases by Poland, which has a history of fraught relations with Russia.

“I am a great proponent of strong deterrents and to improve our resilience, but I do think that the best way to do it is to do it on a rotational basis,” Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert told Reuters.

Stoltenberg has also said he will not be “dragged into an arms race.”

Russia has made clear it would regard any moves to bring NATO infrastructure closer to its borders a threat and the Kremlin has warned it would take “reciprocal steps.”

Western powers’ relations with Russia have deteriorated over the almost two-year-old conflict in Ukraine but the West also need Russia’s help in dealing with terrorism and the battle against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

PERSISTENT, NOT PERMANENT

If approved by Congress, Washington says one U.S. armored brigade combat team’s vehicles and equipment will be stored in warehouses in Germany and the east, from Bulgaria to Estonia.

Moving equipment nearer a potential front is seen as crucial to be able to combat quickly Russia’s surface-to-air missile batteries and anti-ship missiles in its Kaliningrad exclave that can prevent forces from entering or moving across air, land and sea.

A study by the RAND Corporation, a U.S. defense think tank, found tat Russia could overrun the Baltics states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania within three days, leaving NATO and the United States no good options to respond.

While avoiding a return to the Cold War when 300,000 U.S. service personnel were stationed in Europe, NATO generals describe it as a “persistent” but not a “permanent” presence, and want to adhere to a 1997 agreement with Moscow not to station substantial combat forces on the NATO-Russia border.

Some diplomats say NATO’s plans recall allied support for West Berlin in the 1950s, when British, French and U.S. forces ensured the Soviet Union could not control all Berlin, although this time many more countries would rotate through.

“You will have small contingents in the east as a symbolic presence. It means you are not just attacking Estonia, but Britain, France or the United States,” said one NATO diplomat.

That drives home the commitment enshrined in NATO’s founding treaty that an attack on one ally is an attack on all, meaning all 28 NATO nations would be required to respond in the case of any potential Russian aggression.

“NO RAMSTEIN IN POLAND”

Details of the plan are far from finalised and the defense ministers meeting next week in Brussels will seek political agreement among all allies before mapping out the strategy. Issues such as how NATO nuclear weapons in Western Europe could play into any potential conflict are extremely sensitive.

Allies say there will not be permanent NATO bases in Poland or the Baltics despite strong campaigning by the new conservative Polish government. Warsaw will host the next summit of NATO leaders in July and sees offers of British and French troops for exercises as signaling a permanent presence, though diplomats deny this is the case.

“There will not be another Ramstein in Poland,” said one NATO diplomat, referring to a large U.S. Air Force base in southwestern Germany.

Poland will, however, be expected to host NATO allies at its bases temporarily and share some costs.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott, Editing by Paul Taylor and Timothy Heritage)

 

Jeremy Corbyn ‘to address 50,000 in biggest anti-nuclear demonstration for a generation’

The Telegraph | Ben Riley-Smith | 26 January 2016

Labour leader to join march through central London on February 27 as anti-Trident campaign gears up ahead of expected vote in March

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Labour is locked in an internal debate about its stance on renewing Trident Photo: MoD Crown Copyright

Jeremy Corbyn will address an estimated 50,000 people in Trafalgar Square in the biggest anti-nuclear march for a generation as campaigners begin a “mass lobby” of MPs over Trident.

With a parliamentary vote expected as early as March, MPs were approached in their constituencies over the weekend by Trident critics in a “coordinated” drive to convince them to scrap the nuclear deterrent.

A mass email campaign is expected in the coming weeks to increase pressure on those MPs – especially in the Labour Party – who are undecided over renewal.

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leaderJeremy Corbyn, Labour leader  Photo: Nick Edwards/The Telegraph

Campaigners want to deliver a message to Parliament that spending more than £100 billion on Trident renewal during a period of austerity is a “ridiculous diversion of funds”.

However Trident backers fear a repeat of the pressure that Labour MPs faced before the Syrian air strikes vote, which triggered complaints of bullying and intimidation.

The Labour leader will put himself at the front of the campaign alongside Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, by attending a march through central London on February 27, according to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s (CND) website.

Two campaign sources told The Telegraph that Mr Corbyn has confirmed he would be attending the demonstration.

TridentTrident  Photo: PA

A message on CND’s website reads: “Join us to say No to government plans to buy a new system at a cost of over £100 billion. Parliament will be voting on this in 2016. So this is urgent – we can’t delay.”

Around 10,000 people have already signed up and some backers hope more than 50,000 people will attend – though others are reluctant to predict turnout.

A campaign source said: “We are hoping to make it the biggest demonstration against nuclear weapons since the 1980s. We are really going all out to make this as big as possible.”

Both Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, and Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru’s leader, are expected to attend.

Pro-Trident renewal: Tom Watson (clockwise from tpo left), Hilary Benn, Andy Burnham, Vernon Coaker, Gloria De Piero, Lord Falconer of ThorotonPro-Trident renewal: Tom Watson (clockwise from tpo left), Hilary Benn, Andy Burnham, Vernon Coaker, Gloria De Piero, Lord Falconer of Thoroton

A mass leafleting campaign is also being planned, with CND urging opponents of Trident to distribute campaign literature at train stations, churches and community centres.

A “coordinated” move to lobby MPs at constituency events was also held over the weekend with hundreds of politicians understood to have been targeted.

With the SNP opposing Trident and the vast majority of Tories expected to back renewal, Labour MPs are seen as the key undecided voters when Parliament is asked to make a decision.

The Telegraph revealed earlier this week that less than a quarter of Mr Corbyn’s shadow campaign back his opposition of Trident renewal – though the Labour leader’s allies believe MPs are more evenly divided.

Mr Corbyn’s office has been approached for a comment.

Air Force withheld nuclear mishap from Pentagon review team

AP | Robert Burns | January 23, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the spring of 2014, as a team of experts was examining what ailed the U.S. nuclear force, the Air Force withheld from them the fact that it was simultaneously investigating damage to a nuclear-armed missile in its launch silo caused by three airmen.

The Air Force on Friday gave The Associated Press the first substantive description of the accident after being questioned about it by the AP for more than a year.

The accident happened May 17, 2014, at an underground launch silo containing a Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM. The silo, designated Juliet-07, is situated among wheat fields and wind turbines about 9 miles west of Peetz, Colorado. It is controlled by launch officers of the 320th Missile Squadron and administered by the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base at Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The Air Force said that while three airmen were troubleshooting the missile, a “mishap” occurred, causing $1.8 million in damage to the missile. The service declined to explain the nature of the mishap, such as whether it caused physical damage, saying the information is too sensitive to be made public.

The three airmen were immediately stripped of their certification to perform nuclear weapons duty. The missile was taken offline and removed from its silo. No one was injured and the Air Force said the accident posed no risk to public safety.

More than a year later the three airmen were recertified and returned to duty.

At the time of the accident, a group of nuclear weapons experts was nearing the end of a three-month independent review of the entire U.S. nuclear force, an examination prompted in part by a series of AP stories on troubles within the force. The experts were operating on orders from then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who asked them to begin their review in March. They reported their results to him June 2.

The AP asked Lt. Col. John Sheets, spokesman for the Air Force Global Strike Command, which is responsible for the ICBM force, whether the May 17 accident had been reported to the Hagel-appointed review group. The experts were looking at a range of issues, including shortcomings in training, equipment, morale and leadership.

“No. The accident was going through the investigative process when” the review teams made their visits to ICBM bases, Sheets said. Pressed further, he said he could say no more and referred questions about this to the Pentagon, which did not immediately comment.

The Accident Investigation Board did not begin its work until Aug. 25, more than three months after the mishap. A safety investigation was begun sometime earlier. The Air Force denied an AP request for the accident investigation report in 2015 under the Freedom of Information Act.

Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said Saturday the fact that the Hagel review group was not told about the accident “raises questions about what other accidents and incidents may have been overlooked by that investigation.”

On Friday evening, the AP was given a brief summary of the report. It said the Minuteman 3 missile “became nonoperational” during a diagnostic test on the evening of May 16, 2014. The next morning a “mishap crew” chief, who was not identified, “did not correctly adhere to technical guidance” during troubleshooting efforts, “subsequently damaging the missile.” No further details about the damage or errors were disclosed.

The investigation report summary said there were four contributing factors to the accident, and two were identified. One was the mishap chief’s failure to follow technical guidance. The other was that the mishap chief “lacked the necessary proficiency level” to anticipate the consequences of his actions during the troubleshooting.

In seeming contradiction of that second point, the Air Force said in its separate statement to the AP that the mishap team chief was properly trained for the task he was performing.

Sheets said it is possible that some or all of the three could still face disciplinary action.

The summary said the central cause of the mishap was established by “clear and convincing evidence,” but the Air Force would not disclose the cause or the evidence. It said the cause is cited in the investigation report. The Air Force refused to make that public, saying the report is classified, even though the service’s own policy requires the public release of accident board reports.

The amount of damage to the missile — $1.8 million, according to the Air Force — suggests that the airmen’s errors might have caused physical damage, Kristensen said. If so, he said, it could have been categorized by the Air Force as a “Bent Spear” event, which is an official reporting code word for a significant nuclear weapon incident. The Air Force refused to reveal how it categorized the Juliet-07 accident.

“By keeping the details of the accident secret and providing only vague responses, the Air Force behaves as if it has something to hide and undermines public confidence in the safety of the ICBM mission,” Kristensen said.

Sheets, the Global Strike Command spokesman, said Pentagon leaders were briefed on the results of the accident investigation in December. Members of Congress also were briefed, he said.

US Asia Rebalance Still Lacks Direction, Resources: Study

A new think tank report takes Washington’s Asia strategy to task and suggests how to boost it.

The Diplomat | Prashanth Parameswaran | January 21, 2016

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The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) transits the Pacific Ocean with ships assigned to Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2010.
Image Credit: U.S. Navy Photo

More than four years after it was first unveiled, the Obama administration’s pivot or rebalance to the Asia-Pacific lacks the necessary direction and resources to secure U.S. interests, a new think tank report released this week argues.

The report, an independent assessment commissioned by the U.S. Congress under the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, notes that the United States has still yet to articulate a clear Asia-Pacific strategy and adequately resource it even in the face of rising threats to American interests, particularly from a more capable and risk-tolerant China.

“[T]he study team is concerned that the administration’s rebalance effort may be insufficient to secure these interests,” the study, “Asia Pacific Rebalance 2025: Capabilities, Presence and Partnerships,” published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), argues.

To address this, the report makes four sets of recommendations. First, given the confusion still heard about the rebalance strategy within the U.S. government and across the Asia-Pacific, it suggests better aligning Asia strategy at home and abroad through several measures, including preparing an Asia-Pacific strategic report, better aligning strategy and resources, and increasing administration outreach to Congress.

“Addressing this confusion will require that the executive branch develop and then articulate a clear and coherent strategy and discuss that strategy with Congress as well as with allies and partners across the world,” the study argues.

Second, with security challenges increasingly outpacing the capabilities of regional states, the report recommends strengthening U.S. allies and partners. To do so, it calls for a “differentiated strategy” that includes a federated approach sharing capabilities with highly-capable allies like Japan and Australia as well as boosting maritime security in less capable Southeast Asian states. It also suggests the formation of a standing U.S. joint task force for the western Pacific to establish clearer U.S. command and control relationships as well as deepening U.S. humanitarian assistance and disaster relief expertise and efforts in the region.

“The United States seeks and benefits from the success of all states throughout the region, so building ally and partner security capabilities is in the U.S. interest,” the report noted.

Third, to contend with growing challenges and alleviate concerns at home and abroad about the sustainability of U.S. force posture, the report recommends that the United States expand its military presence in the region. The authors identified initiatives to address capability gaps in ten areas: base realignment, surface fleet presence, undersea warfare, amphibious warfare, air supremacy, missile defense, ground force mission sets, logistics, munitions, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).

“Forward presence, including forces deployed, is central to U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific and strengthening U.S. military posture in these areas will require a sustained commitment and additional resources,” the study said.

Fourth, the authors emphasize that the United States should accelerate the development of capabilities and concepts to ensure it can deter and prevail in potential conflicts. Here, the authors identify capability gaps in two types of areas in particular: those required to offset an emerging risk to U.S. forces such as the growing ballistic missile risk to U.S. ships and forward bases, and those that Washington could develop to provide an asymmetric counter to potential regional competitors. These include the undersea domain, additional air combat systems, as well as space, cyber and electronic warfare capabilities.

“The United States must update existing concepts and capabilities to ensure that the future force is capable of deterring and prevailing in potential conflicts,” the authors wrote.

US airmen damage nuclear missile as ‘troubleshooting’ mission goes wrong

The air force stripped the three airmen of their nuclear certification following the incident in 2014 and quietly launched an accident investigation

The Guardian | AP | 23 January 2016

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Gen. Robin Rand is in command of Air Force Global Strike Command. Errors by three airmen troubleshooting a nuclear missile in its launch silo in 2014 triggered a “mishap” that damaged the missile, causing the Air Force to withdraw the airmen’s nuclear certification and launch an accident investigation. Photograph: Airman 1st Class Mozer Da Cunha/AP

Errors by three airmen troubleshooting a nuclear missile in its launch silo in 2014 triggered a “mishap” that damaged the missile, prompting the Air Force to strip the airmen of their nuclear certification and quietly launch an accident investigation.

In a statement, the Air Force declined to provide details of the incident or a copy of the report produced last November by the Accident Investigation Board, saying the information was classified and too sensitive to be made public.

Under the Air Force’s own regulations, Accident Investigation Board reports are supposed to be made public. The Air Force did release a brief summary to the Associated Press after it repeatedly sought answers for more than a year. The summary said the full report was classified by General Robin Rand, who took over as commander of Air Force Global Strike Command in July 2015.

The Air Force said the accident caused no injuries and posed no risk to public safety. It said top Pentagon officials were briefed on the results of the investigation in December, as were members of Congress.

The damaged missile was removed from its underground silo, which is designated Juliet-07 and placed among wheat fields and wind turbines about nine miles west of Peetz, Colorado. The silo, one of 10 in a cluster that straddles the Colorado-Nebraska border, is controlled by launch officers of the 320th Missile Squadron and administered by the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.

The accident follows a period of turmoil inside the nuclear missile corps amid an emerging national debate about the costs and benefits of investing hundreds of billions of dollars to modernize the entire strategic nuclear force at a time when war craft is changing.

The Minuteman 3 is the only land-based intercontinental ballistic missile in the nuclear force. First deployed in 1970, it long ago exceeded its planned service life, and the Air Force is developing plans for a replacement.

The Air Force’s brief summary of the Juliet-07 mishap said the Minuteman 3 missile “became non-operational” during a diagnostic test on the evening of 16 May, 2014. The next morning a “mishap crew” chief, who was not identified, “did not correctly adhere to technical guidance” during troubleshooting efforts, “subsequently damaging the missile.” No further details about the damage or errors were revealed.

The investigation report summary said the actual cause of the accident, established by “clear and convincing evidence,” is classified. It said there were four contributing factors to the accident, of which it identified two. One was the mishap chief’s failure to follow technical guidance. The other was that the mishap chief “lacked the necessary proficiency level” to anticipate the consequences of his actions during the troubleshooting.

In seeming contradiction of that second point, the Air Force said in its separate statement to the AP that the mishap team chief was properly trained for the task he was performing. It said he and two other airmen on his team were immediately stripped of their certification to work with nuclear weapons. They remained decertified for “over a year,” until they were retrained and returned to nuclear duty.

Lt. Col. John Sheets, spokesman for Air Force Global Strike Command, said it is possible that some or all of the three could still face disciplinary action.

To prevent a recurrence of their mistake and the accident it caused, the Air Force said it has “strengthened” technical guidance, modified training curriculum and shared information about the conditions that led to the mishap with other units that operate Minuteman 3 missiles.

Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein was commander of the ICBM force at the time of the incident. The AP requested an interview with him but the Air Force declined to make him available. Weinstein is now the top staff officer on nuclear matters at Air Force headquarters in the Pentagon.

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The Pentagon. Photograph: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images

At times the Air Force has been slow to acknowledge its nuclear missteps. In 2014 then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed concern that personnel failures were squandering public trust in the nuclear force.

The most recent previous Air Force investigation of an accident at an ICBM launch silo was in 2008. That investigation, which was publicly released, found that a fire in a launcher equipment room went undetected for five days. It uncovered the remarkable fact that the Air Force was using duct tape on cables linked to the missile.

Nuclear workers show America’s darker side

The Island Packet | Editorial | December 19. 2015

The numbers are sobering. The problem is immense.

In a special report presented over the past week, our fellow McClatchy journalists put faces on the heavy and often hidden cost of America’s atomic weaponry.

A total of 107,394 workers have been diagnosed with cancers and other diseases after building the nation’s nuclear stockpile over the last seven decades. At least 33,480 former nuclear workers are dead after helping the U.S. win World War II and the Cold War before getting sick enough to qualify for government compensation.

Taxpayers have spent $12 billion so far treating and compensating more than 53,000 sick nuclear workers.

But fewer than half the workers who sought help had their claims approved. More than 54,000 workers have been denied government help. Some say the government’s tactic is to “Delay, deny, until you die.”

South Carolina, home to the Savannah River Site outside Aiken, has certainly paid a toll to the silent killer. The site that turned 65 this year was established by President Truman to produce the basic materials used in the fabrication of nuclear weapons.

Nearly 40 million gallons of highly radioactive nuclear waste remains at SRS — 90 miles up the Savannah River from where much of Beaufort County’s drinking water is withdrawn. The waste is stored in aging tanks.

And the federal government’s poor record for helping its workers is matched or exceeded by its miserable record of dealing with the nuclear waste that will threaten workers and communities ad infinitum.

Earlier, McClatchy reported that the United States already has generated more than 80,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel and high-level nuclear waste, and the toxic materials are stored at some 80 sites in 35 states.

The answer is a central repository, and in 1987, after immense study, Congress decreed that site would be under Yucca Mountain in Nevada. There, nuclear waste would not be a human threat for at least 10,000 years. The government spent more than $15 billion preparing to accept the waste by Congress’ 1998 deadline. Utility customers also have paid billions into this solution. But President Barack Obama egregiously mothballed Yucca Mountain as soon as he became president.

What we see is a nation in denial. We see a nation willing to consider workers in its hodgepodge of nuclear sites to be collateral damage. We see a nation that has grossly underestimated the cost to the workers.

And we see a nation that for pure politics will endanger entire communities and states by failing to confront its sick legacy of the atomic age.

We see a nation that should do much better by its own people.