World is cry­ing out for clean en­ergy, not nukes

Santa Fe New Mexican - - OPINIONS -

On Wed­nes­day at the United Na­tions, the Treaty on the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Nu­clear Weapons will open for sig­na­ture. For sig­na­to­ries, this treaty pro­hibits nu­clear weapons al­to­gether. Its ex­plicit goal is a uni­ver­sal norm against all forms of par­tic­i­pa­tion in the nu­clear weapons in­dus­try. De­sign­ing, test­ing, pro­duc­ing, pos­sess­ing, threat­en­ing with, de­ploy­ing and us­ing nu­clear weapons are to be banned. Cru­cially, as­sis­tance or en­cour­age­ment in th­ese il­le­gal acts will also be banned, as will sta­tion­ing of nu­clear weapons, both of which im­pact U.S. nu­clear al­liances, in­clud­ing NATO. Sig­na­tory states will be re­quired to en­act ad­min­is­tra­tive and pe­nal sanc­tions against any­one in­volved with the nu­clear weapons in­dus­try.

The ban treaty was ne­go­ti­ated against heavy op­po­si­tion from the U.S. and other nu­clear weapon states — they ob­vi­ously won’t sign. In the end, the text was ap­proved by 122 coun­tries. It is likely to en­ter into force next year and to grad­u­ally gain ad­her­ents there­after, a process that will keep U.S. nu­clear “mod­ern­iza­tion” in the news around the world.

In all this, whither Santa Fe? While the City Dif­fer­ent seeks a pos­i­tive in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion, the metro area hosts the world’s most lav­ishly funded labs and pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties for soon-to-be-out-lawed nu­clear weapons.

So far, our con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion, fol­low­ing Los Alamos Na­tional Lab­o­ra­tory, wants to restart pro­duc­tion of

plu­to­nium war­head cores (“pits”). The new pits are “needed” solely for build­ing a new kind of (untested and re­dun­dant) war­head the U.S. Navy doesn’t want. The U.S. Air Force has se­cretly ad­mit­ted the same. Pits in ex­ist­ing weapons are all in fine con­di­tion and will re­main so for decades.

As a du­bi­ous re­ward for its en­dur­ing loy­alty to the Los Alamos lab, the Santa Fe metro area has long hosted the state’s largest nu­clear waste dump, vis­i­ble from high ground any­where from El­do­rado to Truchas. Area G is now stuffed to the gills and might fi­nally close at the end of this month. Then again, the lab may ex­pand the site.

A plu­to­nium fac­tory for out­lawed weapons and a nu­clear waste dump. That’s a city “dif­fer­ent” all right.

Ac­tu­ally, Los Alamos seeks two un­nec­es­sary plu­to­nium pro­grams, not just pit pro­duc­tion but also the messy and dan­ger­ous pro­cess­ing of tons of sur­plus pits for dis­posal at the Waste Iso­la­tion Pi­lot Plant. In­stead of this, per­ma­nently de­mil­i­ta­riz­ing pits with­out open­ing them up, fol­lowed by di­rect dis­posal, would be ad­e­quate, cheap, safe and quick. The lab need not and should not be in­volved, no mat­ter what plan the De­part­ment of En­ergy chooses.

With­out new war­heads (that the rest of the world hates), the labs would shrink. Los Alamos would not need to make pits, let alone build un­der­ground work­shops (es­ti­mated cost: $300,000 per square foot).

Why have silo-based in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles at all? For­mer Sec­re­tary of De­fense Wil­liam Perry and for­mer U.S. Strate­gic Com­mand Com­man­der (and later, vice chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ) James Cartwright are among those who be­lieve the U.S. would be more se­cure with­out any ICBMs.

We agree. By 2030 or so, U.S. ICBMs will age out. For­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama be­gan (and Trump con­tin­ues) a huge pro­gram to re­place them. The De­part­ment of De­fense es­ti­mates the new mis­siles, equip­ment and soft­ware will cost be­tween $85 bil­lion and $150 bil­lion, a fis­cal dis­as­ter com­pa­ra­ble to Hur­ri­cane Har­vey. Build­ing mis­siles cre­ates no pro­duc­tive in­fra­struc­ture, mit­i­gates no cli­mate change and cre­ates few jobs.

That sum, wisely in­vested in lever­ag­ing more re­new­able en­ergy, would go a long way to­ward end­ing coal burn­ing in the U.S. while build­ing non­ex­portable jobs, skills and com­mu­ni­ties.

The new mis­siles are just part of the Obama-Trump plan to re­place ev­ery sin­gle nu­clear weapon sys­tem, re­li­ably es­ti­mated to cost more than $1 tril­lion. Th­ese are not the “de­ploy­ments” our chil­dren need. The world is cry­ing out for fresh pri­or­i­ties that will give their chil­dren and our world a chance. Will our con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion lis­ten?

Greg Mello is di­rec­tor of the Los Alamos Study Group, a nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment-fo­cused non­profit, based in Al­bu­querque.

With­out new war­heads (that the rest of the world hates), the labs would shrink.

Greg Mello

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