The government is working on new and expanded plans for the Nevada Test Site (NTS). Some of it is couched in the language of anti-terrorism and treaty verification, but the overarching work there undermines our commitment to nuclear disarmament. They are currently deciding on the scope of an update to the Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS) to govern activities there for the next 10 years. Calling for the SWEIS to consider the environmental consequences of nuclear weapons and war in as broad a context possible, NDE made the following points when submitting comments:
1. The scope of the SWEIS needs to include the possibility of closing the NTS in its entirety. Closing the Test Site would be a concrete, confidence-building sign to the world that the United States will not enlarge or re-shape its nuclear stockpile and is sincere in working for nuclear disarmament.
2. The Nevada Test Site land rightfully belongs to the Western Shoshone Nation, and their wishes should be paramount. The Treaty of Ruby Valley (1863) grants their Nation the NTS land and more. They should have the final say regarding any of the work mentioned in this message or the SWEIS.
3. Stockpile Stewardship undermines our moral position as a nation in the face of other countries seeking nuclear weapons. Proposed NTS work must not undermine the obligation to eliminate nuclear weapons as per Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The Tonopah Test Range (TTR), sub-critical tests, Joint Actinide Shock Physics Experimental Research (JASPER) and other Stockpile Stewardship programs should be eliminated.
4. No quantity or quality of environmental education programs like "Operation Clean Desert" with its "Dr. Proton" and "Adam the Atom" justify keeping the NTS open. No single polluter can compare with the United States military. Nothing in the world can cause as much environmental devastation in as short a time, lasting for as long a time, as nuclear weapons. Any educational programs conducted by the NTS or its managers must be as a warning against further contamination and destruction.
5. If not closed in its entirety, the Nevada Test Site should be closed to all but "Environmental Restoration." No new hazards or toxins should be introduced to the NTS, including low or mixed level waste from other military sites. At least one of the test shot sites needs to be characterized fully to track off-site drift of contaminants. Groundwater monitoring stations need to be better designed and placed, and they must test for other contaminants in addition to tritium. Evidence of plutonium drifting much faster than expected needs to be further researched.
6. Any project such as the Nonproliferation Test and Evaluation Complex (NPTEC) needs to be conducted in support of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) mandate to monitor NPT compliance. Furthermore, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) Organization has the task of monitoring compliance with the CTBT, not the United States. While individual countries have an interest in being able to verify treaty compliance, the United States needs to focus more on taking concrete steps towards disarming than worrying about other countries.
7. The Renewable Energy Option has potential for positive use, but the Western Shoshone should determine what happens at the NTS.
8. The livelihood of workers at the NTS is important, but developing or maintaining nuclear weapons shouldn't be viewed as a jobs program.
The Stockpile Stewardship Program was established in response to the Fiscal Year 1994 National Defense Authorization Act (Public Law 103-160), which requires, in the absence of nuclear testing, a program to:
1. Support a focused, multifaceted program to increase the understanding of the enduring stockpile;
2. Predict, detect, and evaluate potential problems of the aging of the stockpile;
3. Refurbish and re-manufacture weapons and components, as required; and
4. Maintain the science and engineering institutions needed to support the nation’s nuclear deterrent, now and in the future.
Stockpile stewardship is inconsistent with the mandate under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which requires that the United States and other nuclear armed countries to work to eliminate their nuclear weapons. Under the pretense of making sure that what nuclear arms exist are reliable and safe, new types of bombs and delivery systems continue to be designed and tested.
The US is actively seeking new warhead designs for new warfighting scenarios under the Reliable Replacement Warhead program. . . .
New missiles and other delivery systems that are more accurate have prompted weapons designers to promote the manufacture of new, smaller nuclear warheads. The size of the bomb doesn't change the fact that a new weapon is in contradiction of the agreement to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the stockpile.
What is happening at the Nevada Test Site?
The Nevada Test Site is home to classified research. As such, one can't be sure of all that is going on there. Nonetheless, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) maintains a website that describes research and facilities at the NTS. Much of the currently listed activities
Capabilities specific to the Nevada Test Site include: Atlas, the Big Explosives Experimental Facility (BEEF), the Device Assembly Facility (DAF), the Joint Actinide Shock Physics Experimental Research (JASPER) Facility, and the U1a Complex for subcritical nuclear tests.
The last subcritical nuclear explosion was in 2006. According to the Nevada Site Office of the DOE-NNSA, they hope to conduct three new sub-crit tests by the end of 2009.
The Atlas pulsed-power program is in "cold standby" meaning that the building with the machinery has no electricity. At this time there are no plans to restart Atlas experiments. BEEF has "limited activity" according the the Nevada Site Office. The DAF remains ready ready to assemble bomb tests, though none are scheduled. Because of the DAF is the most secured most "hardened" of research facilities, it gets used for other experiments with highly radioactive materials.
What is happening at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs?
Creech AFB is home to the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing which is responsible for flying the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper "unmanned aircraft systems" (UAS), sometimes called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and commonly refered to as "drones." Most drones are small and slow, equiped with cameras for spying. However, the Predator and Reaper are armed, and control for the firing of Hellfire missiles or the dropping of bombs (which the Reaper can also carry) comes from crews at Creech. Ground crews on site where a drone is deployed launch and land the aircraft. Control is transfered to Creech or one of a few other air force bases during a mission.
Since NDE first vigilled outside Creech Air Force Base in September 2008, demonstrating against Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) attacks, several other groups around the country have taken up our call. The Drone, as UAVs are commonly referred to, has become the icon of Obama’s wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The military is responding to the widespread deaths of civilians by these robotic hunter-killers and the outcry against them, but not by reducing the attacks. Rather, they are adjusting their “spin” here and “in theatre.” They are also designing smaller missiles, allowing UAVs to carry more of them—not a positive development, even if each one destroys less. The resource page on the NDE website has links to many articles and reports about these weapons.
We continue to receive much encouragement to link our work for nuclear disarmament to the need to stop these new weapons from becoming the new arms precipice like the A-bomb before it. The following excerpt from our April'09 action, Ground the Drones...Lest We Reap the Whirlwind expresses well our opposition to these tools of war:
With audacity that would confound Orwell, the Pentagon touts the “true hunter-killer role” of these robot “drones.” Armed with Hellfire missiles and other weaponry, they have names that suit their lethal uses: the MQ-9 Reaper and the MQ-1 Predator. Such tools can kill but not pacify. By killing civilians, UAV drones do not prevent or eliminate terrorism, but instead incite more violence and retaliation.
Proponents of the use of UAVs insist that there is a great advantage to fighting wars in “real-time” (with a 2-second satellite delay from Nevada to the Middle-East) by pilots sitting at consoles in offices on air bases far from the dangerous front line of military activity. With less risk to the lives of our soldiers and hence to the popularity and careers of politicians, the deaths of “enemy” noncombatants by the thousands are counted acceptable. The illusion that war can be waged with no domestic cost dehumanizes both us and our enemies. It fosters a callous disregard for human life that can lead to even more recklessness on the part of politicians.
The idea that technology can provide a cleaner and safer battlefield is seductive but has been proven a lie. From the catapult and crossbow, through the use of poison gas and airplanes in World War I, the atom bomb, helicopters and napalm in Vietnam to the “smart bombs” of the Gulf War, war has only grown deadlier. Technological advances may reduce the danger of casualties among the military personnel in the short run, but with each advance the number of civilian deaths multiplies and every war of the past century has numbered more children than soldiers among its victims.
Why is Nevada Desert Experience bringing attention to Creech Air Force Base?
NDE's mission includes trying "to mobilize people of all faiths to work toward nuclear abolition and nonviolent social change." While the drones aren't armed with nuclear weapons (although some may contain depleted uranium, poisoning people and the environment), the United States' history of threatening to use nuclear weapons and the various ways the U.S. has selectively spread nuclear technology including for nuclear weapons and hasn't worked to really eliminate nuclear weapons but rather wants to enhance our nuclear threat by modernization, every modern war or conflict that includes the United States, is a nuclear war in spirit, and a radioactive war in practical physics.
Remote military systems like UAVs are able to threaten others without putting one's own soldiers in harm's way. That seems like an obvious "good" in a military sense. But new weapons get used and used again. NDE has based our years of activism on engaging the opposition, not trying to harm or even berate the opposition. NDE doesn't support new weapons development.
One tactic of NDE's praxis of nonviolence is to facilitate the EXPERIENCE of this part of the Mojave desert, here in Nevada and Newe Sogobia.
Living in the desert for a week on the Sacred Peace Walk in the context of an interfaith community helps people respect and adore our desert. Creech AFB, Nellis AFB, the Yucca Mountain Project and the NTS are all situated in this awesome, delicate, intense desert. The violence of our opponents in this land and abroad can be thwarted through the practice of loving all living beings, including the vibrant wilderness of this desert.
Physical distance doesn't always insulate one from the harmful effects of killing. It is easier to drop a bomb and leave than to see the death and destruction that one has caused. Still, the sensor operators in UAV crews are watching, and feeling the remorse that comes with such violence. More chaplains and counselors have been brought in, and we can take solace that the video-gaming of making war isn't as dehumanizing as we might fear.
Nestled between Nellis Air Force Base, with its world-leading stockpile of nuclear weapons, and the Nevada Test Site, the most bombed place on Earth, Creech Air Force Base is in the heart of the desert that NDE reveres and is yet another desecration of this beautiful land.
Will this be the time? Will this be the place?
Join a spiritual pilgrimage from the epitome of unsustainable excess consumption to the place of the greatest violence on earth. Come help us stop this suicidal nuclear violence! Come walk the ways of peace in the desert! Hundreds of people have walked from Las Vegas, Nevada to the Nevada (Nuclear) Test Site for the cause of abolishing nuclear weapons. (The Test Site is situated unlawfully on lands belonging to the Western Shoshone Nation. Since 1951 the U.S. has contaminated the desert and the earth 1000 feet below by exploding over 900 nuclear weapons tests which included over 1000 detonations of nuclear bombs.)
Most walkers who arrive on Monday in time for the orientation will stay at the Catholic Worker House on comfy mats. The Passover Seder will also be there. People who arrive earlier than that may be housed elsewere, but NDE will help shuttle you to where you need to go. If you have your own vehicle, we'll help guide you on where to be and how to get there most easily. For people who arrive during the walk, we have local friends who are willing to help get people from transit hubs and bring them to meet up with the walk.
We have a port-a-potty that we tow along with the support crew. Every hour or two at the most, the walkers and support vehicle, with port-a-potty in tow meet up. People can walk and ride at your discretion. Snacks will be available, and you can carry some with you, along with some water and what-have-you. Your larger bags and camping gear will be transported for you, so you don't need a real backpack like for use in the back-country.
People with cars will be guided about where best to park cars and be shuttled to meet and rejoin the walk. Some people offer their cars for use as additional shuttle vehicles as needed.
Driving Directions to Peace Camp:
Take Hwy 95 North out of Las Vegas. 65 miles out of town you will see the Mercury exit (past Indian Springs and Cactus Springs). Take the Mercury exit, then make a U-turn when it's safe, so you can then drive under the freeway, to the south. (If you fail to make the U-Turn as you drive NorthEast, you will come to the legal boundary of the Nevada Test Site).