ACTION ALERT: Act Now to Stop Development of Mini-Nukes and Atomic Bunker-Busters

May 9th, 2003 - by admin

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Call your US Senators and Representative today and urge them to oppose new and modified nuclear weapons. Ask them to immediately contact their colleagues on the Senate and House Armed Services Committees and urge them to work in the committee to preserve the Spratt-Furse prohibition on low-yield nuclear weapons and to cut funding for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator in the Fiscal Year 2004 Defense Authorization bill.

Ask them to also support floor amendments to cut funding for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator and uphold the Spratt-Furse prohibition on low-yield nuclear weapons. This “ask” is very important because if these new and modified nukes aren’t “nipped in the bud” in committee, they will come to the floor in the Defense Authorization bill — which means every Member of Congress will vote on them. So, let your Senators and Rep. know how you want them to vote.

Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121

The House Armed Services Committee has just started markup of the Fiscal Year 2004 Defense Authorization bill and the Senate Armed Services Committee will begin soon. Your calls are needed today in order to have an impact on these committees that will write the bills. Following markup, a floor vote in the House to cut funding for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator is predicted to take place near the end of May. Senate votes could take place in early to mid-summer.

Section 3136 of the Fiscal Year 1994 Defense Authorization Act includes a prohibition on “research and development which could lead to the production by the United States of a low-yield nuclear weapon” of less than five kilotons (the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima had a yield of approximately 15 kilotons). Championed by Rep. John Spratt (D-SC) and now-retired Rep. Elizabeth Furse (D-OR), the “Spratt-Furse prohibition” has remained in effect for almost a decade despite previous attempts in Congress to overturn it.

This year, the Pentagon has sent Congress a draft Defense Authorization bill that includes a request to repeal the Spratt-Furse prohibition. In addition, the Republican House Policy Committee has issued a report explicitly stating a desire to overturn this prohibition. The Armed Services Committees in the House and Senate are expected to include in their early markup of the FY04 Defense Authorization bill a provision to overturn this prohibition. Your phone calls are needed to prevent this.

The Bush administration and some Members of Congress want to also develop a “Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator” (RNEP) to destroy hardened and deeply buried targets that may contain command and control centers, key leadership personnel and suspected stockpiles of chemical and/or biological weapons. The Department of Energy is currently engaged in a three-year “feasibility study” to research and develop the RNEP, costing $15 million per year.

The weaponeers are modifying two existing nuclear bombs in an attempt to turn one or both into an RNEP – the B83 at Livermore Lab and the B61 at Los Alamos. These bombs have what’s called variable or dial-a-yield, meaning each bomb’s explosive power can be custom adjusted right before it is launched. The B61-11 already has limited earth-penetrating capability.

The weaponeers want more. The Pentagon is expected to issue a formal military requirement for the RNEP in the near future. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) is expected to offer an amendment on the floor to cancel funding for the RNEP. Call now and ask your Rep. to co-sponsor and support the Markey RNEP amendment.

Key reasons to oppose the repeal of the prohibition on mini-nukes and the funding for RNEP include:

* A nuclear bunker-buster, whether large or small, would create massive human and environmental devastation and, if detonated in an urban area, could kill tens of thousands of innocent civilians. Using nuclear weapons to bomb chemical and/or biological weapons bunkers would likely spread some of these agents to surrounding areas, along with the radioactive fallout;

* Low-yield nuclear bombs, in particular, blur the line between conventional and nuclear weapons, increasing the likelihood they will be used in conflict, breaking a taboo that has been in place since their use in 1945 by the United States;

* Developing new or modified nuclear weapons sends the wrong message to other nations who may also view them as desirable and usable. This development places in jeopardy the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, whereby the United States and other nuclear powers pledged to disarm in return for other nations not seeking nuclear weapons;

* If the Spratt-Furse prohibition is repealed, the development of new low-yield nuclear weapons could lead to the resumption of underground nuclear testing in order to test the new weapons. This would overturn the 10 year moratorium on nuclear testing and could lead other nuclear powers to also resume testing which would have a horrific effect on future arms control and non-proliferation efforts.

For more information, contact: Marylia Kelley Executive Director Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment), 2582 Old First Street Livermore, CA USA 94551, (925) 443-7148, FAX (925) 443-0177.