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Maybe Tehran Should Ask about Obama's $673 Million Nuclear Bomb Factory


March 25, 2015
Lawrence S. Wittner / The History News Network & Jane Stoever / Sierra Club Missouri

Should the US be building more nuclear bombs? Residents of Kansas City, Missouri don't appear to think so. They are opposed to the construction of a massive, 1.5 million-square-foot nuclear weapons plant in their community. The cost of building the Obama Administration's new bomb factory -- which will provide 85 percent of the components of America's nuclear weapons -- is estimated to run $673 million. But why does the US, which already has 8,500 nuclear weapons, needed more of them?

http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/141525

Kansas City Here It Comes:
A New Nuclear Weapons Plant!

Lawrence S. Wittner / The History News Network

(August 30, 2011) – Should the US government be building more nuclear weapons? Residents of Kansas City, Missouri don't appear to think so, for they are engaged in a bitter fight against the construction of a new nuclear weapons plant in their community.

The massive plant, 1.5 million square feet in size, is designed to replace an earlier version, also located in the city and run by the same contractor: Honeywell. The cost of building the new plant -- which, like its predecessor, will provide 85 percent of the components of America's nuclear weapons -- is estimated to run $673 million.

From the standpoint of the developer, Centerpoint Zimmer (CPZ), that's a very sweet deal. In payment for the plant site, a soybean field it owned, CPZ received $5 million. The federal government will lease the property and plant from a city entity for twenty years, after which, for $10, CPZ will purchase it, thus establishing the world's first privately owned nuclear weapons plant.

In addition, as the journal Mother Jones has revealed, "the Kansas City Council, enticed by direct payments and a promise of 'quality jobs,' . . . agreed to exempt CPZ from property taxes on the plant and surrounding land for twenty-five years." The Council also agreed to issue $815 million in bond subsidies from urban blight funds to build the plant and its infrastructure. In this lucrative context, how could a profit-driven corporation resist?

Kansas City residents, however, had greater misgivings. They wondered why the US government, already possessing 8,500 nuclear weapons, needed more of them. They wondered what had happened to the US government's commitment to engage in treaties for nuclear disarmament. They wondered how the new weapons plant fit in with the Obama administration's pledge to build a world free of nuclear weapons. And they wondered why they should be subsidizing the US military-industrial complex with their tax dollars.

Taking the lead, the city's peace and disarmament community began protests and demonstrations against the proposed nuclear weapons plant several years ago. Gradually, Kansas City PeaceWorks (a branch of Peace Action) pulled together the local chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, religious groups, and others into a coalition of a dozen organizations, Kansas City Peace Planters. The coalition's major project was a petition campaign to place a proposition on the November 8, 2011 election ballot that would reject building a plant for weapons and utilize the facility instead for "green energy" technologies.

The significance of the Kansas City nuclear weapons buildup was also highlighted by outside forces. In June 2011, against the backdrop of the Obama administration's plan to spend $185 billion for modernization of the US nuclear weapons complex over the next ten years, the US Council of Mayors voted unanimously for a resolution instructing the president to join leaders of the other nuclear weapons states in implementing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's five-point plan for the elimination of all nuclear weapons by the year 2020.

It also called on Congress to terminate funding for modernization of the US nuclear weapons complex and nuclear weapons systems. Addressing the gathering, the U.N. leader declared that "the road to peace and progress runs through the world's cities and towns," a statement that drew a standing ovation.

Even more pointedly, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the Vatican's ambassador to the United Nations, appeared in Kansas City in July 2011. According to the National Catholic Reporter, Chullikat "came to this Midwestern diocese because it is the site of a major new nuclear weapons manufacturing facility, the first to be built in the country in thirty-three years."

In his address, the prelate remarked: "Viewed from a legal, political, security and most of all -- moral -- perspective, there is no justification today for the continued maintenance of nuclear weapons." This was the moment, he declared, to address "the legal, political and technical requisites for a nuclear-weapons-free world." Highlighting Chullikatt's speech, the National Catholic Reporter declared, cuttingly: "The US trudges unheedingly down the nuclear path. Now more than ever we need to attend to the messages of the often marginalized peacemakers in our midst."

Actually, peace activists in Kansas City looked less and less marginalized. Nearly 5,000 Kansas City residents signed the petition to place the proposition rejecting the nuclear weapons plant on the ballot, giving it considerably more signatures than necessary to appear before the voters.

Naturally, this popular uprising came as a blow to the Kansas City Council, which put forward a measure that would block the disarmament initiative from appearing on the ballot.

At an August 17 hearing on the Council measure, local residents were irate. "You cannot divorce yourselves from the hideously immoral purpose of these weapons," one declared, comparing the city's subsidy for the weapons plant to financing Nazi gas chambers "for the sake of 'jobs.'" Referring to the Council's charter, which provided for the appearance of propositions on the ballot when they secured the requisite number of signatures, the chair of PeaceWorks asked: "Are we a government of laws or of . . . corporations and special interests?"

Since then, the situation has evolved rapidly. On August 25, the City Council voted 12 to 1 to bar the proposition from the ballot. The next day, the petitioners went to court to block Council interference. Honeywell, CPZ, and their friends dispatched a large legal team to Kansas City to fight against the citizens' initiative, securing a court decision that might delay redress for years. In response, Peace Planters seems likely to speed up the process by crafting a new petition -- one that would cut off city funding for the plant.

Whatever the outcome, the very fact that such a struggle has emerged indicates that many Americans are appalled by plans to throw their local and national resources into building more nuclear weapons.

Dr. Wittner is Professor of History at the State University of New York/Albany. His latest book is Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement (Stanford University Press).
See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/141525#sthash.KfzoEp5J.dpuf



Peace and Environmental Activists Block
Ground-clearing for New Nuke-parts Plant

Jane Stoever / PeaceWorks-KC & Sierra Club Missouri

KANSAS CITY, MO. (March 2011) -- "Stop building for nuclear war" proclaimed a banner activists held aloft as they marched toward one of about 20 Caterpillars and earth-movers clearing farmland for a nuclear weapons parts plant in Kansas City, Mo.

Fourteen of about 90 protesters blocked the Caterpillar, were arrested and held a few hours, and were ordered to appear in municipal court Oct. 7 on trespass charges. Reporters said the protesters stopped work at the site for two hours.

"We were part of an outpouring of resistance from the nation's heartland, saying no to new nuke production!" said Ann Suellentrop of Physicians for Social Responsibility-KC, Sierra Club and PeaceWorks-KC member. "The field being cleared was a soybean field a year ago and a wheat field two years ago. We scattered seeds there today in the open furrows, trying to protect mother earth and humanity from the scourge of nuclear weapons."

The new site lies at Mo. Hwy. 150 and Botts Road. The current, 61-year-old Kansas City Plant, at Bannister Federal Complex, makes and procures non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons, including radars, guidance systems, firing systems and security devices; the new plant will "enhance" the KC Plant's work.

The new facility and new plants to be built in Oak Ridge, Tenn. (for production of uranium secondaries) and in Los Alamos, N.M. (for plutonium pit production) will quadruple the nation's ability to produce new nuclear weapons, said Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico at a forum in Kansas City Aug. 14.

"This witness was a powerful opportunity to stop the machinery from clearing the land for the first new U.S. nuclear weapons production plant in 32 years, and I feel personal responsibility to prevent it from being built," said Felice Cohen-Joppa of Tucson, Ariz., co-editor of The Nuclear Resister and one of the 14 charged with trespassing.

She helped the protesters develop a statement for the workers, police and media. "The International Court of Justice found that the destructive power of nuclear weapons cannot be contained in either space or time, and nuclear weapons have the potential to destroy all civilization and the entire ecosystem of the planet, and thus are illegal," the statement noted. "In keeping with the Nuremburg Principles, we choose to act nonviolently rather than be complicit."

The statement also mentioned contaminants that more than 250 former workers at the Kansas City Plant and other agencies under the same roof as the plant say have made them ill. Families of 122 other former workers say their family members died from the contaminants.

"The current plant and the future plant threaten the health and well-being of workers, our environment and the Kansas City community," the statement noted. (See the NBC Action News list of injured or deceased workers at http://media2.nbcactionnews.com/pdf/sickBANNISTERlist.pdf.)

"The Sierra Club has worked diligently for years to expose the widespread environmental pollution at the Kansas City Plant," said Scott Dye, director of the national Sierra Club's Water Sentinels Program, based in Columbia, MO.

"The facility's soil and the aquifer beneath it is a chemical stew of hazardous toxins, and the plant remains a menace to its workers, public health and safety, and the environment." At least 15 sites at the facility are in the US Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund database-listing America's most dangerously polluted sites.

In April, the Sierra Club and Physicians for Social Responsibility-KC formally petitioned EPA to reassess the entire complex for potential inclusion on Superfund's National Priorities List, which would mandate a plan and timeline for cleanup. EPA agreed to do a complete reassessment that is currently ongoing.

"There shouldn't even be any discussions about a new plant until the unresolved questions are answered," said Dye. "How bad is the legacy pollution at the current plant, who is going to clean it up, and when? This is fundamental stuff you learn in kindergarten, you make a mess, you clean it up," concluded Dye.

As Coghlan explained during the Aug. 14 forum, through a convoluted development plan, "the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has shrouded its responsibility for the project" and will sublease the new plant from the federal General Services Administration, which will sublease it from the private developer CenterPoint Zimmer (CPZ), a limited liability corporation formed by Chicago-based CenterPoint and Kansas City-based Zimmer Real Estate Services.

CPZ has a 20-year lease-to-purchase deal from the current owners, the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority, the agency of the City of Kansas City that is subsidizing the whole project through the sale of about $700 million in municipal bonds.

Strangely enough, the PIEA bought the 177-acre field last month for more than $5 million from CPZ, which just "happened" to own the land NNSA chose for its new production plant, said Coghlan.

The PIEA retains title to the property. "I don't know of any other case in the world in which a city government owns a federal nuclear bomb production plant," said Coghlan.

Suellentrop commented, "In a bizarre privatization scheme, Zimmer Real Estate and other private corporations are making out like bandits under the cover of urban blight funds, while nearly all the inner-city hospitals in Kansas City have closed, our bridges are crumbling, the city's in the red and nearly half our schools have been closed."

PeaceWorks-KC, Physicians for Social Responsibility-KC and a third group opposing the new plant, East Meets West of Troost, plan further nonviolent resistance actions in conjunction with the Sept. 8 groundbreaking and the Oct. 7 court hearings for the 14 protesters.

For more information, contact blog: kcnukeswatch.wordpress.com, web: nukewatch.org/KCNukePlant, or Sierra Club office at Missouri.chapter@sierraclub.org or 800-628-5333.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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