Abolish Nuclear Weapons
by Professor Karl Grossman
April 12, 2005

The key problem concerning the effort to abolish nuclear weapons is that it does not go far enough. The only true way to end the threat of nuclear weapons spreading throughout this world is to also put a stop to nuclear power.

Radical? Yes, but consider the even more radical alternative: a world in which scores of nations can construct nuclear weaponry because they possess nuclear power technology.

There are major parts of the earth - Africa, South America, the South Pacific, and others - that have now been designated nuclear-free zones.

I submit that if we are really to have a world free of the horrific threat of nuclear weapons and their use, our long-term goal need be the designation of this entire planet as a nuclear-free zone - no nuclear weapons, no nuclear power (the other side of the same coin).

Radical? Yes, but consider the alternative - trying to keep using carrots and sticks, juggling on the road to inevitable nuclear disaster.

That may or may not occur this decade or next but sooner or later, as nuclear power continues to spread, it will.

A nuclear-free world is the only way, I believe, that humanity will be free of the dark specter of nuclear warfare.

Some will say putting the atomic genie back into the bottle is impossible. I say anything people have done, other people can undo. Especially if the reason is good. And the prospect of massive loss of life from nuclear destruction is the best of reasons.

"All nuclear fission technologies both use and produce fissionable materials that are or can be concentrated," Amory and Hunter Lovins wrote in their seminal book, Energy/War: Breaking the Nuclear Link.

"Unavoidably latent in those technologies, therefore, is a potential for nuclear violence and coercion which may be exploited by governments, factions"-and this they wrote in 1980 decades before 9/11-or "terrorist groups."

"Little strategic material is needed to make a weapon of mass destruction," they went on. "A Nagasaki-yield bomb can be made from a few kilograms of plutonium, a piece the size of a tennis ball."

"A large power reactor," they noted, "annually produces, and an experimental critical assembly may contain, hundreds of kilograms of plutonium; a large fast breeder reactor would contain thousands of kilograms; a large reprocessing plant may separate tens of thousands."

Civilian nuclear power technology, they stated, provides the way to make nuclear weapons - furnishing the materiel and trained personnel.

Indeed, that's how India got The Bomb in 1974. Canada supplied a reactor for "peaceful purposes" and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission trained Indian engineers.

And lo and behold, India had nuclear weapons.

"Separation of plutonium from spent fuel preceded and facilitated the British, French and Indian decisions to build bombs," write Amory and Hunter Lovins.

"Nuclear power," they noted, "provided the essential expeditor, and in many cases the necessary cover."

The myth of the "Peaceful Atom" is just that.

Important to any dream of creating a nuclear-free world is the elimination of the International Atomic Energy Agency - the global nuclear-pusher.

The IAEA was formed as a result of U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower's 1953 "Atoms for Peace" speech before the UN General Assembly.

Eisenhower proposed the creation of an international agency to promote civilian applications of atomic energy and, somehow at the same time, control the use of fissionable material - a dual role paralleling that of the then U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

In 1974, the AEC was abolished after the U.S. Congress concluded that, in theory and practice, it was in conflict of interest.

Its mission was so involved with promoting nuclear energy that it was no monitor, Congress decided.

But the IAEA - in the AEC's image - remains with us.

The IAEA's mandate: "To accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world" and, somehow at the same time, "establish and administer safeguards against the diversion of military purposes of nuclear materials intended for use in civil nuclear programs; and to establish or adopt health and safety standards."

From its outset, the IAEA has been run by atomic zealots.

Its first director general was Sterling Cole who as a U.S. congressman was an original member and then chairman of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, as extreme in its promotion of nuclear technology as the AEC-and also ultimately eliminated by Congress.

Later, Hans Blix became IAEA director general - after, his official IAEA biography stresses, he led the move against the effort to close nuclear power plants in his native Sweden.

Blix was outspoken in insisting nuclear technology be spread throughout the world - calling for "resolute response by government, acting individually or together as in the [IAE] Agency."

Blix's long-time second-in command: Morris Rosen - formerly of the AEC and before that the nuclear division of General Electric.

After the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster, Rosen rendered this sage advice: "There is very little doubt that nuclear power is a rather benign industrial enterprise and we may have to expect catastrophic accidents from time to time."

Rosen is currently the IAEA's coordinator for environmental matters.

As for the current IAEA director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, he too, is a great nuclear booster. "There is clearly a sense of rising expectations for nuclear power," he told a gathering in Paris last month organized by the IAEA and entitled "International Conference on Nuclear Power for the 2lst Century."

And the IAEA has been doing everything it can to fuel those expectations - scandalously downplaying the public health consequences of nuclear accidents including the Chernobyl tragedy, promoting all sorts of technology atomic and, with its nearly $300 million budget, encouraging the spread of nuclear power machinery around the globe.

Selma Brackman's War & Peace Foundation has wisely proposed that the IAEA be replaced with a World Sustainable Energy Agency.

Individual governments and the UN can - and must - implement the wide use of non-lethal, renewable, safe energy technologies available now as an alternative to deadly, unnecessary nuclear power.

Meanwhile, real nuclear non-proliferation, as Amory and Hunter Lovins stated, requires "civil denuclearization"-as daunting as that may be.

Even Admiral Hyman Rickover, the "father" of the U.S. nuclear navy and manager of the construction of the first commercial nuclear plant in the world, in Shippingport, Pennsylvania, in the end came to the conclusion that the world must - in his words - "outlaw nuclear reactors."

Rickover in a farewell address told a committee of Congress in 1982:

"I'll be philosophical. Until about two billion years ago, it was impossible to have any life on earth: that is, there was so much radiation on earth you couldn't have any life - fish or anything. Gradually, about two billion years ago, the amount of radiation on this planet and probably in the entire system reduced and made it possible for some for some form of life to begin."

"Now," Rickover went on, "when we go back to using nuclear power, we are creating something which nature tried to destroy to make life possible…Every time you produce radiation, you produce something that has life, in some cases for billions of years, and I think there the human race is going to wreck itself, and it's far more important that we get control of this horrible force and try to eliminate it."

As for nuclear weaponry, the "lesson of history," said the retiring admiral, is that in war nations "will use" whatever weaponry they have. Nuclear power can give any nation nuclear weaponry.

By moving forward with a commitment and goal of eliminating nuclear weapons and nuclear power, humanity can be spared the threat of nuclear war. Anything else would be, unfortunately, incomplete and inadequate in the long run. The U.S., which uncorked this lethal technology, should serve as a model and lead in eliminating the twin scourges.

An impossible dream? No, considering the probable nightmare otherwise as the continued spread of nuclear power causes the proliferation of nuclear weaponry - and its use inevitably by "governments, factions, terrorist groups."


Karl Grossman is professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury and coordinator of the college's Media & Communications Program. A special concentration for decades has been nuclear technology. Among the six books Grossman has authored are: Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed To Know About Nuclear Power; The Wrong Stuff: The Space Program's Nuclear Threat To Our Planet; Power Crazy; and Weapons in Space. He has given presentations around the world.

Grossman also has long been active in television. He narrated and wrote the award-winning documentaries The Push To Revive Nuclear Power; Nukes In Space: The Nuclearization and Weaponization of the Heavens; and Three Mile Island Revisited, all produced by EnviroVideo. For the past 14 years, he has hosted Enviro Close-Up, an interview program aired through North America on the DISH satellite network (Channel 9415), on cable and commercial TV and now video-streamed on the Internet, too.

His magazine and newspaper articles have appeared in numerous publications.

Grossman is a charter member of the Commission on Disarmament Education, Conflict Resolution and Peace of the International Association of University Presidents and the United Nations. He is a member of the boards of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service-World Information Service on Energy and the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting.

Professor Karl Grossman can be reached by email at: kgrossman@hamptons.com



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