Beyond Nuclear International

Risking shoot-to-kill to stop the killing machine

The Nuns, the Priests and the Bombs is a new film about old style non-violence

By Linda Pentz Gunter

Would you be willing to put your life on the line to make a moral statement about the iniquity of nuclear weapons? I am willing to bet that most of us, however strongly we feel about the need to abolish the Bomb, would not walk peacefully into a shoot-to-kill zone at a nuclear weapons complex just to make a point.

But when it is a point of conscience, of morality, and of faith, that is exactly what members of the Plowshares movement will do. And have done. For decades.

Seven of them just did it again, as they always say they will. Arrest them, try them, convict them and jail them, but their determination and moral conviction will not be eroded. They are repeat offenders. But they do not come to offend.

So on April 4, 2018, the anniversary of the assassination of peacemaking leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, the self-styled Kings Bay Plowshares entered the King’s Bay Naval Base in St. Mary’s, Georgia, the largest submarine base in the world. As had their colleagues before them, they carried banners, statements, hammers and blood. They were arrested, then denied bond during a preliminary hearing on April 6.

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The seven members of the Kings Bay Plowshares, who entered the Georgia naval base on April 4 to protest nuclear weapons, white supremacy and racism. (WNV/Kings Bay Plowshares)

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Nuclear companies are just happy to be in there somewhere

And they’ll gouge the ratepayers to get there

By Linda Pentz Gunter

That teeth-jangling noise you can hear are the fingernails of nuclear power corporations scraping across window ledges in a last, desperate attempt to cling on. It’s a lost cause. Nuclear power is falling to its none too premature death. It just won’t go quietly.

Instead, like Steve Martin’s unforgettable character in The Jerk, the mantra for nuclear corporations has become “I’d just be happy to be in there somewhere.”

The only chance for nuclear energy companies to stay relevant, and even alive, is to squeeze ratepayers. It’s their last, selfish recourse to prop up aging, failing and financially free falling nuclear power plants that should have closed years ago (and in fact should never have been built in the first place.)

Consequently, even as we tentatively celebrated First Energy’s just announced early closures of its four nuclear reactors — Davis-Besse (OH), Perry (OH) and two at Beaver Valley (PA, pictured at top) — we knew that something more devious was afoot.

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Naoto Kan gets a closeup view of nuclear France

The former Japanese PM visits Flamanville and La Hague, and draws 400 locals to an inspiring evening event in Normandy, France

By Linda Pentz Gunter

Most of the time you don’t see former leaders of major world powers trudging along windy clifftops as they listen to anti-nuclear activists hold forth. That is why I find the odyssey of former Japanese Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, ever more extraordinary. For a handful of years now he has been traveling around the world speaking out in favor of an end to the use of nuclear power. And he has been talking to us.

Kan on windswept beach

Naoto Kan visits a windswept Normandy beach from which you can see the Flamanville nuclear site as well as the La Hague reprocessing facility.

Kan of course was the Prime Minister in power at the time of the Fukushima nuclear disaster which struck on March 11, 2011. For all the mistakes and naiveté swirling at the time, Kan made one monumentally important decision. He picked up the phone and countermanded Tepco’s decision to pull its workforce out of the stricken Fukushim-Daiichi nuclear site.

That saved countless lives and likely the entire country. Untended, the reactors would have melted down and released a radioactive inventory that would have forced the abandonment of the neighboring Fukushima-Daiini nuclear plant. That in turn would have melted and the resulting cascading accident could have led to the evacuation of Tokyo. As Kan says in every speech, losing Tokyo would have been the end of Japan.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted a nuclear weapons ban

So did many other black Americans. Why did they vanish from the movement?

By Linda Pentz Gunter

In 1957, when asked his views on nuclear weapons, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “I definitely feel that the development and use of nuclear weapons should be banned. It cannot be disputed that a full-scale nuclear war would be utterly catastrophic. Hundreds and millions of people would be killed outright by the blast and heat, and by the ionizing radiation produced at the instant of the explosion . . . Even countries not directly hit by bombs would suffer through global fall-outs. All of this leads me to say that the principal objective of all nations must be the total abolition of war. War must be finally eliminated or the whole of mankind will be plunged into the abyss of annihilation.”

Today, we remember in particular the life and achievements of King, one of the 20th century’s most resonant proponents of peace. The dark cloud of his assassination forever hangs over us. So, too, does the spectre of nuclear war. This latter drove many black Americans like King to oppose their development and use. One reason, may be surprising. But it forms part of the though-provoking thesis of Vincent J. Intondi’s scholarly but highly readable book, African Americans Against The Bomb. 

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The real Houston problem

Apollo 13 had plutonium on board. Challenger’s next flight would have. Now Trump wants to fire plutonium-powered spacecraft to Mars. What could possibly go wrong?

By Linda Pentz Gunter

“My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air and sea.” Donald Trump

President Trump has announced that he wants the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to “lead an innovative space exploration program to send American astronauts back to the moon, and eventually Mars.” But the risks such ventures would entail have scarcely been touched upon.

For those of us who watched Ron Howard’s nail-biter of a motion picture, Apollo 13, and for others who remember the real-life drama as it unfolded in April 1970, collective breaths were held that the three-man crew would return safely to Earth. They did.

What hardly anyone remembers now — and certainly few knew at the time — was that the greater catastrophe averted was not just the potential loss of three lives, tragic though that would have been. There was a lethal cargo on board that, if the craft had crashed or broken up, might have cost the lives of thousands and affected generations to come.

It is a piece of history so rarely told that NASA has continued to take the same risk over and over again, as well as before Apollo 13. And that risk is to send rockets into space carrying the deadliest substance ever created by humans: plutonium.

Now, with the race on to send people to Mars, NASA is at it again. Small fission reactors would be used to generate electricity on Mars to power essential projects in the dark. But first, such a reactor has to get to Mars without incident or major accident. And the spacecraft carrying it would also be nuclear-powered, adding monumentally to the already enormous risk.

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Atomic legacy

Veteran claims three generations of family left with deformities due to nuclear test radiation exposure

By Luke Powell (reprinted with kind permission of the author and the Eastern Daily Press.)

When Robert Fleming (pictured above with wife Jean) watched one of the world’s most powerful weapons detonate 60 years ago, little did he know of the lasting impact it would have on future generations.

Christmas Island bomb test

The Christmas Island bomb test. Photo: John Greenacre.

Aged just 24, the RAF serviceman was stationed on an island in the Pacific Ocean when Britain tested its first megaton-class thermonuclear bomb.

Now aged 83, he believes his prolonged exposure to radiation in the following weeks has led to deformities in three generations of his family.

He said his grandson and great grandson suffered problems with their genitals, while his youngest daughter was born with extra knuckles.

In total, he said eight members of his family – mostly grandchildren and great grandchildren – were born with severe health defects.

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