Tuesday, May 2, 2000 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES
2000-05-02

Nuclear Truth Commission Meets at the UN

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In a bid to deflect criticism of their nuclear disarmament records, the five recognized nuclear powers pledged today to completely eliminate their nuclear weapons but gave no time frame or new plans to actually get rid of their arsenals. In a joint statement, the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain said they were "unequivocally committed" to fulfilling the goal of a world free of nuclear arms enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The statement was issued at a UN conference reviewing the treaty and was already under criticism from disarmament groups as not going far enough. [includes rush transcript]

Meanwhile, the United States and other nations have yet to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Well, today we’re going to talk about another conference that was held across from the UN yesterday: a nuclear truth commission. The purpose of the unique event was to create a forum for people to share their personal experience on nuclear issues. Indigenous communities, former military personnel, nuclear scientists and workers all testified before the commission. Their goal was to empower people to work toward the abolition of nuclear weapons, the safe containment of radioactive waste and openness in nuclear decision making.

Guests:

  • Kathleen Sullivan of Project EDNA (Engaged Democracy for a Nuclear Age). Call Project EDNA: 212.682.1265.
  • Robert Green, retired British Naval Commander who was a navigator of airplanes that carried nuclear loads.
  • Jacqui Katona, Australian Aboriginal activist who is working with the Mirrar people around Uranium mining issues in the Northern Territories of Australia.
  • Dr. Andreas Toupadakis, former chemist at Lawrence Livermore National Lab and Los Alamos National Lab. He resigned from his job at Livermore, saying that his conscience would not allow him to work for the development of nuclear weapons.
  • Pilulaw Khus, Native American activist and Bear Clan Elder of the Chumash Nation. It is the site of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant near San Luis Obispo, California. Native burial sites were unearthed to build the plant, which also lies near a fault line.

Related links:

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

In a bid to deflect criticism of their nuclear disarmament records, the five recognized nuclear powers in the world pledged today to completely eliminate their nuclear weapons, but gave no timeframe or new plans to actually get rid of their arsenals. In a joint statement, the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain said they were “unequivocally committed to fulfilling the goal of a world free of nuclear arms enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.” The statement was issued at a UN conference reviewing the treaty and was already under criticism from disarmament groups as not going far enough. Meanwhile, countries like the United States have yet to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Well, today we’re going to talk about the nuclear weapons cycle, from people on the ground from around the world who have gathered at the United Nations for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference that’s taking place over these few weeks. And yesterday, they went outside the UN across the street to hold a nuclear truth commission. Its purpose? To create a forum for people to share their nuclear experience of nuclear issues. Indigenous communities, former military personnel, nuclear scientists and workers all testified.

We’re joined right now by some of those people, from the Aboriginal lands of Australia to the indigenous lands of California, from the nuclear military of Britain to the national nuclear labs of the United States. But we’re going to start with Kathleen Sullivan of Project EDNA, which stands for Engaged Democracy for a Nuclear Age. And she also works with WILPF, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, which is celebrating its eighty-fifth anniversary.

Welcome, Kathleen Sullivan.

KATHLEEN SULLIVAN:

Thank you. Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN:

Talk about the point of the nuclear truth commission that you held yesterday.

KATHLEEN SULLIVAN:

Well, the Truth Commission, which is greatly inspired by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, met yesterday to, as you say, discuss our nuclear stories. Unlike the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where there were like issues of justice that could be or not be met, the victims and perpetrators in the nuclear age are greatly blurred. In a certain sense, those of us that benefit from nuclear power could be called perpetrators. And also, all of us are victims of the nuclear age.

So the difference in the nuclear truth commissions is that we had a panel of listeners, and the panel of listeners represented future generations. So the people that were testifying, the people here in the studio, were testifying to the future. This was a really important point. Because of the long-lived nature of radioactive materials, it requires us to take on a new relationship with time.

If I could just say a few words about that. The nuclear issue brings us into a new relationship with time, because never before have we had something that is simultaneously instantaneous in its temporality and also hugely vast. So with a nuclear explosion, we have something that destroys in seconds what has taken maybe hundreds of years to build up. But also the long-lived radioactive materials that hang around after that explosion do their work invisibly over millennia upon millennia. So we have a responsibility to the future that is very unique with regards to nuclear materials.

So in this sense, the people that were testifying yesterday were testifying to the future and sang to future beings, in a certain sense, that we are remembering you by bringing you into this testimony, by thinking about you and really redefining our relationship to time.

AMY GOODMAN:

Jacqui Katona, you have traveled from the Aboriginal lands of Australia to the United Nations to be a part of this Review Conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That begins the nuclear weapons cycle, where the uranium is mined. Can you talk about — first give us the geography of where it comes from.

JACQUI KATONA:

Uranium, in the area where I work, comes from lands which experience a six-month monsoonal season, which brings a lot of rain to our area. Now, when you mine uranium, which is a very dangerous, toxic mineral, immediately produced very fine pulverized pollutants which are known as tailings. And these tailings actually hold 80 percent of the uranium that attracted the mining company to the ore body in the first place. And those tailings have to be stored.

And the types of conditions that we’re talking about uranium mining taking place makes it extraordinarily unstable, not only for the next twenty or fifty years, but we are responsible really for a legacy that’s going to be around for thousands of years, beyond the governments that are in place today, beyond the company structures that are in place today.

AMY GOODMAN:

In terms of the amount of uranium mined, what percentage in the world comes from Australia?

JACQUI KATONA:

30 percent of the world’s reserves lie in the Australian earth. There is a significant amount, which Australia — the Australian government wishes to contribute to a world which we are all committed to ensuring follows through on nonproliferation. There is a lot of activity taking place in the nuclear fuel cycle in spite of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and discussions that are going on.

AMY GOODMAN:

Where in Australia?

JACQUI KATONA:

In the northern part of Australia and in the southern part of Australia.

AMY GOODMAN:

And whose land is it?

JACQUI KATONA:

It’s always the land of indigenous peoples. There are significant remote areas in Australia, which the highest population is Aboriginal people.

AMY GOODMAN:

And so, what’s happening? Who is actually doing the mining? And what is the response of the Aboriginal people?

JACQUI KATONA:

Aboriginal people universally reject uranium mining. We have received no benefits, long-term or short-term, as a result of uranium mining. The Australian government continues to pursue the production of uranium in spite of a depressed market. The price of uranium is dropping, but they continue to undertake this type of proliferation.

AMY GOODMAN:

Who are the people that you represent?

JACQUI KATONA:

The Mirrar Aboriginal people, I’ve been working with for the past four years. They themselves have been fighting uranium mining for the past twenty-five. And they have seen many generations of people lost. In fact, we can count on one hand the amount of old people which have survived through the struggle to try and retain our cultural values and our rights to land.

AMY GOODMAN:

What happens to the land?

JACQUI KATONA:

Well, the land, through uranium mining, again, it’s this issue of toxic waste. The mining company is releasing into the wetlands, an area which we harvest our food from, contaminated water on an annual basis. And the contaminants are rising every year, and it’s our people who suffer as a result, directly as a result. Yet we’re not provided with any type of information that can allay any concerns that we have about the likely impacts, not only on our generation, but on future generations.

Now, in reality, we are seeing the number of women suffering aggressive cancers and dying from those cancers far greater than it has been in the past. And when we look to authorities for some sort of explanation about this, they say that it can be attributed only to the rate of smoking amongst women or the rate of other health indicators amongst our peoples. Now, these are significant signs, which our people are aware of, are a result of impact of uranium mining.

AMY GOODMAN:

Dr. Andreas Toupadakis, you are chemist, and you just quit the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. What were you doing there?

DR. ANDREAS TOUPADAKIS:

I was working under the Stockpile Stewardship Program, which is a program for working on the safety and reliability of nuclear weapons. It’s more than that. That’s what the books say. But under this program, there is a humongous amount of data collected daily, on a daily basis. They are putting into databases, and they are used to help build more nuclear weapons, better nuclear weapons, more destructive nuclear weapons.

And people do not know about these things. The public is paying with our sweat in taxes for this insanity. We already have weapons to blow up the face of the earth many times over. And here we are, making more weapons, saying to the world that nuclear weapons are no good because they are not safe.

AMY GOODMAN:

Can you explain what the Lawrence Livermore National Lab — how it fits into the national nuclear program? It’s one of, what, three or five national laboratories?

DR. ANDREAS TOUPADAKIS:

No. There are more than that. It’s one of the major three that basic research is done on nuclear weapons. The other one is Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the other one is Sandia.

AMY GOODMAN:

And you also worked at Los Alamos?

DR. ANDREAS TOUPADAKIS:

I also worked for three-and-a-half years in Los Alamos National Laboratory. There is a lot of work going on. Mostly, it’s really for developing and maintaining the nuclear arsenal. And there are spin-offs, like environmental programs and nonproliferation programs. But in reality, what I discovered is, when I was not willing to work on nuclear weapons, that it is an illusion to believe, as a scientist, that you really work in environmental or nonproliferation programs. There is not such a thing. It’s an illusion, and it’s a lie that we would like to believe so we can we have a paycheck in our pocket every month.

AMY GOODMAN:

But surely, when you took the job at Lawrence Livermore, you understood you were going to be working with nuclear weapons.

DR. ANDREAS TOUPADAKIS:

No, that’s not true. I had environmental work in Los Alamos, and I applied to come to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. And the process of their doing this is quite vague. They really do not tell you exactly what you will be doing. It’s very deceiving and very — an eluding way people are getting to these labs. And that’s why, after I resigned, I am proposing an informed consent. So when scientists are hired, they’re giving them a paper to tell them where they will be working. They don’t have to give them details, classified information, but they can tell them if they will be working on nuclear weapons or not, and also to state to them that these environmental budgets are going up and down. They are not really a good commitment from the government for clean up the mess that they have done. They are committed to make new weapons. These budgets are increasing every year. And so, people, they start in environmental work, which is not — and I can explain that if I have the time. They find themselves sooner or later working for nuclear weapons

AMY GOODMAN:

Dr. Andreas Toupadakis just quit the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Also worked at Los Alamos National Lab. And before that, Jacqui Katona, an Australian Aboriginal activist who is working with the Mirrar people against uranium mining in the Northern Territories of Australia.

When we come back, we’re going to, as well, be joined by a retired British Naval commander, the first to speak out against nuclear weapons, and we’ll be talking with an indigenous activist from California about the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, as well as the weapons facilities that are in California. You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!, as we continue with our special on the nuclear family. We’ll be back in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN:

You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!, the Exception to the Rulers. I’m Amy Goodman.

    DR. ANDREAS TOUPADAKIS:

    I quit from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in protest for the development of the unnecessary nuclear weapons.

    JACQUI KATONA:

    The Mirrar people, Aboriginal people in Australia, fight to stop the Jabiluka Uranium Mine.

    PILULAW KHUS:

    Vandenberg Air Force Base and Diablo Nuclear Power Plant both sit on Chumash land in California.

    ROBERT GREEN:

    I’m the first former British Navy commander with nuclear weapon experience to have spoken out against them.

AMY GOODMAN:

The nuclear family, today on Democracy Now!, as we continue to look at the nuclear weapons cycle, from the uranium mines where the radioactive material is pulled out of the earth to make the weapons to the weapons laboratories in this country that develop the weapons and now to the military that uses them.

Rob Green is with us, a retired British Naval commander who was a navigator of the airplanes that carried nuclear loads. When you walked in this morning, we were just talking about how the British Prime Minister Tony Blair had called yesterday’s May Day protesters “idiots.” And then you walked in. And I have to say, it wasn’t because of the accent. I didn’t even hear you speak. You walked in with your two attaché cases — I swear to God, I thought it was Tony Blair. And I thought, “What? You make house calls?” But welcome to Democracy Now!

ROBERT GREEN:

Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN:

What about your experience? How did you get involved in the nuclear weapons cycle?

ROBERT GREEN:

Well, I joined the Navy in 1962, and I thought things were fine. I then was invited to fly, which surprised me, because I thought I’d joined the Navy, but that shows how innocent I was. But they were short of navigators in nuclear strike jets at the time, because they were killing a lot of air crew, because the aircraft were unreliable. And so, they pressed me into flying, and I found that I was quite good at it, and I finished up anyway in a nuclear strike jet squadron in an aircraft carrier.

And after a year, my partner and I were taken aside and told that we were now considered one of the four best crews in the squadron, and so we were going to be given the honor of being a nuclear crew. And we were given a special security clearance and given a target, which was, I remember, a military airfield outside Leningrad, and we were invited to plan the attack for it there and then and then not to talk about it. And so, if you like, I’ve been given my nuclear fix.

AMY GOODMAN:

So what did you do?

ROBERT GREEN:

Well, I got quite a buzz out of that. This was the ultimate of toys for the boys. And I just obeyed without question. We never discussed the size of the bomb, but I since discovered it was 100 kilotons, which is eight times the size of the Hiroshima bomb. And I recently went to Saint Petersburg, which is what Leningrad used to be, and apologized to the Russian people there for having agreed to this mission, because I now discovered that the airport where I landed was my target, and it’s now the airport for Saint Petersburg. And if I had released that bomb, I would have obliterated the ancient capital of Russia, as well, plus a few hundred thousand people. And I told the Russian people that I discovered that nuclear weapons will not save me, and they will not save them either.

AMY GOODMAN:

How did your consciousness evolve? So you were this nuclear naval bomber in the 1960s. What changed for you?

ROBERT GREEN:

Well, I then switched to anti-submarine helicopters in the early ’70s. And I thought this was going to be easier, but it actually became much more difficult, because we were given a nuclear depth bomb, which is a sort of huge depth charge. And the reason for this was because our lightweight torpedoes were not fast enough to catch the latest Soviet nuclear submarines. And so, the solution by my leaders was to vaporize the entire battlefield.

But the problem was that I discovered that in a helicopter, unlike in a jet, I couldn’t get away quick enough before the thing went off. So this was going to be a suicide mission. And I didn’t think that the British Navy was in the business of kamikaze. And so, I actually did start asking questions, and once I started asking them, then the trouble really got going.

And so, I realized my military leaders were actually incompetent. And I then went to the Ministry of Defense, where I witnessed a debate about what to replace the British Polaris Ballistic Missile Submarine Force with. Now this is where Mrs. Thatcher had come to power, and she was a nuclear junkie. And she went single-mindedly for Trident, which is the American system, which is just huge and ridiculous. And the British Navy actually recommended against it, because it was too expensive, and she, of course, overruled them. And from that moment, I realized I had to get out, and I actually took redundancy a couple of years later and hoped I wouldn’t have to think about nuclear weapons again.

AMY GOODMAN:

We’re talking to Rob Green, retired British Naval commander. When you started asking the questions, did you lose your top security clearance?

ROBERT GREEN:

I only asked a few questions relating to that particular weapon, the depth bomb, and they told me basically to shut up and get on with it. And I was ambitious, and so I did.

AMY GOODMAN:

So when did you start publicly speaking out?

ROBERT GREEN:

Oh, not until 1991 in the Gulf War. I hoped to avoid the nuclear weapon problem. But before that, I had had a very radicalizing experience. I had an aunt who was an antinuclear energy campaigner. Her name was Hilda Murrell. And in 1984, she was murdered in Britain in very suspicious circumstances, and it’s never been solved. But I was her next of kin, and she was my guru on environmental matters, and I realized that I had to do something about this. And people began to come forward to me who were frightened, and I now have reason to believe that the nuclear industry was responsible for her murder because of what they thought she knew, which in fact she didn’t.

But it was to do with the Three Mile Island accident. A scientist who she knew had stumbled upon a design flaw in the control rods, and I can tell you it’s still there in most of the reactors in the United States, including Diablo Canyon. It’s the control rods, which have a strange alloy, which have a very low melting point. And so, in Three Mile Island, we suspect that that’s what went first when the core overheated, and so you had no control rods, and there was a power surge until it fortunately just collapsed on itself and stabilized. That was covered up.

And from that, I learned about the nuclear industry, and I was campaigning against the nuclear industry. But then the end of the Cold War came with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and I realized there was no enemy.

I then saw the Gulf War suddenly come up, and here was a real scenario for using nuclear weapons. I feared that Saddam Hussein would be provoked into attacking Israel, possibly with SCUD missiles with chemical warheads. If that happened, no one could have stopped Israel retaliating with a nuclear strike on Baghdad, and then the result of that would have been an eruption of Arab fury around the world. Israel would have been swept away. There would have been bombings in every major capital of the friends of Israel. And so, this was the result of relying on nuclear weapons for your security. And I realized that Britain had the same problem.

And I might add that in the Gulf War, the Irish Republican Army carried out a mortar bomb attack against the British government, the Cabinet. It was through a hole in the roof of the van that they had parked in Whitehall. They nearly wiped out my government. And where was Polaris? That was meant to be deterring people like that, and it was nowhere. It was irrelevant, and that’s what the threat is now. And my eyes were opened about nuclear weapons.

AMY GOODMAN:

How do you define a nuclear war, because some would argue that we did use nuclear weapons in the Gulf, from the depleted uranium? I think the US and Britain fired more than a million rounds during the Gulf War. They were used in Bosnia. More than 30,000 rounds used in Kosovo.

ROBERT GREEN:

Well, depleted uranium is basically a poison. It’s both a toxic chemical poison and a radioactive one. But it is not a nuclear weapon. It doesn’t explode like a nuclear bomb. What it does is it has extreme armor-piercing capability through high heat, but it is actually otherwise a conventional weapon. But nuclear bombs have unimaginable explosive power, plus the poison.

AMY GOODMAN:

You talked about Diablo Canyon, which is a nuclear power plant. We also are joined by an indigenous activist from California. Pilulaw Khus is a Native American activist and a Bear Clan Elder from the Chumash Nation. It’s the site of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant near San Luis Obispo, California, in Central California. What about Diablo Canyon, how it was built and how you see it fitting into the whole cycle, Pilulaw?

PILULAW KHUS:

Thank you. Diablo Nuclear Power Plant sits on indigenous land, and it was the site of villages, as well as places of high concentration of sacredness. And when that plant was established, there was a great lot of destruction that happened to the village site and the sacredness of the place. In fact, what happened was the bones of my ancestors were pulled from the earth in a very ruthless way. And on top of that place where those bones were ripped from the embrace of the Mother Earth is where the plant itself sits.

AMY GOODMAN:

Who sited it there?

PILULAW KHUS:

I beg your pardon?

AMY GOODMAN:

Who put it there? Who decided that that would be the place it would be?

PILULAW KHUS:

It’s owned by Pacific Gas and Electric, PG&E, which is an old enemy of the Chumash people, because they also wanted to establish a liquefied natural gas facility at our most sacred place, the Western Gate, which is at Point Conception, and Vandenberg Air Force Base and the launch pad for space missiles sits very close to that sacred place. And PG&E was involved with the liquefied natural gas facility.

We went on occupation thereafter, exhausting all of the legal avenues and political avenues that were available to us to stop the establishment there. The traditional people of the Chumash Nation, as well as other indigenous people, came, and we had an occupation there for close to a year. And we stopped the establishment of that facility.

AMY GOODMAN:

But the Diablo Nuclear Power Plant remains.

PILULAW KHUS:

The Diablo Nuclear Power Plant was established in spite of a very huge protest around it by many, many, many, many people. And it is a great agony to us, because of the dislocation of our ancestors, the contamination of the earth there and the disruption of the sacredness that is there at that particular place.

What the Bear Clan has done over the years is we have established an agreement with the PG&E and the power plant there, so that we have been able to go there for a number of years and do ceremony there. One of our most sacred ceremonies is in the wintertime, the winter solstice, and we’ve gone there and done the winter solstice ceremony on a small area of the land that has been set aside and not disturbed.

AMY GOODMAN:

What about the issue of earthquake faults?

PILULAW KHUS:

That power plant, it was so insane that that would be established there, because it’s just massive earthquake faults underneath that power plant. And that was a great concern to a lot of people. And you couple that with the power of the sacredness of the place there, which is at least equal to what nuclear power can put forth — the spiritual power is extraordinarily huge — you have a very volatile condition there.

And all kinds of unusual things happened when that plant was being established. One of the things was that the engineers read the blueprints backwards, and they built part of the plant backwards, and they had to take it apart and put it back together. And, of course, our people, we looked at that, and we laughed, and we felt that the ancestors were playing games with their minds.

And, you know, it’s an ongoing source of concern, because yesterday the woman who testified from the Three Mile Island incident mentioned that one of the indicators that there is the poison in the atmosphere is when people begin to taste a metallic taste in their mouth, and the residents that live around Diablo Nuclear Power Plant, frequently we will have that taste in our mouth of the metallic taste. And what we’ve learned do to counteract that is we eat kelp. Well, of course, my people, that’s one of our indigenous foods from the ocean, is kelp, seaweed. So when that taste comes into our mouth, we immediately go and get our kelp, and we’ll take a small dose of that, because that helps to flush that out of our system, out of our bodies.

AMY GOODMAN:

Kathleen Sullivan of Project EDNA, Engaged Democracy for a Nuclear Age?

KATHLEEN SULLIVAN:

Yeah, Mary Osborn was testifying yesterday at the truth commission. She’s a downwinder from Three Mile Island. Her presentation was extraordinary. She has collected images of different plant and animal specimens. I have a photograph in front of me right know of a two-headed calf that was born in the fallout region of Three Mile Island. This is one of the extremely unique and very frightening things about radioactive contamination, which is that it not only causes cancer, but it causes mutagenic effects. It changes the gene pool. I also have a photograph in front of me of a Xenia flower, which is red and yellow straight down the middle. The genetic makeup of these plants and animals have been changed. And that’s —

AMY GOODMAN:

Who needs Monsanto, when you’ve got the nuclear age?

KATHLEEN SULLIVAN:

Well, exactly. This is something that’s very important to point out to people, because when you change the gene pool, there is no going back.

And just a quick amendment to the issue of depleted uranium weapons. While they’re not nuclear weapons, they do cause radioactive contamination. And people in the areas of Iraq have been seeing genetic — a huge increase in genetic mutations in that area.

And just, for instance, the half-life of depleted uranium — that’s Uranium-238 — is 4.5 billion years. So again, the whole issue of time with regards to long-lived radioactive materials is extraordinary, and we really need to start taking that into consideration with regards to nuclear decision-making.

AMY GOODMAN:

Jacqui Katona of the Aboriginal lands of Australia, the Northern Territories, where uranium is mined — it’s also mined in the Southwestern United States — but are people aware there of where the uranium that comes from Australia goes and how it’s used?

JACQUI KATONA:

It largely goes to supply nuclear power plants in Europe, in France, Germany and England. And this is something that really troubles Aboriginal people, because we have a tremendous responsibility for elements within our lands affecting other peoples. And it’s a source of tremendous concern to our people that the nuclear activity that takes place on our land has impact across the world, to other nations. And beyond nuclear power use, there are no guarantees that the uranium that comes from our country is actually part of the nuclear weapons cycle. And, of course, the result is the proliferation of toxic waste. So these are effects which start, in a way, on our country and just increase as they travel around the world.

AMY GOODMAN:

We have to break for stations to identify themselves. When we come back, I want to talk about what it means for all of you to come together, the whole nuclear family here from around the world, from all different parts of the nuclear weapons cycle. So you come to the UN. There’s this major review conference that’s taking place on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. What does it mean? You’ve got the five powers now saying that they are aiming for a nuclear-free world. That’s the question when we come back.

Our guests, Jacqui Katona, of the Northern Territories of Australia representing the Mirrar people; Dr. Andreas Toupadakis, former chemist at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, as well as Los Alamos National Lab; Pilulaw Khus, who is a Native American activist, a Bear Clan Elder from the Chumash Nation, where the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant sits; as well as Kathleen Sullivan of Project EDNA, Engaged Democracy for a Nuclear Age; and Rob Green, retired British Naval commander.

You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN:

We continue our discussion with the nuclear family, the family of human beings around the world who are dealing with the nuclear weapons cycle. No matter how far away or in remote areas people may feel, everyone is touched by this issue, as we are now moving into the — basically the second half-century of the nuclear age. Our guests are from Australia, from Britain, from the United States, and from the national laboratories here in the United States.

Dr. Andreas Toupadakis, former chemist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, you quit when?

DR. ANDREAS TOUPADAKIS:

January 31st of this year, 2000.

AMY GOODMAN:

Why did you tell the National Laboratory, one of the three major nuclear labs in this country, that you quit?

DR. ANDREAS TOUPADAKIS:

What I told them? I told them that making more weapons, we are bringing violence, fear to other nations; therefore, violence, and for that very reason I quit, because I don’t want to be a part of that kind of violence.

AMY GOODMAN:

What about the antinuclear movement amongst nuclear scientists? Or is that an oxymoron?

DR. ANDREAS TOUPADAKIS:

No, it’s not. In fact, something came to my mind of the first time since I resigned, and I’m going to state it today. It might sound very paradoxical, but the man who really started the nuclear age, which everybody knows was Albert Einstein, is probably the first one which was an antinuclear activist. Here is his statement: “The unleashed part of the atom has changed everything except our thinking. Thus we are drifting towards catastrophe behind conception. We should require a substantially new manner of thinking if man is to survive.”

And he also is the one of the eleven signatories that signed the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, which I want to quote just a small paragraph from that, which is worth of quoting it. “We appeal as human beings to human beings. Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new paradise. If you cannot, then there lies before you the risk of universal death. The general public, and even many men in positions of authority, has not realized what would be involved in a war with nuclear bombs. The general public still thinks in terms of the obliteration of cities. People can scarcely bring themselves to grasp that they, individually, and those whom they love are in imminent danger of perishing agonizingly.”

So this is the start of the nuclear age, and it is amazing, because people really do not know that the one who put forth the equation of the equivalence between mass and energy, he was probably the first antinuclear activist. And I just really realized it myself today.

But since that time, there are a lot of people that have been antinuclear activists, and probably the most well known and most effective were people that were working since that time on Manhattan Project. One of them is Sir Dr. Joseph Rotblat, who was actually the Nobel Peace Prize winner, 1995. He was the only one, as a scientist, as a physicist, to resign from Manhattan Project in Los Alamos after he realized that there was no reason to be there, because the Germans did not have the nuclear bomb and they had given up the effort to make it.

AMY GOODMAN:

The Manhattan Project being the one formed to create the atomic bomb in this country.

DR. ANDREAS TOUPADAKIS:

So this movement really started at the time that the first bomb was created. And it is going on since that time, and there are very well known people. Another one is Dr. Theodore Taylor. Other Russian people have resigned, and they have condemned these activities after they realized the tremendous power of destruction that will come upon the earth if people do not alter this kind of direction.

AMY GOODMAN:

Rob Green, you’re a retired British Naval commander. What about the movement, antinuclear movement, within the military?

ROBERT GREEN:

Well, although I’m the —- only the first British one -—

AMY GOODMAN:

To speak out.

ROBERT GREEN:

Yeah, so far. There is a growing network across the world, particularly of very senior military leaders. And I think the preeminent one is General Lee Butler who was the commander-in-chief of the United States Strategic Command from 1992 to 1994, and he came out in 1996. So he is very current, as he was in charge of the entire American strategic nuclear system, and he has turned against it. And so, if he can do that — and he knew what was going on — then I suggest that, you know, something’s really serious here.

AMY GOODMAN:

What effect is it having?

ROBERT GREEN:

Well, I think he’s really created a huge problem within the United States military. And I hope that he’s being looked after. I have met him. He’s a magnificent man, and we are working together. And he is now gathering around him a support group of his colleagues, or some of his colleagues, who have had the courage to break out, as well. And they’re beginning to formulate a strategy for really beginning to gain some traction in this country. But part of that strategy is to actually engage with the ex-military in Britain, and I’m part of that. And I actually believe that there is a real chance that the British will renounce nuclear weapons before the Americans.

AMY GOODMAN:

Jacqui Katona, you’re from Australia. You’re here, part of a conference that brought together lots of people. Pilulaw Khus, you’re also indigenous from this country. What does it mean to have these kind of international conferences? And also, do you have any faith in what the nuclear powers have said just today, as we speak, that they are talking about going towards nuclear disarmament?

PILULAW KHUS:

Can I respond to that?

AMY GOODMAN:

Yes, Pilulaw Khus.

PILULAW KHUS:

Because our people have a long history of treaty negotiations with the United States government. And the one thing that is very clear that comes out of that history is that it’s really important for people to not rely on those treaties, to not have any faith or trust in them whatsoever, because the United States is extremely good at not honoring their treaties.

AMY GOODMAN:

Jacqui Katona?

JACQUI KATONA:

It’s a similar situation in Australia. We can’t believe and never have been able to see through the promises that are made by the Australian government. And we’re here particularly to reinforce to this forum that a term that they apply to use of nuclear materials outside of war, which is peaceful uses, peaceful uses are in fact not peaceful uses. And it’s a term which conveniently allows governments to retain their power and to continue the struggle or the battle for strength in the world, which denies the rights of ordinary human beings and, disproportionately, indigenous peoples around the world.

AMY GOODMAN:

Kathleen Sullivan, let’s talk about that connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Talk about the cycle.

KATHLEEN SULLIVAN:

Well, as Jacqui has mentioned, you know, the uranium mining begins the cycle. You mine uranium, you put it into a reactor, and by fissioning that uranium, by heating up, you’re heating up water, you’re boiling water to turn turbines to create electricity. This is the way that we create electricity with gas, with coal. With nuclear energy, we’re using uranium to boil water. The byproduct of fissioned uranium is plutonium. Plutonium is the raw material for nuclear weapons. That’s why, as Jackie was just pointing out, it’s so important to make the link between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. They are inextricably linked.

And one of the major faults of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is that by safeguarding that other countries won’t join the nuclear fraternity in the sense that they won’t have nuclear weapons, they are given the, quote, “inalienable right” to these so-called peaceful uses of nuclear technology, including nuclear energy. Now, this is just absolutely insane, because this inalienable right, the right to create and develop nuclear reactors for nuclear energy, is also creating and developing the raw material for nuclear bombs, and that’s plutonium. So we really need to continue to make the links between the creation of nuclear electricity and the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

It’s no surprise that India has created their own weapons program, and that came out of their —- certainly came out of their energy program, which they created a couple of decades ago. So that’s a very important link. Unfortunately, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty misses that link altogether. And just as Jacqui said, and to reiterate, there is no such thing as a peaceful use of nuclear weapons. And as Jacqui was saying the other day -—

AMY GOODMAN:

Or peaceful use of nuclear power.

KATHLEEN SULLIVAN:

I’m sorry, peaceful use of nuclear power. Yeah, there’s certainly no peaceful use of nuclear weapons. But as Jacqui was saying other day, and with regard to uranium mining, even those nations and agencies that call the production of nuclear energy peaceful in its use, the origins of the so-called peaceful uses of nuclear technology are not peaceful. That is, the mining of uranium and the absolute disproportionate effect that that mining has on indigenous peoples and on the environment.

AMY GOODMAN:

We’re talking about the nuclear weapons cycle today as a major conference is going on, a review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. When was the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty established, Rob Green?

ROBERT GREEN:

It was 1968, and this was a deal between the — then the three declared nuclear weapons states which were the United States, Britain and France, and the rest of the world, that they would be allowed to keep their nuclear weapons, effectively, for a while, anyway, and the non-nuclear weapons states said they would not acquire them. And the quid pro quo was that they would be allowed access to peaceful so-called nuclear energy. But the trouble is, of course, that the nuclear weapons states haven’t done much about getting rid of their nuclear weapons. Instead, we actually have gone up to two more, which is China and — of course, I didn’t mention Russia before. And we now have India and Pakistan. And, of course, none of us talks about Israel. And so, basically it is, I think, a question of trying to get the nuclear weapons states to comply with the deal. But, of course, the whole thing is actually flawed, deeply flawed. And what we are actually campaigning for is to convert the Non-Proliferation Treaty into a fully comprehensive, globally enforceable treaty to get rid of nuclear weapons.

AMY GOODMAN:

How would you do that?

ROBERT GREEN:

Well, it would be probably to amend the treaty, which can be done, which was done with the Partial Test Ban Treaty, which was a process which became the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. And we have a Comprehensive Chemical Weapon Treaty and a Comprehensive Biological Weapon Treaty, but the nuclear weapon one, which is the most urgent, no one talks about. But that is now on the agenda, and that’s what we’re really discussing and pushing the nuclear weapons states about.

PILULAW KHUS:

I’d like to join in here if I could.

AMY GOODMAN:

Pilulaw Khus of the Bear Clan that sits atop Diablo Canyon or Diablo Canyon sits atop your land.

PILULAW KHUS:

That’s right, as well as does Vandenberg Air Force Base. And to extend the conversation out a little bit, while I have been here at the United Nations, I picked up material that’s generated from the military. And they have a Vision 2020 of extending out to space and dominating space and sending nuclear weapons out to space. And the other traditional Chumash people, as well as other nuclear activists, antinuclear activists in our area, are convinced that the launching place for those missiles will be Vandenberg Air Force Base. We have the launch pad for space, as well as the test weapons missiles established there already. And they do launch the test missiles quite often that go out into the Pacific and impact the Pacific island people out there.

And as Jacqui was saying, indigenous people throughout the world, we have many things in common with each other. And one of them is that we do carry responsibility for what happens with our land and what happens with the uses of the materials that come out of that land. And especially when it’s hitting other indigenous people and having such dire consequences with them, we know that this has got to stop.

We follow the stories and the prophecies, and all of this has been foretold. And with the uranium mining, we have stories of how the rocks at some time will come up out of the earth and beat people, because the earth will be so angry with us. And I look at things from a spiritual point of view. Vandenberg sits on these highly sacred places. And if the military goes forward with the plans that we are very concerned that they do have and that they’ve said they’ve had, it’s going to have extremely dire consequences.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, I want to give people a chance to find out how they can get in touch with your various groups, through websites or phone numbers. If anyone has any that you’d like to give out. Kathleen Sullivan, let’s begin with you, of Project EDNA, Engaged Democracy for a Nuclear Age.

KATHLEEN SULLIVAN:

Well, there’s a great website that links onto many other websites, which is easy to remember. It’s www.nonukes.org. There’s also — that’s www.nonukes.org. Another excellent organization, the Institute for Environmental and Energy Research out of Takoma, Maryland, which looks a lot at the weapons labs and ecological issues and social justice issues out of there, their website is www.ieer.org, www.ieer.org. And also NIRS, the information resource service on nuclear energy. They deal mostly with energy issues. Their website is www.nirs.org.

AMY GOODMAN:

Jacqui Katona?

JACQUI KATONA:

For the Mirrar people, we’ve established a website with many links to other indigenous peoples in Australia. And, in fact, we’ve put together a forum called the Alliance Against Uranium, which provides an opportunity for indigenous peoples all around Australia to get exposure to environmental activism and to other networks that might be supportive of our issues. And the website to contact us is www.mirrar.net. And “Mirrar” is spelled M-I-R-R-A-R and all lowercase.

AMY GOODMAN:

Rob Green, British Naval commander, navigator of planes that carried nuclear loads, do you have an antinuclear military group that people can contact?

ROBERT GREEN:

We don’t have a group which is global, but if anyone would like to contact me personally, because I have just written a book, Debunking Nuclear Deterrence, which I believe is a very important argument that we have to win before we’re going to get rid of nuclear weapons. If you’d like to contact me, my email is robwcpuk(at)chch.planet.org.nz.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, we’ll put that on our website at www.democracynow.org. That does it for the show.

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