No Nuclear Weapons or Nuclear Power

Reseal the Deal with Iran

A renewed JCPOA provides a way to avoid the threat of war that would arise should Iran at some point move toward nuclear capability.


 MAY 23, 2022
 It could be make or break time for the Iran nuclear deal.
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Kevin Martin is the president of Peace Action and the Peace Action Education Fund.


Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and the author of “Understanding the U.S.-Iran Crisis: A Primer.”


Will the Invasion of Ukraine Lead to Nuclear War? What we can do about it. Join Dr. Ira Helfand and Dr. Michael Klare

Join Dr. Ira Helfand and Dr. Michael Klare as they weigh in on the threat of nuclear war amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Learn about the historical, diplomatic, and political contexts of a potential nuclear war and the associated medical and humanitarian consequences. Find out how to get involved with the growing “Back from the Brink” movement in the United States and the larger international movement to abolish nuclear weapon

Nuclear Dangers in Ukraine

Co-hosts Cynthia Lazaroff and Richard Falk

Friday, April 29, 2022

See the video of this event:



Move Over Chernobyl

Fukushima is Now Officially the Worst Nuclear Power Disaster in History


The radiation dispersed into the environment by the three reactor meltdowns at Fukushima-Daiichi in Japan has exceeded that of the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe, so we may stop calling it the “second worst” nuclear power disaster in history. Total atmospheric releases from Fukushima are estimated to be between 5.6 and 8.1 times that of Chernobyl, according to the 2013 World Nuclear Industry Status Report. Professor Komei Hosokawa, who wrote the report’s Fukushima section, told London’s Channel 4 News then, “Almost every day new things happen, and there is no sign that they will control the situation in the next few months or years.”

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has estimated that about 900 peta-becquerels have spewed from Fukushima, and the updated 2016 TORCH Report estimates that Chernobyl dispersed 110 peta-becquerels.[1](A Becquerel is one atomic disintegration per second. The “peta-becquerel” is a quadrillion, or a thousand trillion Becquerels.)

Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4 in Ukraine suffered several explosions, blew apart and burned for 40 days, sending clouds of radioactive materials high into the atmosphere, and spreading fallout across the whole of the Northern Hemisphere — depositing cesium-137 in Minnesota’s milk.[2]

The likelihood of similar or worse reactor disasters was estimated by James Asselstine of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), who testified to Congress in 1986: “We can expect to see a core meltdown accident within the next 20 years, and it … could result in off-site releases of radiation … as large as or larger than the releases … at Chernobyl.[3] Fukushima-Daiichi came 25 years later.

Contamination of soil, vegetation and water is so widespread in Japan that evacuating all the at-risk populations could collapse the economy, much as Chernobyl did to the former Soviet Union. For this reason, the Japanese government standard for decontaminating soil there is far less stringent than the standard used in Ukraine after Chernobyl.

Fukushima’s Cesium-137 Release Tops Chernobyl’s

The Korea Atomic Energy Research (KAER) Institute outside of Seoul reported in July 2014 that Fukushima-Daiichi’s three reactor meltdowns may have emitted two to four times as much cesium-137 as the reactor catastrophe at Chernobyl.[4]

To determine its estimate of the cesium-137 that was released into the environment from Fukushima, the Cesium-137 release fraction (4% to the atmosphere, 16% to the ocean) was multiplied by the cesium-137 inventory in the uranium fuel inside the three melted reactors (760 to 820 quadrillion Becquerel, or Bq), with these results:

Ocean release of cesium-137 from Fukushima (the worst ever recorded): 121.6 to 131.2 quadrillion Becquerel (16% x 760 to 820 quadrillion Bq). Atmospheric release of Cesium-137 from Fukushima: 30.4 to 32.8 quadrillion Becquerel (4% x 760 to 820 quadrillion Bq).

Total release of Cesium-137 to the environment from Fukushima: 152 to 164 quadrillion Becquerel. Total release of Cesium-137 into the environment from Chernobyl: between 70 and 110 quadrillion Bq.

The Fukushima-Daiichi reactors’ estimated inventory of 760 to 820 quadrillion Bq (petabecquerels) of Cesium-137 used by the KAER Institute is significantly lower than the US Department of Energy’s estimate of 1,300 quadrillion Bq. It is possible the Korean institute’s estimates of radioactive releases are low.

In Chernobyl, 30 years after its explosions and fire, what the Wall St. Journal last year called “the $2.45 billion shelter implementation plan” was finally completed in November 2016. A huge metal cover was moved into place over the wreckage of the reactor and its crumbling, hastily erected cement tomb. The giant new cover is 350 feet high, and engineers say it should last 100 years — far short of the 250,000-year radiation hazard underneath.

The first cover was going to work for a century too, but by 1996 was riddled with cracks and in danger of collapsing. Designers went to work then engineering a cover-for-the-cover, and after 20 years of work, the smoking radioactive waste monstrosity of Chernobyl has a new “tin chapeau.” But with extreme weather, tornadoes, earth tremors, corrosion and radiation-induced embrittlement it could need replacing about 2,500 times.

-- John LaForge’s field guide to the new generation of nuclear weapons is featured in the March/April 2018 issue of CounterPunch magazine.

[1]Duluth News-Tribune & Herald, “Slight rise in radioactivity found again in state milk,” May 22, 1986; St. Paul Pioneer Press & Dispatch, “Radiation kills Chernobyl firemen,” May 17, 1986; Minneapolis StarTribune, “Low radiation dose found in area milk,” May 17, 1986.

[2]Ian Fairlie, “TORCH-2016: An independent scientific evaluation of the health-related effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster,” March 2016 (

[3]James K. Asselstine, Commissioner, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Testimony in Nuclear Reactor Safety: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Energy Conservation and Power of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, House of Representatives, May 22 and July 16, 1986, Serial No. 99-177, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1987.

[4] Progress in Nuclear Energy, Vol. 74, July 2014, pp. 61-70;, Oct. 20, 2014.


--LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

Alliance for Nuclear Accountability 


We work to oppose our massive nuclear weapons complex. This expensive and dangerous choice is something we can change.

    • One of the most harrowing cases of U.S. military pollution activity was the nuclear weapons testing performed in the Marshall Islands. From 1946 to 1958, the United States tested 67 nuclear weapons in what is now known as the Republic of the Marshall Islands. These weapons tests have been equated to being 1,000 times greater than the Hiroshima bomb. Radiation poisoning, birth defects, leukemia, thyroid and other cancers are just a few of the detrimental life-threatening consequences experienced by the residents of those islands more than 75 years later. 
    • A second devastating case of U.S. military nuclear testing affected a Navajo Indian reservation. Between 1944 and 1977, Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state released radioactive toxic gasses and fluids, affecting the fish that provide food and economic subsistence to the residences. In addition to this, uranium mining and aboveground nuclear-weapons tests had been occurring for approximately 50 years on and around these reservations. These actions have caused dramatic increases in cancer rates among indigenous people that reside in this region.
    • Ian Zabarte, spokesperson and the Principal Man of the Western Bands of the Shoshone Nation of Indians, reports that as a result of decades of nuclear testing, they are the most bombed nation on earth. Shortly before the end of World War II, they were overrun by the military industrial complex. In violation of treaties, their land has now become the Nevada national security site. Since 1951, approximately 928 nuclear tests took place on the Shoshone territory – 100 in the atmosphere and more than 800 underground. The fallout from these tests covered a wide area, and contaminated water and  killed flora, fauna and all wildlife and people.
    • The Shinkolobwe uranium mine in the Congo (DRC) is an historic and ongoing tragedy shrouded in secrecy. The U.S., in collaboration with Belgian colonialists, used forced Congolese labor to extract the uranium it used in the atomic bombs it dropped on Hiroshima & Nagasaki Japan in WWII. While the full extent of the negative effects of radiation on the population around the mine are unknown,  stories abound of children born with physical deformations generations later.



Eight years after the 2014 explosion of one or more waste containers disposed in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) underground, on Saturday, April 9th, WIPP announced that one or more waste containers had leaked radioactive liquids while being unloaded from a TRUPACT-II shipping container in the Waste Handling Building.  WIPP reported that no contamination was found on the hands and feet of the workers and that “no indication of airborne contamination [was found] at this time.”  Workers were first told to remain indoors, but were later evacuated from the Waste Handling Building.

Liquids are prohibited at WIPP unless they are contained in a very limited amount inside of the waste containers.  Those liquids must be documented.  WIPP and its contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, a limited liability corporation, have yet to provide any more information in writing about the release.

After the discovery of the radioactive leak, the WIPP Emergency Operations Center was opened for two hours and 39 minutes.  All alerts were posted on Twitter.

According to verbal notices to the New Mexico Environment Department, the waste shipment originated at the Idaho National Laboratory where 55-gallon metal drums containing plutonium-contaminated waste are crushed or supercompacted.  The compacted waste containers are not supposed to contain liquids.

After being discovered, the leaking waste container, or containers, was reloaded into the TRUPACT-II shipping container.  It is unknown if the shipment will be returned to the Idaho National Laboratory.

The Nuclear Waste Partnership’s contract to operate WIPP expires on September 30, 2022.  The Partnership did not reapply to manage the WIPP facility.  The Department of Energy’s announcement of a new contractor is anticipated any day now.

In the meantime, the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board monthly reports reveal basic maintenance problems at the site.  For instance, three continuous air monitors, or CAMs, located in the underground mine where workers dispose of radioactive and hazardous waste, were inoperable.  Corrosion and excess salt built-up was found in the vacuum pump.  There are three CAMs so that if one or more malfunctions, there is a backup.  In this case there was no backup.

Further, two workers replaced two fuses in one of the hoists without following the Hazardous Energy Control protocols.  These examples are only two of many. 


The time has come for a carbon-free, nuclear free future. Nuclear Energy is expensive, dirty, and dangerous; We can do better.

Here are just a few resources from IPPNW and ICAN to help others understand how nuclear weapons and militarism hasten climate catastrophe:

Political brawl looms over nuclear cruise missile Biden plans to scrap


An uplifting documentary, “In Our Hands” interweaves performers, individual marchers and down-to-earth scenes of the massive gathering when one million people with one voice called for an end to the nuclear arms race. Capturing the magical spirit of that day with music, fun, tears, and a dazzling look at a cross-section of concerned humanity, "In Our Hands" is filled with high energy and warm feelings.
Directed and produced by Robert Richter and Stan Warnow.

This June 12th will mark the 40th anniversary of the largest peace demonstration in United States history. On this historic day, one million people marched from the United Nations, filled the streets of New York City, and rallied in Central Park to demand an end to the nuclear arms race and a shifting of resources to human needs. People from all over the world spoke with one voice to say "No More Hiroshimas” and “Abolish Nuclear Weapons." The demonstration catalyzed action to freeze and reverse the arms race. 

On Sunday, June 12 — from 12 noon to 4 pm ET — we are planning a special online event to help commemorate this historic time in our history, to reflect, learn, and examine the nuclear disarmament movement then and now. The goal of the commemoration is not only to study the past, but to inspire a new generation of organizers and concerned people to take up the antinuclear banner and work for a future without nuclear weapons, a future grounded in social and climate justice, democracy, and an end to militarism.
Details of the program, along with additional resources, are online at The event will include panels and concurrent breakout sessions on:
  • Examining the June 12th, 1982 Demonstration, including the organizing behind the event and its follow-on impacts
  • Race, Class, and Nuclear Weapons
  • The Importance of Education in the Nuclear Disarmament Movement
  • Climate Change, Nuclear Weapons, and the Future of the Planet
  • Art as Activism, Activism Through Art 
  • Where Do We Go From Here?
Please consider joining the conversation. You can RSVP for the webinar here:

Check out these links to find out what the people of the world are doing to abolish nuclear weapons.
Peace Action WI also opposes nuclear power because it is part of the nuclear weapons fuel cycle and the enormous radioactive harm they cause and they aren't a truly renewable source of energy to stop climate change.
 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Here is an overview from the United Nations website:
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)
ICAN is a coalition of non-governmental organizations promoting adherence to and implementation of the United Nations nuclear weapon ban treaty.
Parliamentary Pledge to promote the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Back from the Brink of Nuclear War 

Back from the Brink campaign –

More information can be found at

Milwaukee County Board Supervisors Board has endorsed Resolution 21-826, the Back From the Brink “Call to Prevent Nuclear War, introduced by Supervisors Steve Shea and Ryan Clancy,  with a vote of 15-2.

 Senator Edward J. Markey, a co-chair of the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group, has introduced legislation calling for No First Use of Nuclear Weapons.
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.

Nuclear Power is Not a Climate Solution: The devastating impacts of Pacific nuclear testing, the Fukushima disaster, and radioactive waste from U.S. nuclear reactors.


The Affected Communities and Allies Working Group of the Nuclear Ban Treaty Collaborative will host a discussion on the devastating impacts of nuclear testing in the Pacific, the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and the dangers of parading nuclear energy as a solution to the climate crisis.

This free online webinar will explain why nuclear energy is not a climate solution and shed light on the underreported impacts of the ongoing nuclear crises in communities impacted by nuclear testing, nuclear energy, and radioactive waste. 

Sixty-eight years ago, on March 1, 1954, the Castle Bravo nuclear test (the largest atmospheric explosion in the Pacific) was conducted by the United States in the Marshall Islands. The total of 67 nuclear tests left the community with ongoing health effects, continued radiation exposure, decimated environments, and generational trauma. 

March 11 marks eleven years since the beginning of the ongoing nuclear disaster in Fukushima. The disaster forced some 160,000 to evacuate. Tens of thousands are still displaced. Thyroid cancer, one of the known adverse effects of radiation exposure, has been on the rise among children. In 2021, the Japanese government decided to dump 1.28 million metric tons of radioactive wastewater from the damaged nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean starting from 2023.

Avaaz petition; 1,067,000 have spoken up to prevent nuclear war.

Add your name
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and other Nobel Peace Prize Laureates have launched a historic call to reject war and nuclear weapons. Now they are asking Avaaz and citizens around the world to join them in protecting our planet.

Let's all sign with one click and share now -- when it's huge, they will deliver our voices for peace to key leaders from the Russian Federation, NATO, and the media:

Open Letter From Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and Citizens of the World Against War and Nuclear Weapons

We reject war and nuclear weapons. We call on all our fellow citizens of the world to join us in protecting our planet, home for all of us, from those who threaten to destroy it.

The invasion of Ukraine has created a humanitarian disaster for its people. The entire world is facing the greatest threat in history: a large-scale nuclear war, capable of destroying our civilization and causing vast ecological damage across the Earth.

We call for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of all Russian military forces from Ukraine, and for all possible efforts at dialogue to prevent this ultimate disaster.

We call on Russia and NATO to explicitly renounce any use of nuclear weapons in this conflict, and we call on all countries to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to ensure that we never again face a similar moment of nuclear danger.

The time to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons is now. It is the only way to guarantee that the inhabitants of the planet will be safe from this existential threat. 

It is either the end of nuclear weapons, or the end of us. 

We reject governance through imposition and threats, and we advocate for dialogue, coexistence and justice. 

A world without nucle

Progressive Lawmakers in US, Japan Call on Biden to Reduce Risk of Nuclear War

AOC joins nuclear abolition bill

By Tim Wallis on Mar 29, 2022 12:04 pm

PHOTO: Franmarie Metzler; U.S. House Office of Photography, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Washington, DC: U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY14) has joined a list of co-sponsors of a bill that would abolish all nuclear weapons and use the money to address climate change and other pressing social needs.

The Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act of 2021 (H.R. 2850) is the 14th such bill introduced by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) since 1994. This latest version of Norton’s bill calls on the United States to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and to redirect the resources currently used for nuclear weapons programs to instead address “human and infrastructure needs, including development and deployment of sustainable carbon-free and nuclear-free energy sources, health care, housing, education, agriculture, and environmental restoration…”

There is no reason for us to be increasing our military spending and our defense budget when we are not funding childcare, healthcare, housing priorities, and the climate crisis here at home,” Ocasio-Cortez stated during a Congressional debate on the Pentagon budget in September 2021. She also pointed out that “the Pentagon could save almost $58 billion by eliminating obsolete weapons – weapons like cold war era bombers and missiles designed and built in the last century that are completely unsuitable for this one.”

The Norton bill calls for a radical shift in federal spending priorities – from spending billions on obsolete bombers and missiles to instead addressing the real needs of people now and on the real threat we are facing today, which is the threat of global warming. And it is not just the spending on nuclear weapons that this bill objects to.

As the current crisis in Ukraine makes clear: nuclear weapons protect no one and serve no military purpose. “The dangerous policy of so-called nuclear deterrence is used to enable the continued invasion of Ukraine by Russia. It does not keep the peace, it allows for war to be carried out,” says ICAN Director, Beatrice Fihn. Russia is using the threat of nuclear weapons for this express purpose in Ukraine, just as the United States “used” its nuclear weapons to ensure that neither Russia nor any other country would interfere with the invasion and occupation of Iraq by US and allied forces in 2003.

In its annual update of the “Doomsday Clock” in January, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists noted that the threat of nuclear war did not end when the Cold War ended. On the contrary, they claim that the danger is greater now than at any time since these weapons were invented, and that threat will not go away until these weapons are finally abolished, which is what the Norton Bill is calling for.


The post AOC joins nuclear abolition bill appeared first on NuclearBan.US.

These nine men


This morning’s interview (Sunday, March 27) by Ayesha Rascoe with Ankit Panda of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace addressed the elevated sense of the threat of nuclear weapons resulting from Vladimir Putin’s threat to use his nuclear weapons.
The interview focused exclusively on the 50 year-old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and left unchallenged Panda’s assertion that the NPT has been a success, despite obvious evidence to the contrary. When the NPT was signed in 1970 there were five nuclear weapons countries. That number has since doubled, then settled at nine when South Africa dismantled its nuclear weapons program. The speaker claimed this signaled the success of the NPT because President John F. Kennedy had speculated many more countries could be nuclear armed.
The claim of success—and this is directly relevant to today’s nuclear threat—ignores the fact that the NPT required nuclear armed states to negotiate “in good faith” an end to the arms race and a treaty on complete disarmament “at an early date.”
The claim of success also ignores the fact that none of the nuclear armed states party to the Treaty, with the possible exception of China, has understood the clear meaning of the NPT and the desire of the states that signed it. Nuclear armed states have limited their efforts to horizontal proliferation (preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to additional states) rather than vertical proliferation (the reduction of stockpiles by nuclear armed states). For the NPT to work, efforts must address both horizontal and vertical proliferation.
If NPR polled the rest of the world about the “success” of the NPT, you might have noticed that 122 nations adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) at the United Nations in July 2017. That Treaty entered into force on January 22, 2021. It is a direct expression of the frustration of non-nuclear-armed states with the failure of the nuclear armed states to meet their NPT obligations to disarm.
Nuclear armed states, including the US, have staunchly refused to engage the TPNW process, boycotting negotiations leading to the Treaty and the vote itself. The media has been complicit in this effort by its failure to do independent reporting on the Treaty.
The complete failure to mention — just mention, to say nothing of in-depth exploring — of the TPNW in today’s interview is dishonest in the sense that it does not represent reality and, instead, presents a falsely limited view of the possible responses to the nuclear threat.
Vladimir Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons is an undeniable demonstration of the failure of the NPT. It does not come out of the blue. In 1996, the World Court’s opinion of the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons tied the two—the power of nuclear weapons lies not only in their use, but also in the threat that they might be used. One could hardly imagine a more explicit validation of that opinion than Putin’s recent actions.
The TPNW continues to gain support as nations formally join the Treaty. On January 22, 2021, more than 100 events took place across the United States celebrating the Treaty; on January 22 this year, nationwide demonstrations called on the US to join the treaty. With the exception of a few local outlets, the media ignored these demonstrations.
Now, with the nuclear threat on everyone’s mind, it is incumbent on the media to tell the whole story. Surely the TPNW, and it promise of a future free of the threat of nuclear annihiliation, is one of the things that must be considered by a media organization that calls its flagship news program “All Things Considered.”
If you need “experts” to talk about the TPNW, contact the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists or Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association. Excerpts from their web sites appear below.
Excerpt from On Nuclear Weapons, Actions Belie Reassuring Words
Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Association
Fresh statements by the five NPT nuclear-armed states reaffirming their “intention” to fulfill their NPT disarmament obligations are hardly credible in the absence of time-bound commitments to specific disarmament actions.
At the same time, the five, led by France, have criticized the good faith efforts by the majority of NPT non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to advance the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Contrary to claims by the nuclear-armed states, the TPNW reinforces the NPT and the norm against possessing, testing, and using nuclear weapons.
Rather than engage TPNW leaders on their substantive concerns, U.S. officials are pressuring influential states, including Sweden, Germany, and Japan, not to attend the first meeting of TPNW states-parties as observers. Such bullying will only reinforce enthusiasm for the TPNW and undermine U.S. credibility on nuclear matters.
The leaders of the nuclear five, especially Biden, can and must do better. Before the NPT review conference later this year, Russia and the United States should commit to conclude by 2025 negotiations on further verifiable cuts in strategic and nonstrategic nuclear forces and on constraints on long-range missile defenses. China, France, and the UK should agree to join nuclear arms control talks no later than 2025 and to freeze their stockpiles as Washington and Moscow negotiate deeper cuts in theirs.
Instead of belittling the TPNW, the five states need to get their own houses in order. Concrete action on disarmament is overdue. It will help create a more stable and peaceful international security environment and facilitate the transformative move from unsustainable and dangerous deterrence doctrines toward a world free of the fear of nuclear Armageddon.
Excerpt from The United States should support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
William J. Perry, for The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
When the United States signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968, we agreed to the terms in Article VI, obligating us to “pursue negotiations in good faith…on a treaty on general and complete disarmament.” However, we and other nuclear powers have failed to uphold our obligation to the NPT, a failure which the ban treaty is working to correct. The ban treaty rightly establishes abolition as the standard that all nations should be actively working to achieve, rather than an indeterminate future goal.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a significant step forward, toward the future we imagined 14 years ago. It creates a bold vision of a nuclear weapons-free world, shifting our focus to the inhumane aspect impact of these weapons and proclaiming a global consensus to address this existential issue. The ban treaty strives to bring our global perception of nuclear weapons closer in line with their terrible reality and formally enshrines the necessity of their total elimination for the good of humanity.
While the treaty alone is not sufficient to bring about the end of nuclear weapons, it establishes key ideals necessary to push us further up the mountain. It offers inspiration to combat the sense of hopelessness that many feel when confronting this daunting problem. It serves as a new instrument of non-proliferation, augmenting the existing Non-Proliferation Treaty. It offers powerful support to those arguing against modernizing and expanding nuclear arsenals, actions that will now fail to follow the international law that most countries have agreed to live by. The treaty won’t end nuclear weapons any time soon, but it represents an important step in that direction.
The United States signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968. At the Reykjavik Summit in 1986, President Reagan made the case for eliminating these weapons. And in 2009, President Obama pledged that the United States would “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Now in 2021, a treaty has come into force that makes nuclear weapons illegal for all who sign it. America prides itself on being a nation of trailblazers; let us be the first nuclear-armed nation to blaze this new trail toward the top of the nuclear-free mountain.


Why it’s time to expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.

In recent weeks, the world has held its collective breath as Russia shelled, and then occupied, Chernobyl, the site of the world’s worst-ever nuclear reactor disaster, and Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Not to mention Putin’s thinly veiled threats of nuclear war to those who support Ukraine. With these developments, the world consciousness has been reinvigorated with concern about nuclear radiation. But, the concern over radiation never waned for those in the American West, who continue to live with the disastrous health consequences from Cold War-era nuclear testing and production.

Kael Weston, a former diplomat and Democratic challenger to Senator Mike Lee’s (R-Utah) seat, announced his candidacy with one issue front and center: His opponent has failed to protect Utahns by supporting the bipartisan Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), the bill championed by long-time Republican Senate leader and Utahn Orrin Hatch and currently sponsored by Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID). Can Weston win a Senate seat by advocating for RECA?


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research shows that all people who were born in the contiguous US after 1951 have received some exposure to radiation from our Cold War-era nuclear testing. But, those in proximity to or downwind of testing sites face dramatically increased odds for cancer and other long-term health concerns. For many, including Weston’s father, the cost of living near nuclear testing sites has been their lives.


Without congressional action, RECA will expire in July 2022. Because of the arbitrarily drawn lines of eligibility written into the original 1990 bill, many Downwinders and other impacted individuals, like many uranium workers, are not eligible for compensation — both in Utah, and in states across the West and territories in the Pacific. Although the bill is championed by other Republican members of the Utah congressional delegation, notably Representatives Burgess Owens (R-UT) and Chris Stewart (R-UT), Weston is right that “neither Utah senator is leading ongoing discussions that would expand RECA.”

Currently, only Downwinders in particular counties in three states near the Nevada Test Site are eligible for any level of compensation — and even existing compensation is inadequate given the soaring cost of health care. Radiation does not stop at county lines, and we have known for many years that winds carried fallout throughout Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Guam, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. Shockingly, even people in the area surrounding the Trinity Test Site in New Mexico, where the first ever nuclear weapon was detonated, have never been eligible for compensation. Radiation-induced illness affects entire communities regardless of age, race, economic status, gender, or political affiliation. Expanding RECA would bring life-changing support to both potato farmers in Idaho and impacted Navajo and Pueblo people in the Four Corners region. 

It’s only right that the US should care for the people impacted by the development of our nuclear arsenal, the hidden victims of the Cold War. There are spaces where we have done this well that can serve as a roadmap. For example, the US government has taken care of coal miners with respiratory conditions and 9/11 first responders and victims that have been diagnosed with a related illness. RECA is very much in line with the care and concern Congress has shown other Americans harmed through no fault of their own. So, why pull the plug on Downwinders and uranium workers, especially when the bills have such bipartisan support?

RECA is a vital lifeline for individuals that live with the lifelong impacts of radiation, many of whom have been going bankrupt trying to cover the cost of cancer care. The maximum RECA compensation is $50,000. While no amount of money can bring back those killed by radiation poisoning, this pittance does not even cover the average $150,000 that cancer care costs in America today. The nuclear industrial complex already disproportionately harms the poor; to then bankrupt impacted individuals with medical debt is an additional level of harm and punishment that is beyond excuse or explanation. 


Despite the fact that expanding and extending RECA is, historically, a bipartisan issue with bipartisan support, efforts to extend and expand the bill have fallen short. 

In 1990, after building support in Congress for nearly 10 years, RECA was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. An uphill battle from the beginning, Senators Hatch (R-UT) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA) worked together to ensure that at least some survivors of nuclear testing could make claims related to illnesses they endured as a result of radiation exposure. Two years before it would have expired, Congress, again on a bipartisan basis, amended RECA to expand benefits to more people and extend the benefits period for another 22 years. Unlike in 2000, however, Congress has left an extension to the eleventh hour, leaving at least tens of thousands of hopeful claimants in an anxious state of uncertainty.

As Senator Hatch stated in his testimony to the House Judiciary Committee in March 2021:

“When [RECA] was passed, in 1990, it had true bipartisan support in both Houses of Congress. There were members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and from all over the Country. There were sponsors as liberal as Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and as conservative as Congressman Jim Hansen (R-Utah). There were members of Congress from as far away as Rhode Island and Hawaii and as close to the test site as Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. It was truly a bipartisan effort then as it should be now.”

Radiation affects all people, regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, or gender, and RECA claimants span the political divide. Though there are more Democratic than Republican cosponsors, the bill is far from partisan. Given the leadership of previous Utah Republicans, it is particularly glaring that both Utah Senators have thus far failed to cosponsor RECA. With Representatives Burgess Owens, Chris Stewart, and Blake Moore — three of the state’s House members — as cosponsors, and a nearly-unanimous state-passed resolution supporting RECA expansion and extension, the absence of the support of the state’s Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) feels particularly pronounced. 

Skeptics of the legislation say they’re concerned about the cost. But, the human cost of radiation exposure is incalculable and the monetary cost of the RECA program is marginal, especially when compared to our continued investment in harmful weapons. The US spends just over $60 billion per year maintaining our nuclear arsenal and yet has only spent $2.5 billion on compensating RECA claimants over the past 31 years. Recently the House Republican leadership blocked adding just the extension to RECA to the Omnibus funding bill.

If Congress does not pass RECA, it is likely that impacted communities who have been waiting, some for as long as 77 years, will never see justice for the harm done to them. Senators Romney and Lee have the responsibility to act, if only to tell the American people that Congress can agree on one thing: When we poison our own people, we are willing to do what is necessary to make it right.

Tina Cordova is a seventh generation native New Mexican, a Downwinder, cancer survivor, and cofounder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium.

Mac Hamilton is the Advocacy Director at Women’s Action for New Directions, an organization committed to peace and security with justice.

Ukraine Negotiations: No Fly Zone, Nukes, Neutrality, and Disarmament

Ukrainian and Russian lives will continue to be shattered until either a ceasefire or completion of successful negotiations are announced.


March 28, 2022

Regardless of whether we agree with him or not, President Biden's statements that Vladimir Putin cannot remain in power and that Putin is a war criminal have compounded already complex negotiations to end Moscow's devastating and nationally self-defeating war of aggression. 

Humanity will be sleepwalking to its doom unless the great powers negotiate nuclear disarmament, and to collaborate to stanch the climate chaos that haunts humanity's future.

With Russia's military advances in Ukraine stymied, and with the mounting death tolls, we are receiving contradictory reports about the state of Russian-Ukrainian diplomacy. Ukraine's lead negotiator Mykailo Podolyak reports that the negotiations with Moscow are "absolutely real", but that the Kremlin hasn't pulled back from its most ambitious war aims. Negotiations, he has said, could continue for months.  Ukraine's  Defense Intelligence, Brig. General Kyrylo Budanov is less optimistic,  reporting  that the negotiations are "vague and unpredictable". Turkey's President Erdogan, who has met with both the Russian dictator and the Ukrainian president in his efforts to mediate an end to the war, reports that negotiators have reached "understandings" about Ukraine and NATO, partial Ukrainian disarmament, collective security, and the use of the Russian language, but there have been no agreements on the future status of Crimea or the Donbas. And, contrary to Podolyak, the New York Times claims that Russia is signaling a change in its war goals, announcing that the "first stage of the operation" has been "mainly accomplished." While it "does not exclude continuing attacks on major Ukrainian cities, the Times reports that are not Moscow's "primary objective". It contends that Russian forces will be concentrated on the "liberation of the Donbas."

Ukrainian and Russian lives will continue to be shattered until either a ceasefire or completion of successful negotiations are announced.

In recent months, I have been privileged to be a set of ears in a confidential series of track II discussions, initially designed to prevent the war and now to help frame diplomatic compromises that could end the bloodletting. Participants include former U.S., Russian and European officials—including military officers, advisors to their respective governments and scholars. A number of the participants communicate with their country's policy makers. A number of these people, despite their differences, have negotiated and otherwise worked together over many years. And even as emotions run high, the discourse is civil and "professional." While there could be unhappy professional consequences for some of the Western participants, one of the senior Russians has commented that "No new initiative comes without the risk of punishment."

This past week, as Ukrainian and Russian negotiators were meeting and other governments weighed in, one of these track II sessions was held to discuss the advocacy and dangers of possible Western no-fly declaration, as well as  what Ukrainian neutrality and disarmament would entail. With the exception of near unanimous opposition to the exceedingly dangerous possibility of a no-fly zone declaration, as described below, a range of possibilities were identified which hopefully will inform the diplomacy needed to end the war.

A No-Fly Zone and NATO "Peacekeepers"

While Russian forces grind away at Ukrainian resistance, there is glee in Washington that Moscow may have trapped itself in an Afghanistan-like quagmire. But one thing that thoughtful U.S. and Russian elites agree upon is that despite the ongoing negotiations, the situation may be as dangerous as during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Then the Kennedy Administration believed the odds were between a third and a half  that the crisis would result in a thermonuclear exchange between the world's two most heavily armed  nuclear powers. 

Just as the United States has done at least thirty times during international crises and wars, Vladimir Putin has threatened the possible use of nuclear weapons and increased the alert status of his nuclear arsenal. In the words of former U.S. Strategic Command Chief, Admiral Charles Richard, the U.S. has used its strategic nuclear forces to "create the 'maneuver space' for us to project conventional military power strategically." This strategy works both ways. It  has prevented the U.S. and NATO from establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine to eliminate aerial support for Russian ground forces. As was the case during the Cuban missile crisis, nuclear alerts  increase the danger of accidents, insubordinations, or miscalculations triggering the unimaginable. There are also fears that if the Russian military and President Putin find themselves on the defensive, in desperation Putin might fall back on attacking with chemical or low-yield nuclear weapons, risking escalation up the nuclear ladder. 

Zelensky has repeatedly appealed for NATO to impose a no-fly zone, an appeal that has found resonance in Congress. Fortunately, thus far NATO leaders have bowed to the reality that enforcing a no-fly zone against Russia would inevitably trigger World War III, in the form of genocidal or omnicidal nuclear exchanges. Enforcing a no-fly zone, would require  attacking Russian anti-aircraft installations and shooting down Russian planes, to which Russia would respond in kind. Yet, in the track II discussion, a senior American warned that the longer the war continues, and as the Russian military is degraded, the temptation to impose a no-fly zone will grow.

A second reckless proposal, which was fortunately disregarded in Brussels, was made by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland's president in the run up to the NATO summit.. Standing beside Volodymyr Zelensky, he floated the idea of dispatching NATO "peacekeeping" forces, capable of defending themselves, to operate in Ukraine. His spokesman later elaborated that the operation would involve deploying NATO and other forces in regions of Ukraine that have yet to be occupied by Russia and protecting them "against further Russian activities" .          

In the track II session, a senior Russian advisor commented that "If Poland moves to impose a no-fly zone or otherwise intervenes in Ukraine, it will be considered an attack by a NATO member state."  Similarly, immediately following the NATO summit, NATO leaders warned that if weapons of mass destruction were used within Ukraine, but their fallout drifted into NATO's territory, it could be interpreted an attack on NATO, necessitating military responses.

Neutrality & Demilitarization

Every war, for better or worse, ends with negotiations. While the details of Russian-Ukrainian negotiations remain tightly held secrets, track II participants assume that Russia's invasion will end with assurances that Ukraine will never join NATO and that it will become a neutral and  significantly demilitarized state. Less certain is whether Moscow will insist on regime change in Kyiv in the guise of "denazification" or if Russia's territorial conquests will remain in place.

Russian ambitions in Ukraine, undefined as they continue to be, indicate that negotiating Ukrainian neutrality is at best a complex affair. As one Russian advisor commented, Moscow will insist that there be no possible military threats emanating from Ukraine for many decades to come. Recognizing the fragility of Swedish and Finnish neutrality, with both nations currently debating the possibility of applying for NATO membership, Russian leaders believe that neutrality cannot be rooted in what they perceive to be a hostile political environment. Thus, it is argued that meaningful agreements on Ukrainian neutrality will require progress in U.S-Russian and Russian-NATO negotiations, and they will need to be confirmed by an international treaty or United Nations Security Council resolution. 

As if these obstacles are not sufficiently daunting, while Moscow states that regime change is not its goal, believing that neutrality must be rooted in a nation's political system and culture, it will demand some restructuring of the Ukrainian state, perhaps in the guise of its denazification demands. Not as difficult, but no slam dunk, are indications that Russia will demand intrusive inspections to verify Ukrainian neutrality and placing Kyiv's nuclear power plants under a special verification regime or in the future to be run by international operators. 

Nonetheless, first steps in the direction of Ukrainian neutrality are being made. Under the pressure of Russia's invasion, President Zelensky has stated that, despite Ukraine's 2019 constitutional commitment to seeking NATO membership, he will not press the issue. He has stated that he is prepared to discuss neutrality as part of a peace deal with Russia but it need to be guaranteed by third parties and approved in a referendum. It is possible that Zelensky may have wanted to opt for neutrality to prevent Russia's invasion, but political pressure from right-wing Ukrainian nationalist forces—including assassination threats—raised the political (and personal) costs of  pursuing that option. 

Regardless of how it is designed, Kyiv agreeing to becoming a neutral state will face significant Ukrainian political opposition necessitating strong support, and likely considerable input, from the United States and other NATO states. 

There are,  in fact, many forms of nation-state neutrality. Swedish, Austrian, Moldavan, Irish, and Swiss neutrality differ from one another. International law would require that Ukrainian neutrality, which prevailed between its 1990 independence until 2015, would require renunciation of Kyiv's ambitions to join NATO, a ban on the presence of foreign military troops and bases, the commitment to treat warring parties equally, and guarantees from a number of countries. Militarily, Ukraine would need the ability to defend its neutrality and territorial integrity. Whether this would include Donetsk, Luhansk, and other regions now controlled by the Russian military appears to be the most divisive issue. Ukraine would also be prohibited from taking part in any international miliary conflict, making its territory available to nations at war (as Cambodia did during the Vietnam War), and providing troops or mercenaries to forces at war. 

Determining how Ukraine would  defend its neutrality will require intense negotiations. Sweden maintains a professional military, reinforced by conscripts, and its military-industrial complex produces weapons for export as well as for national defense. Switzerland has universal male military service. And at the end of the neutrality spectrum is Ireland which spends little on its military and is widely believed to be unable to defend itself against possible aggression, theoretical though it may be. That said, a neutral Ukraine would require some form of police for domestic security, a border/customs patrol, and a minimal military. Determining where weapons and related training for these forces would come from implies further questions about orientation and influence, and would be another highly contested issue. 

Guaranteeing Ukrainian neutrality raises other questions. President Zelensky has said that it would require guarantees from the United States and other NATO nations. Russians respond by asking how this would differ in substance from Ukraine formally joining NATO. There is also the reality that nothing, even constitutions and international treaties that guarantees they will endure. With the people of and governments of Sweden and Finland debating whether end decades of neutrality and apply for membership in NATO Russian analysts are wondering how Ukrainian neutrality could be guaranteed.

What Then?

Ukrainian civilians and soldiers and Russian soldiers are being killed and maimed every day. Many of Ukraine's cities are being reduced to rubble. And indiscriminate sanctions are wreaking havoc and delivering despair to innocent Russians across that continental empire. These must all end.

International civil society has almost universally condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine. With our demands for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, a negotiated settlement to the war, and the withdrawal of all foreign military troops, we have helped to frame and apply international pressure to end this unjustified and tragic war. No one should be sacrificed or displaced while political leaders and diplomats debate the fine points of the negotiated settlement of the war. Negotiations can take place midst a ceasefire. This must be our immediate demand.

Looking to the future, after the guns are silenced we will face the shattered remains of the  post-Cold War order, especially the continuing existential nuclear and  climate existential threats. Recalling that NATO's expansion to Russia's borders was a contributing cause of the Ukrainian disaster and the long record of devastating U.S. imperial wars,  Americans would do well to approach the new era with humility. 

Putin has given us new lessons about the catastropich perils of the arrogance of power. Slow though the restoration of trust and normal diplomatic relations will be, we will face the urgent necessity of Common Security negotiations. The imperatives will be to replace the new ice age of a Cold War with a new Euro-Atlantic order in which no nation seeks to ensure its security at the expense of other nations. This was the promise of initial post-Cold War diplomacy, including the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act. And humanity will be sleepwalking to its doom unless the great powers negotiate nuclear disarmament, and to collaborate to stanch the  climate chaos that haunts humanity's future.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Joseph Gerson


Joseph Gerson is President of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, Co-founder of the Committee for a SANE U.S. China Policy and Vice President of the International Peace Bureau. His books include Empire and the Bomb, and With H

Watch some interesting videos:

What If We Detonated All Nuclear Bombs at Once?

Mar 31, 2019

Wildfires break out in Chernobyl amid a non-functioning radiation-monitoring system

By Susan D’Agostino | March 23, 2022

 Fire in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone from an earlier wildfire in April 2020. Credit: State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management. Accessed via Wikipedia. CC BY 4.0.

Seven wildfires have broken out in the exclusion zone surrounding the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, according to a statement by Ukraine’s Parliament. The fires, which were observed via satellite, exceed Ukraine’s emergency classification criteria tenfold. Ukrainian officials stated that the fires were caused by “the armed aggression of the Russian Federation, namely the shelling or arson,” though this has not been independently verified. Wildfires risk mobilizing and dispersing radioactive contaminants left over from the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl.

Ukrainian firefighters have been unable to access the area since Russia took control in the first days of the war. Energoatom, Ukraine’s state nuclear company, also reported this week that Chernobyl’s radiation monitoring system is no longer working. Without the data that system would provide, radiation levels in the region may rise unchecked. Though the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is no longer operational, it requires constant management.

Ukraine’s State Agency on Exclusion Zone Management also reported this week that the Russian military destroyed a six-million-euro laboratory that, in part, worked to improve radioactive waste management, according to the Associated Press. The lab contained “highly active samples and samples of radionuclides” that could have been released, according to the agency.

Seasonal wildfires are common during spring and summer in the region surrounding Chernobyl. An April 2020 wildfire required more than 100 fire trucks with accompanying firefighters to extinguish; still, it burned more than 8,600 acres. Following that fire, the Chernobyl management team adopted early intervention efforts, such as moving firefighting equipment to the region in advance of fires, that helped mitigate risks. The team also offered fire-prevention education to workers in and residents living near the region. Those efforts kept the 2021 fire season under control, Kateryna Pavlova, Chernobyl’s Head of the Department for International Cooperation and Public Relations, told the Bulletin. “Last year, we prepared the exclusion zone to [prevent] a big fire, but this year it’s the opposite,” Pavlova said. “We are not prepared.” She added that the wildfires of concern started in March this year, whereas in years past, such fires, including the big one in 2020, started in April.

“Get out now:” US closes Kyiv embassy and warns of imminent invasion amid Russia-Ukraine crisis

The current wildfire crisis follows a series of unfortunate events at the infamous Chernobyl site in the past month. After Russian forces took control of Chernobyl, they held hundreds of plant workers hostage in what the International Atomic Energy Agency call a “dire situation.” The staff worked at gunpoint, without replacement and despite exhaustion, to maintain safety at the nuclear facility. This week, some of the staff were freed, with priority given to those who were sick, after more than three weeks of captivity. Many of those who have been released have been unable to return to their families as the Russian military has not provided safe corridors, Pavlova reported.

Earlier this month, the plant also was cut off from the power grid, which raised concerns about monitoring the level and temperature of water in spent nuclear fuel cooling pools. The plant operated on emergency diesel generators during the power outage, and power has since been restored.

Russian forces also shelled and took control of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant—the largest in Europe—earlier this month. Though that incident resulted in no change in radiation levels, nuclear experts have expressed concern that an intentional or accidental wartime strike on a power plant’s reactor or spent fuel cooling pools could exact a significant human and environmental toll.

Listen to Representative Rashida Tlaib talk about why it is crucial to support the ban treaty and ICAN pledge to eliminate nuclear weapons.

Representative Rashida Tlaib talks about the need to eliminate nuclear weapons. - NuclearBan.US

Urge Congress to pass the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act

  Background:  Full text of HR 2850

The Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act in the U.S. House of Representatives would "provide for nuclear weapons abolition and economic conversion ... while ensuring environmental restoration and clean-energy conversion." 

Let your representative know you want them to support it:

Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act


Call To Action: The UN Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons Enters Into Force –  Massachusetts Peace Action

W. E. B. Du Bois to Coretta Scott King: The Untold History of the Movement  to Ban the Bomb - Zinn Education Project

Coretta Scott King (R) with Women Strike for Peace founder Dagmar Wilson (L) in a march on the United Nations Plaza, New York City, Nov. 1, 1963. (Image: Bettmann/CORBIS)

Ploughshares Fund on Twitter: "For Martin Luther King Jr., the struggle  against racism was part of a larger struggle for peace and justice. He  firmly opposed nuclear weapons, and he inspires us


We join anti-nuclear activists across the country and throughout the world on January 22 to celebrate the treaty’s first anniversary of the Entry Into Force,


Watch this video of "The Nuclear Blues"

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICANW)  

Nuclear Ban US

Petition to Stop the Basing of F-35s at Truax Air Base in Madison, Wisconsin.

Sponsored by Peace Action WI, Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, WI Physicians for Social Responsibility, Safe Skies Clean Water WI, WILPF Milwaukee, Interfaith Peace Working Group

   Watch the 2022 Doomsday Clock announcement

In 2021 it was 100 seconds to midnight

LIVE on January 20 at 10 a.m. EST

W. E. B. Du Bois to Coretta Scott King: The Untold History of the Movement to Ban the Bomb

Coretta Scott King (R) with Women Strike for Peace founder Dagmar Wilson, 1963 | Zinn Education Project

Coretta Scott King (R) with Women Strike for Peace founder Dagmar Wilson (L) in a march on the United Nations Plaza, New York City, Nov. 1, 1963. Source: © Bettmann/CORBIS.

By Vincent Intondi

When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. announced his strong opposition to the war in Vietnam, the media attacked him for straying outside of his civil rights mandate. In so many words, powerful interests told him: “Mind your own business.” In fact, African American leaders have long been concerned with broad issues of peace and justice—and have especially opposed nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, this activism is left out of mainstream corporate-produced history textbooks.

On June 6, 1964, three Japanese writers and a group of hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) arrived in Harlem as part of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki World Peace Study Mission. Their mission: to speak out against nuclear proliferation.


Malcolm X and Yuri Kochiyama

Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese American activist, organized a reception for the hibakusha at her home in the Harlem Manhattanville Housing Projects, with her friend Malcolm X. Malcolm said, “You have been scarred by the atom bomb. You just saw that we have also been scarred. The bomb that hit us was racism.” He went on to discuss his years in prison, education, and Asian history. Turning to Vietnam, Malcolm said, “If America sends troops to Vietnam, you progressives should protest.” He argued that “the struggle of Vietnam is the struggle of the whole Third World: the struggle against colonialism, neocolonialism, and imperialism.” Malcolm X, like so many before him, consistently connected colonialism, peace, and the Black freedom struggle. Yet, students have rarely heard this story.

Focusing on African American history, too often textbooks reduce the Black freedom movement to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington. Rosa Parks and Dr. King are put in their neat categorical boxes and students are never taught the Black freedom struggle’s international dimensions, viewing slavery, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement as purely domestic phenomena unrelated to foreign affairs. However, Malcolm X joined a long list of African Americans who, from 1945 onward, actively supported nuclear disarmament. W. E. B. Du Bois, Bayard Rustin, Coretta Scott King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Black Panther Party were just a few of the many African Americans who combined civil rights with peace, and thus broadened the Black freedom movement and helped define it in terms of global human rights.

Writing in the Chicago Defender, poet Langston Hughes was among the first to publicly criticize using the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and the role race played in the decision. Years later, Hughes again used the Black press to raise awareness about the nuclear issue. He implored the U.S. not to use nuclear weapons in Korea, making clear that things would be different if Americans viewed people of color as human beings rather than an “Other.” In his view, racism, nuclear weapons, and colonialism were indeed inextricably linked.

Robeson and Du Bois in Paris, 1949 | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Paul Robeson and W. E. B. Du Bois, World Peace Congress, Paris, April 20, 1949. Source: Du Bois Papers/UMass Amherst Libraries.

If students learn about Du Bois at all, it is usually that he helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) or that he received a PhD from Harvard. However, a few weeks after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Du Bois likened President Truman to Adolph Hitler, calling him “one of the greatest killers of our day.” He had traveled to Japan and consistently criticized the use of nuclear weapons. In the 1950s, fearing another Hiroshima in Korea, Du Bois led the effort in the Black community to eliminate nuclear weapons with the “Ban the Bomb” petition. Many students go through their entire academic careers and learn nothing of Du Bois’ work in the international arena.

Bayard Rustin speaking at the 1958 Anti-Nuclear Rally | Zinn Education Project

Bayard Rustin speaking at the 1958 Anti-Nuclear Rally in England. Source: Contemporary Films.

If students ever hear the name Bayard Rustin, it is usually related to his work with the March on Washington. He has been tragically marginalized in U.S. history textbooks, in large part because of his homosexuality. However, Rustin’s body of work in civil rights and peace activism dates back to the 1930s. In 1959, during the Civil Rights Movement, Rustin not only fought institutional racism in the United States, but also traveled to Ghana to try to prevent France from testing its first nuclear weapon in Africa.

These days, some textbooks acknowledge Dr. King’s critique of the Vietnam War. However, King’s actions against nuclear weapons began a full decade earlier in the late 1950s. From 1957 until his death, through speeches, sermons, interviews, and marches, King consistently protested the use of nuclear weapons and war. King called for an end to nuclear testing asking, “What will be the ultimate value of having established social justice in a context where all people, Negro and White, are merely free to face destruction by Strontium-90 or atomic war?” Following the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, King called on the government to take some of the billions of dollars spent on nuclear weapons and use those funds to increase teachers’ salaries and build much needed schools in impoverished communities. Two years later, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, King argued the spiritual and moral lag in our society was due to three problems: racial injustice, poverty, and war. He warned that in the nuclear age, society must eliminate racism or risk annihilation.

CND Letter to Dr. King and Bayard Rustin | Zinn Education Project

Letter from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament inviting Dr. King and Bayard Rustin to their mass march.

Dr. King’s wife largely inspired his antinuclear stance. Coretta Scott King began her activism as a student at Antioch College. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, King worked with various peace organizations, and along with a group of female activists, began pressuring President Kennedy for a nuclear test ban. In 1962, Coretta King served as a delegate for Women Strike for Peace at a disarmament conference in Geneva that was part of a worldwide effort to push for a nuclear test ban treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union. Upon her return, King spoke at AME church in Chicago, saying: “We are on the brink of destroying ourselves through nuclear warfare . . . . The Civil Rights Movement and the Peace Movement must work together ultimately because peace and civil rights are part of the same problem.” Of course, Coretta was not alone. Zora Neale Hurston, Marian Anderson, Lorraine Hansberry were just a few of the black women who spoke out against the use of nuclear weapons.

Each new school year students will hopefully open their textbooks to study the nuclear arms race and the Black Freedom Movement. However, most will not learn how these issues are connected. They will not learn of all those in the Civil Rights Movement who simultaneously fought for peace. But this must change, and soon. The scarring of war and poverty and racism that Malcolm X spoke of continues. It is time that students learn about the long history of activism that has challenged these deadly triplets.

Nuclear Power is Not a Climate Solution: The devastating impacts of Pacific nuclear testing, the Fukushima disaster, and radioactive waste from U.S. nuclear reactors.

Here is the link to the video that was live streamed for those who were unable to attend or want to view it again or share it with others:

The Affected Communities and Allies Working Group of the Nuclear Ban Treaty Collaborative will host a discussion on the devastating impacts of nuclear testing in the Pacific, the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and the dangers of parading nuclear energy as a solution to the climate crisis.

This free online webinar will explain why nuclear energy is not a climate solution and shed light on the underreported impacts of the ongoing nuclear crises in communities impacted by nuclear testing, nuclear energy, and radioactive waste. 

Sixty-eight years ago, on March 1, 1954, the Castle Bravo nuclear test (the largest atmospheric explosion in the Pacific) was conducted by the United States in the Marshall Islands. The total of 67 nuclear tests left the community with ongoing health effects, continued radiation exposure, decimated environments, and generational trauma. 

March 11 marks eleven years since the beginning of the ongoing nuclear disaster in Fukushima. The disaster forced some 160,000 to evacuate. Tens of thousands are still displaced. Thyroid cancer, one of the known adverse effects of radiation exposure, has been on the rise among children. In 2021, the Japanese government decided to dump 1.28 million metric tons of radioactive wastewater from the damaged nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean starting from 2023.

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  • Pamela Richard
    published this page 2022-01-14 10:37:21 -0600