3 NUCLEAR WAR LABS HAVE RUN AMOK, BLOCK DISARMAMENT, AND SHOULD BE SHUT DOWN
NEW YORK---The nation's three privatized nuclear warhead laboratories are bloated, redundant, stand in the way of progress on real 21st century security issues, and should be shut down, a conference on peace and security here was told.
"These privatized labs have become a considerable racket" and this year will consume more than $4 billion for their nuclear weapons activities, said Greg Mello, Executive Director of the Los Alamos Study Group (LASG), of Albuquerque, N.M., which tracks their activities.
The laboratories are the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in Los Alamos, N.M., the Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) in Albuquerque, NM, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, CA. Civil society's disarmament's efforts since the demise of the Soviet Union "have all foundered in substantial part because they failed to realize the central importance of attenuating and then eliminating the political power of these laboratories," Mello said.
The laboratories are pushing "an ambitious plan to replace all current warheads and (nuclear) bombs with redesigned models" that will actually make them more destructive, threatening further to destabilize our relationship with Russia, and with their new delivery systems will cost taxpayers over time more than an estimated one trillion dollars, Mello said.
In a talk Feb. 28th to the Helen Caldicott Foundation conference on "The Dynamics of Possible Nuclear Extinction" in the New York Academy of Medicine, Mello said the labs "are the primary institutions through by which corporate prerogatives have replaced government decision-making in the nuclear weapons arena."
"The labs were given sweeping new powers in 1996," Mello recalled, and since 2006 all are fully privatized. "They now wield enormous policy power by a variety of means both crude and subtle, direct and indirect, and they do not hesitate to blackmail government whenever that power is threatened."
Nuclear weapons should be banned, as dozens of countries are now considering, Mello said, "and the nuclear weapons laboratories should be closed entirely as part of such a ban." "After 25 years of close examination of the labs," he continued, "we have finally concluded, and for the first time, that the labs have no unique role in disarmament, nonproliferation, verification, cleanup, intelligence, or in any other mission" that cannot be performed "more objectively, cheaper, and better" by other institutions. All government-led and civil society efforts at reform have failed.
Privatization deepened the conflict of interest at the labs, since now the three labs' directors corporate officers have a legal responsibility to advise the Secretary of Energy and the President regarding the (nuclear) stockpile while also having a legal responsibility to bring in more business, Mello warned. "What's more," he pointed out, "The corporations are fully indemnified and protected from the consequences of their many failures, misuses of funds, violations of law, and accidents, and they have never paid a dime for any of these."
"It is now critically important," Mello concluded, "to dethrone the nuclear weapons laboratories now in public, in the executive branch, and in congressional eyes to prepare for disarmament -- to expose the transgressive nature of nuclear weapons institutions right along with nuclear weapons themselves. If we don't, we won't be able to grapple with the real problems this country faces."
In 2002, Prior to his current position, Mello was a Visiting Research Fellow at Princeton's Program of Science and Global Security.
The conference at which Mello spoke comes at a time when tensions between Russia and the U.S. are escalating. "As the Cold War heats up again, the U.S. and Russia maintain over 1,000 weapons on hair-trigger alert to be launched with a press of a button," says Dr. Caldicott, an Australian pediatrician who has become perhaps the most prominent opponent of nuclear war and nuclear power.
Between them, Dr. Caldicott says, "the U.S. and Russia possess 93% of the world's 16,400 nuclear weapons arsenal -- a situation which is made worse by outdated equipment, negligence, poor maintenance, viruses, and hacking within the arsenals of both countries." -30-
Sherwood Ross worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and contributed a regular "Workplace" column for Reuters. He has contributed to national magazines and hosted a talk show on WOL, Washington, D.C. In the Sixties he was active as public (more...