2017 Nuclear-Free Future Award winners announced








Today at the United Nations, a majority of the world community signed a historic treaty: a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination. This historic outcome is the result of the tireless work of dedicated individuals from across the globe. And it could not be more urgent and timely, given the recent ICBM launch by North Korea and heightened tensions between that country and the United States 

The Nuclear-Free Future Award (NFFA) has, since 1998, recognized that without these efforts such achievements can never be attained. To reward this work, the NFFA annually honors unsung heroes whose efforts and struggles, sometimes at risk to their own lives, and often unsupported financially, deserve international recognition and acclamation. 

Winners of the 2017 Nuclear-Free Future Award, each worth $10,000, are from Niger, Great Britain and Japan. The NFFA also offers two non-monetary Special Recognition awards. The ceremony will take place on September 15, in Basel, Switzerland.

The 2017 winners are: Almoustapha Alhacen (pictured left), Niger, for Resistance; Janine Allis-Smith and Martin Forwood, (pictured above) Great Britain, for Education; and Hiromichi Umebayashi, Japan, for Solutions. Jochen Stay of Germany and the Swiss anti-nuclear movement will receive the Special Recognition awards. 

Almoustapha Alhacen, a Tuareg, worked until recently at the French-owned Areva uranium mine in Arlit, Niger. When he saw how his sick and dying co-workers were ignored by the company, and how the environment was affected, he founded the NGO, Aghirin’man, (“Protection of the Soul,” in the language of the Tuareg). Alhacen has courageously spoken out, both in Niger and on international stages, against human rights abuses and the negative health impacts caused by uranium mining, and continues to do so even after losing his job and livelihood in 2015. 

Janine Allis-Smith and Martin Forwood are the two-person heart of Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE). For several decades, the pair have unmasked, publicized and challenged the often secret operations at the Cumbria-based Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in northwest England and its short-lived and failed MOX fuel fabrication plant there. Today, they are also helping lead opposition to proposed new nuclear reactors at Moorside, adjacent to Sellafield. CORE is an indispensable pillar of the British anti-nuclear movement.

In 1980, physicist Dr. Hiromichi Umebayashi (pictured left) left his teaching post at the Tokyo Metropolitan Technical College in order to dedicate himself to achieving world peace and to eliminating nuclear weapons. His vision: a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone; no atomic missiles stationed on the ground in Japan, North Korea, or South Korea; and a guarantee from Russia, China, and the United States that no nuclear weapons would be deployed or used within the zone. He is the founder of Peace Depot Inc., a non-profit initiative that focuses on peace research and education and promotes ideas for national defense systems not reliant on atomic deterrence or outright military supremacy. 

The ceremony honoring this year’s Nuclear-Free Future Award winners takes place in cooperation with the international congress “Human Rights, Future Generations, and Crimes in the Nuclear Age,” September 14th-17th, Kollegienhaus, University of Basel, Petersplatz 1.  More


Floating nuclear plants and plutonium on the high seas 

As if the idea of a floating nuclear power plant wasn't insanity enough -- read this week's news of a possible fire on board a Russian one under construction -- there is also a plutonium cargo under sail. Two heavily armed British gunships departed the UK last Sunday for France where they picked up 16 mixed oxide fuel assemblies (a mixed uranium-plutonium reactor fuel) that are now en route to delivery in Japan. Over the years, these high security-risk, floating nuclear bombs have been vigorously opposed by UK watchdog group, Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment and others. As Martin Forwood of CORE stated: "the need for this level of armed security brings home the reality of the very real and significant dangers of transporting plutonium -- in this case enough for around one hundred nuclear weapons  --  and demolishes the industry's complacent and short-sighted claim that such shipments pose no risks." More


Global nuclear weapons ban negotiations wrapping up at UN

In the midst of an ominous ICBM missile launch by North Korea, negotiations on a nuclear weapons prohibition treaty are set to conclude this Friday at the UN in New York. They follow a UN resolution adopted in October 2016 and approved by 123 nations, although no nuclear weapons state voted in favor. We asked Nuclear-Free Future Award winner, Susi Snyder, of Pax, Netherlands, to explain why a ban matters and how it will work. She wrote:  "A majority of the countries in the world are coming together to create a new unambiguous international law saying that making, having, getting, or using nuclear weapons, or helping anyone to do those things, is illegal. Even without the participation of nuclear-armed states, the ban treaty will have a powerful impact on the decisions of many countries. The ban treaty will delegitimize the possession of these weapons, discourage their spread, and reinforce norms against nuclear weapons. Ban opponents have fought it vigorously because they know it will have real impact. However, states that are not signatories to the other weapons prohibitions treaties often act within their rules. For example, the U.S. follows the landmines ban even though it hasn't signed it." More

Small modular reactors are a (misguided) aspiration not a likely reality

The Tennessee Valley Authority says it wants to develope the decades-old small modular reactor concept at the Oak Ridge laboratory (pictured). The Southern Alliance of Clean Energy (SACE) is among the groups opposing this. "We are concerned that billions of dollars could be spent on a technology that is unproven, untested and significantly more expensive than other types of power technology that are available to TVA," said SACE spokeswoman, Sara Barczak.

M.V. Ramana, a professor and chair of the Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, said TVA's site application for the small reactors is "more like an advertisement brochure than an examination of the environmental impacts of constructing these reactors."

SACE and the Union of Concerned Scientists have joined the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League in petitioning the NRC to deny the early site permit for the small reactors in Oak Ridge.

"There is a long history of experimentation with small nuclear reactors, and the evidence so far suggests that small reactors cost too much for the little electricity they produce," Ramana said. More


Disastrous defense authorization bill pending in House 

Writes John Tierney, executive director of the Council for a Livable World, the  the defense authorization bill soon under consideration in the U.S. House is a disaster for safety, security and the economy. Worse yet, "The Chairman of the House of Armed Services Committee is proposing a $705 billion Pentagon budget, at least $75 billion more than President Reagan’s peak defense spending in adjusted dollars. This represents a massive increase of wasteful spending that can only be described as shameful." The Council noted of the bill:

  • It carelessly restricts funding or undermines the goals for vital arms control treaties that make us safer, like New START, the Open Skies Treaty, and the INF Treaty.
  • It disgracefully limits the dismantlement of nuclear weapons that have already been retired.
  • It blindly adds new systems for a $40 billion unproven missile defense program.