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Friday
Sep292017

Remembering Mayak, the nuclear disaster that no one talks about

To most, a major nuclear accident means Chernobyl or Fukushima. But the world's third most deadly nuclear disaster happened 60 years ago, on September 29, 1957, at the Mayak plutonium production facility, in a closed Soviet city. High-level nuclear waste had already been dumped for years into the nearby Techa river, still contaminated today with high levels of cesium 137, strontium 90 and plutonium. When Karatchai Lake, also used as a nuclear waste dump, was drained in 1967, radioactive dust particles were lofted into the air and dispersed far and wide. But the huge explosion at Mayak was kept secret for decades. Villages were bulldozed leaving people with nothing, "even the possibility to have kids," says exiled Russian activist, Nadezda Kutepova (pictured at left with local woman), who fought for medical treatment and benefits for residents. Swiss activist, Stefan Füglister, says the crime of Mayak was that the health and safety of inhabitants was deliberately and knowingly sacrificed to the arms race. "Compared to the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the workers of Mayak, the inhabitants of the valley of the Techa, as well as those in the downfall area of the bomb trial site of Semipalatinsk, were exposed to higher collective - and in some cases - also to higher individual doses," he said. Yet Mayak, now public, still seems like a secret.  

Thursday
Sep282017

Why the nuclear weapons ban matters

Nuclear-Free Future Award winner, Susi Snyder, of PAX, recently appeared on Democracy Now! to explain the significance of the UN nuclear weapons ban treaty. Wrote Democracy Now! on its website:

"Amid tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, 51 countries have signed the world’s first legally binding treaty banning nuclear weapons. It prohibits the development, testing and possession of nuclear weapons, as well as using or threatening to use these weapons. It was first adopted in July by 122 U.N. member states, despite heavy U.S. opposition. None of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons signed the measure, including Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel. We speak with Susi Snyder, nuclear disarmament program manager for the Netherlands-based group PAX and author of the report 'Don’t Bank on the Bomb.'"

Watch the video

Saturday
Sep232017

Sep. 26 is Nuclear Abolition Day. It was also the day one man saved the world

On September 26, we should remember the man who saved the world. 

"Petrov was the lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Union’s Air Defense Forces who, on the night of September 26, 1983 just happened to be in charge of monitoring his country’s satellite system that watched for a potential launch of nuclear weapons by the United States. In the early hours, such a launch appeared to have happened.

Petrov had only minutes to decide if the launch was genuine. He was supposed to report the alert up the chain of command. Doing so would almost certainly have led to a counterstrike, triggering a full-on nuclear exchange between the Soviet Union and the U.S. Instead, Petrov hesitated. And doubted.

The alarm suggested five missiles, too few for an all-out nuclear attack by the U.S. But time was of the essence. If Petrov’s doubts were misplaced and this was a real attack, his duty was to inform his superiors so a retaliatory strike could be launched.

But Petrov never made that call. Instead, he decided to check if there was a computer malfunction. This was later discovered to have been the case. A satellite had mistaken the sun’s reflection off the tops of clouds for a missile launch. The computer system had failed to make the distinction as well." (Petrov is pictured winning the Dresden Peace Prize in 2013.)

Read the rest of Linda Pentz Gunter's article in Counterpunch.

Friday
Sep222017

Amid Tensions with North Korea, 51 Countries Sign Ban on Nuclear Weapons Despite U.S. Opposition

As reported by Democracy Now!:

Amid tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, 51 countries have signed the world’s first legally binding treaty banning nuclear weapons. It prohibits the development, testing and possession of nuclear weapons, as well as using or threatening to use these weapons. It was first adopted in July by 122 U.N. member states, despite heavy U.S. opposition. None of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons signed the measure, including Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel. We speak with Susi Snyder, nuclear disarmament program manager for the Netherlands-based group PAX and author of the report "Don’t Bank on the Bomb."

Snyder, along with ICAN, was a 2016 Nuclear-Free Future Awards winner.

Tuesday
Sep192017

Basel Declaration on trans-generational crimes of nuclear weapons & nuclear energy

A four-day conference --  Human Rights, Future Generations and Crimes Against the Nuclear Age, held September 14-17 in Basel, Switzerland, concluded on Sunday with the release of the Basel Declaration on human rights and trans-generational crimes resulting from nuclear weapons and nuclear energy.

The conference included delegations from all over the world who came together to hear presesentations, strategize and network. (The participants are pictured above.) The conference also included the presentation of the 2017 Nuclear-Free Future Awards.

The declaration draws from the scientific evidence presented to the conference, and the application of international law, to conclude that:

"the risks and impacts of nuclear weapons, depleted uranium weapons and nuclear energy, which are both transnational and trans-generational, constitute a violation of human rights, a transgression of international humanitarian and environmental law, and a crime against future generations."

The Basel conference also considered alternatives to nuclear energy and the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines. As such, the declaration affirms that:

"The energy needs of all countries can be met by safe, sustainable, renewable energies, and that the security of all countries can be met without reliance on nuclear weapons."

The declaration cites REthinking Energy: Renewable Energy and Climate Change , the 2015 Report of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) which demonstrates the possibilities to completely replace fossil fuels by safe renewable energies, without relying on nuclear energy, by 2030.

The declaration highlights that "The high risks of nuclear weapons being used in current conflicts such as in North East Asia, in other times of tension, and until nuclear weapons are eliminated provides an imperative for nuclear abolition."