Picture a vast hole being dug into a mesa at Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratories that will be 125 feet deep and three football fields in area.Now, imagine it being filled in to make one vast concrete slab. Why? What on earth could such a monstrous slab be for?
The why of it is simple and is perverse. Bechtel Corporation and University of California have learned that the site they have designated for the new CMRR radiological laboratory sits atop a geological fault zone. So, rather than relocate the new facility they have decided that such a slab, 125 feet deep, will provide enough safety in the event of an earthquake to continue manufacturing plutonium pits for a new generation of nuclear weapons. Their solution is a masterful demonstration of sheer audacity and hubris. It will be an engineering marvel the weaponeers say. At 4.2 billion dollars to build it, with 200,000 huge dump trucks of concrete who can argue with that? We, the ever fearful American public, are supposed to pay for this slab and trust that nothing goes wrong. Nothing bad can possibly happen.
Well, think of the BP oil spill now befouling the shores of America. Think of Yucca Mountain, which already leaks and is unsuitable for use as a fissionable materials storage facility. Think of San Onofre nuclear power plant perched on a fault zone at the edge of the California coast. Think of the prospects for oil drilling off the coast of Mendocino and the much vaulted wave energy schemes that could forever change the character of our beautiful coast. Everywhere we turn, the engineering whizzes are busy dreaming of multi-billion dollar projects to close off, befoul, and exploit the land and its resources, at great profit to the mega-corporations that rule the American political landscape.
If the Obama administration has its way, this hole at Los Alamos will be dug out and then filled in again for one purpose---to build better bombs, bigger bombs, more bombs. Once built, for decades hence, this spanking new plutonium pit production facility will stand as a stark reminder that Obama was not serious about ridding the world of nuclear weapons. He made such a grand statement in Prague on April 9, 2009 only to turn around and through the vehicle of the Nuclear Posture Review announce the largest expansion of nuclear weapons production since 1944, when the Los Alamos physicists were at work creating the first nuclear weapons the world had ever seen. Obama is very adept at giving a good speech about a future without the scourge of nuclear weapons. Only one thing is a problem, he had yet to understand that more nuclear bombs (the bigger, better, more kind) a safer world does not make.
For the second time this spring, I rummaged through my DVD pile for my copy of ‘Seven Days in May.’ Near the end of the movie, Frederick March gives a marvelous speech about ridding the world, once and for all, of the long dark tunnel of fear that the nuclear age engendered. The movie was set in the time of the Cold War, a time when the nuclear hawks (think General Curtis LeMay of SAC) actually believed that nuclear weapons were possible to use in war. There exist such hawks today. They talk of tactical uses, ‘upgrades’ of the existing inventory, the need to return to testing for reliance purposes, throw weight and kill ratios.
Meanwhile, here on the magic Pacific Rim, far from the Madding Crowd some would say, we occupy our minds with the endless marijuana debate, One simply cannot read a local paper or listen to KZYX without being immersed in the pros and cons of legalization. How inane can we be? Martin Luther King, Jr. once observed: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” In the scale of things that should (must) matter to each of us, a world free of nuclear weapons is a debate one hell of a lot more important than whether or not a person can have six or twenty five pot plants in their back yard. To those who agree that this is so, I encourage them to boot up Los Alamos Study Group, in Albuquerque, on their computer. Find out what is happening at the weapons labs, how our taxes are being spent, and what the consequences are for the new, decades into the future, nuclear weapons building program. Don’t assume that Obama, any more than Bush, means to end this madness. Nothing is of more local consequence that the threat nuclear weapons pose to all of us.