Synthesis/Regeneration 11   (Fall 1996)

Organizing to Prevent Nuclear Catastrophe

Report from the Las Vegas Nuclear Abolition Summit

by Karina Holyoak Wood, Peace Action Education Fund

Antinuclear activists met in Las Vegas April 1-4 to network and plan to raise nuclear issues in the 1996 US elections, and to strengthen the worldwide nuclear abolition movement known as Abolition 2000. The Summit was called on the basis of the belief that 1996 represents an incredible window of opportunity for this movement-at no other time in the nuclear age have the nuclear weapons states been so close to a decision to ban nuclear testing and deal seriously with nuclear disarmament.

A diverse grassroots movement was evidenced by the 130-150 activists who came. There were a sizable number of Native American participants, indigenous peoples and other activists from Hawai'i, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Sweden, Germany, as well as a delegation from Japan including Hibakusha from Gensuikyo. The youngest participants were in high school and the oldest 90. They varied from suit-and-tie Washingtonian politico to direct action activist to Pacific islands revolutionary to Buddhist monk to ex-Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear laboratory worker to community journalist to Western Shoshone spiritual leader.

Jackie Cabasso reported on a March demonstration in France where 3,000 people marched on the CESTA nuclear laboratory to protest plans for the megajoule laser, evil twin of the NIF (National Ignition Facility planned for the Lawrence Livermore Lab). The Japanese delegation reported that 90,000 people demonstrated in Okinawa the week preceding the Summit to call for the closure of the US military bases there and the presence of nuclear weapons in Japanese waters. National networks are forming in many countries based upon adherence to the 11 point statement produced by the NGO Abolition Caucus at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review & Extension Conference last year.

Major Points of Discussion.

Many Summit participants viewed the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) as being almost worthless as a disarmament measure because vertical proliferation will go unchecked amongst the nuclear weapons states due to laboratory simulated testing. The treaty was generally viewed as discriminatory, serving to consolidate the privileges enjoyed by the nuclear weapons states, locked into the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) last year when non-proliferation was effectively decoupled from disarmament. However, there was support for promoting the CTBT as a qualified victory for the global disarmament movement, and for using the occasion of its signing (September, 1996 at the UN in New York) to build the movement for abolition. Preventing sub-critical testing and opposing DOE's Stockpile Stewardship & Management program were viewed as campaign priorities. The Mouvement de la Paix's slogan "simulated tests = real death" caught the imagination of many activists.

The slogan for the Summit "Breaking the Nuclear Chain: no mining, no testing, no production, no dumping, no nukes" acknowledges the inextricable link between "peaceful" and warlike uses of nuclear technologies.

Connection of military and commercial nuclear uses was fundamental to the Summit's agenda. The slogan for the Summit "Breaking the Nuclear Chain: no mining, no testing, no production, no dumping, no nukes" acknowledges the inextricable link between "peaceful" and warlike uses of nuclear technologies. A real non-proliferation policy requires disarmament and safe renewable energy alternatives. Transportation and waste storage were identified as links common to both military and commercial nuclear industries.

Participants agreed that focuses for action should include defeating current transportation and long-term storage legislation; halting production of nuclear waste; promoting on-site, above-ground, monitored, retrievable storage of existing nuclear waste; promoting alternative sustainable energy research; establishing nuclear free zones and other citizen initiatives to halt the transportation and dumping of all nuclear materials. Many discussions connected nuclear issues to indigenous land issues. The legacy of nuclear colonialism was established as a necessary contextual theme to understand and address in our work.

Some short-term goals were set at the close of the Summit: (1) Support Rep. Joe Kennedy's bill (HR 3143) to cut funds for the National Ignition Facility by calling Congressional Representatives; (2) Support Representatives Furse and Leach's sign-on letter to the President on Russian ratification of START II and begin talks on a START III; (3) Publicize and promote initiatives on a "Sensible Military Budget;" (4) Achieve a CTBT, agitating for an end to all nuclear tests, real or simulated; (5) Cancel the sub-critical tests and close down the Nevada Test Site; and (6) Work for a Nuclear Weapons Convention.

On Monday, April 8, around 100 activists closed down the main entrance to the Nevada Test Site (NTS) for over an hour by means of nonviolent human blockades. Three radioactive waste shipments, ten buses (carrying NTS personnel) and numerous cars were delayed or denied entry. The action was in protest of the DOE's planned underground "subcritical nuclear experiment" at the NTS, originally scheduled for June 18, now for October, for which the site is presently preparing.

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