A Nuclear Affair

BY Muhammad Riaz Pasha

No one should be a nuclear supplier or a member of a nuclear supplier group 

On June 15, more than 130 nations reconvened at the United Nations for the final session of negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. While the U.S. and other nuclear-armed and nuclear-allied nations boycotted this process, the clear majority of the world’s nations showed readiness to definitively prohibit nuclear weapons – the only weapon of mass destruction not currently banned. And on July 7, a global treaty to ban the bombs was approved, and endorsed by 122 countries at the United Nations headquarters in New York after months of discussions and a fierce opposition put forth by nuclear powers.

The Netherlands, which has U.S. nuclear weapons on its territory, voted against the agreement.

Nuclear energy is not a civilian economic activity. It is an appendage of the nuclear weapons industry which is controlled by the so-called defense contractors. The powerful corporate interests behind nuclear energy and nuclear weapons overlap

The aim of the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) Guidelines is to ensure that nuclear trade for peaceful purposes does not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and that international trade and cooperation in the nuclear field is not hindered unjustly in the process.

The NSG Guidelines facilitate the development of trade in this area by providing the means whereby obligations to facilitate peaceful nuclear cooperation can be implemented in a manner consistent with international nuclear non-proliferation norms.

The NSG was created following the explosion in 1974 of a nuclear device by a non-nuclear-weapon State, which demonstrated that nuclear technology transferred for peaceful purposes could be misused The resultant Acheson-Lilienthal report stated that the “development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes and the development of atomic energy for bombs are in much of their course interchangeable and interdependent” and concluded that no country could be trusted to develop atomic power because even a primarily peaceful program might provide fissionable materials to build bombs

U.S. officials also were guilty of wishful thinking. They had too much confidence in their ability to control the nuclear behavior of other countries. To make matters worse, their emphasis on the scientific, commercial, and political benefits of U.S. nuclear exports prevented them from paying adequate attention to the security needs and perceptions of recipient countries, several of which would go on to misuse U.S. assistance. Moreover, many officials at that time believed that they had a responsibility to bring a scientific discovery as revolutionary as that of atomic energy into widespread application, whatever the risks. Such optimism in the ability of U.S. technology to deliver prosperity and peace to the world did not abate until India’s 1974 nuclear explosive test demonstrated the dangerous potential of “peaceful” nuclear technology

However, U.S. officials never suspected that India was trying to produce nuclear weapons, even though the technology and materials he accumulated under Atoms for Peace enabled India to manufacture and detonate a nuclear device in 1974 and become a full-fledged nuclear-weapon state in 1998.

Critics correctly point out that the road to nuclear weapons production would have been much rockier for India had the United States not launched Atoms for Peace. The liberal nuclear export policies initiated by the United States and other Western suppliers in the mid-1950s dramatically reduced the costs of undertaking serious nuclear research and development for dozens of nations around the world. Proponents of nuclear energy in countries without a nuclear program before Atoms for Peace, or other countries with foundering programs, were now able to convince national leaders of the technical and economic feasibility of operating nuclear reactors, uranium-enrichment plants, and plutonium reprocessing facilities. In a handful of cases, highly determined governments succeeded in producing nuclear weapons from so-called peaceful nuclear technologies.

There are many more instances where the diversion of scientific or industrial nuclear materials for military uses was detected and defeated by the nonproliferation notions and instruments that began under Atoms for Peace. Argentina, Brazil, Taiwan, and South Korea are cases in point.

The crisis in Japan has also brought into the open the unspoken relationship between nuclear energy and nuclear war. Most of prominent Japanese nuclear scientists have believed the peaceful use of nuclear energy and they advocated Japan’s government and public people that the nuclear energy is completely safe. With this belief, Japan built the 54 nuclear power units in the country with frequent earthquakes and a volcanic chain. Japanese people learned from the reality of Fukushima nuclear accident that many unsolved issues continue : 400 tons of contaminated water from the Fukushima plant run into the see every day ; no repository sites have been designated for radiation waste materials ; no scientific  solutions regarding clean-up of the melted reactors for at least 50 years. Those eminent nuclear scientists have disappeared from the public debate on the scientific solution

In Japan at the height of the disaster, “the nuclear industry and government agencies were  scrambling to prevent the discovery of atomic-bomb research facilities hidden inside Japan’s civilian nuclear power plants”.1  (See Yoichi Shimatsu, Secret Weapons Program Inside Fukushima Nuclear Plant? Global Research, April 12, 2011)

It should be noted that the complacency of both the media and the governments to the hazards of nuclear radiation pertains to the nuclear energy industry as well as to use of nuclear weapons. In both cases, the devastating health impacts of nuclear radiation are casually denied. Tactical nuclear weapons with an explosive capacity of up to six times a Hiroshima bomb are labelled by the Pentagon as “safe for the surrounding civilian population

Since the discovery of ionizing radiation, a number of human radiation experiments have been performed to understand the effects of ionizing radiation and radioactive contamination on the human body, specifically with the element plutonium. Researchers in the United States have performed thousands of human radiation experiments to determine the effects of atomic radiation and radioactive contamination on the human body, generally on people who were poor, sick, or powerless .Most of these tests were performed, funded, or supervised  by the United States military, Atomic Energy Commission, or various other US federal government agencies.

The experiments included a wide array of studies, involving things like feeding radioactive food to mentally disabled children or conscientious objectors, inserting radium rods into the noses of schoolchildren, deliberately releasing radioactive chemicals over U.S. and Canadian cities, measuring the health effects of radioactive fallout from nuclear bomb tests, injecting pregnant women and babies with radioactive chemicals, and irradiating the testicles of prison inmates, amongst other things.

Much information about these programs was classified and kept secret. In 1986 the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce released a report entitled American Nuclear Guinea Pigs: Three Decades of Radiation Experiments on U.S. Citizens. In the 1990s Eileen Welsome’s reports on radiation testing for The Albuquerque Tribune prompted the creation of the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments by executive order of President Bill Clinton, to monitor government tests. It published results in 1995. Welsome later wrote a book called The Plutonium Files

Between 1960 and 1971, the Department of Defense funded non-consensual whole body radiation experiments on poor, black cancer patients, who were not told what was being done to them. Patients were told that they were receiving a “treatment” that might cure their cancer, but the Pentagon was trying to determine the effects of high levels of radiation on the human body. One of the doctors involved in the experiments, Robert Stone, was worried about litigation by the patients. He referred to them only by their initials on the medical reports. He did this so that, in his words, “there will be no means by which the patients can ever connect themselves up with the report”, in order to prevent “either adverse publicity or litigation”

From 1960 to 1971, Dr. Eugene Saenger, funded by the Defense Atomic Support Agency, performed whole body radiation experiments on more than 90 poor, black, advanced stage cancer patients with inoperable tumors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center during the Cincinnati Radiation Experiments. He forged consent forms, and did not inform the patients of the risks of irradiation. The patients were given 100 or more rad (1 Gy) of whole-body radiation, which in many caused intense pain and vomiting. Critics have questioned the medical rationale for this study, and contend that the main purpose of the research was to study the acute effects of radiation exposure.

From 1963 to 1973, a leading endocrinologist, Dr. Carl Heller, irradiated the testicles of Oregon and Washington prisoners. In return for their participation, he gave them $5 a month, and $100 when they had to receive a vasectomy upon conclusion of the trial. The surgeon who sterilized the men said that it was necessary to “keep from contaminating the general population with radiation-induced mutants”. Dr. Joseph Hamilton, one of the researchers who had worked with Heller on the experiments, said that the experiments “had a little of the Buchenwald touch”.

In 1963, University of Washington researchers irradiated the testes of 232 prisoners to determine the effects of radiation on testicular function. When these inmates later left prison and had children, at least four of them had offspring born with birth defects. The exact number is unknown because researchers never followed up on the status of the subjects.

Muhammad Riaz Pasha is a nuclear scientist and former advisor/technical consultant at Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and is a member of International Advisory Council of Nuclear Emergency Action Alliance with 28 years experience in covering key issues of enrichment, nuclear energy and nuclear fusion energy

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