PSR doctor questions Trident Renewal and calls to abolish all nuclear weapons worldwide
David C. Hall, MD, PSR Past President
May 16, 2011
and US Navy are planning to rebuild the Trident submarine nuclear weapons fleet
over the next fifteen years at a cost likely to exceed $1 trillion over the
life of the program. Currently eight of the fourteen Trident warships allowed
under the START treaty homeport on Hood Canal at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in
Washington State. The other six homeport at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay,
In what may
well be an opening salvo announcing the rebuild of the Trident fleet, the Navy
plans to build a new and expanded Explosives Handling Wharf at Bangor next to
the one currently servicing these warships. Price tag: $783 million. The Navy
claims to need 400 operational days a year to load and unload missiles from the
warships over the next 30-plus years, and they can only get 300 operational
days from the current Explosives Handling Wharf. Public comment is solicited up
through May 17, 2011 at www.nbkeis.com/EHW.
unsaid is the impact of current treaty negotiations to reduce the number of
warheads and launch vehicles. While Trident warships are patrolling the world's
oceans at Cold War levels, the number of warheads on the Trident subs has
probably been reduced by half according to what data is available in the public
record. The Navy, however, wants to upgrade the missiles and warheads, so
presumably will want more handling days available.
This at a
time when across the country we are cutting back basic medical care for
indigent children, more people are out of work than at any time since the
Depression, and people continue to lose their homes.
And then there
is the unimaginable devastation these weapons are designed to create. Hiroshima
was leveled in 1945 by a 12 kiloton atomic bomb. Trident warships can carry
W-76 warheads rated at 100 kilotons and W-88 warheads rated at 450 kilotons, up
to 192 warheads on a single warship. A single Trident submarine warship has the
capacity according to recent climatalogical calculations to black out the sun
in an entire hemisphere for weeks to months, an event named “nuclear winter” by
Carl Sagan and colleagues in the 1980's. What sane motives continue to compel
us to rebuild this doomsday system? How can human freedom hope to survive once
such a weapon is used?
Trident-launched warhead could create a fireball with the heat of the sun over
an area that would incinerate the heart of any city, and then the blast,
firestorms, and radiation would expand that zone in waves of destruction over five miles and several
country would we deliver such wholesale killing, suffering, and environmental devastation?
China would seem to be the principal target of the Pacific Trident warship
fleet. We remember World War II, the Nazi holocaust, Stalinist Russia, and Mao
Tse Tung's China – political and military catastrophes in themselves for people
with any will to freedom and human rights. Yet there will be no democracy under
nuclear fire. And if the United States is held responsible for the crime
against humanity that a modern nuclear weapon would perpetrate, then what of
the international backlash against us?
the earthquake and tsunami assault on Japan had instead been caused by one or
two nuclear weapons. The destruction could have been comparable with many more
deaths, but what then would be the world's reaction against the perpetrator of
such a crime? And where does it end?
This is not
the world I want to leave for my grandchildren or their grandchildren.
Our world is
much too interdependent and vulnerable to have its multifarious problems and
injustices solved by military force, much less by weapons of mass destruction.
We need national, international, and non-governmental institutions to broker
negotiations across the panoply of threats to life on Earth.
It is time
to outlaw and abolish nuclear weapons, not rebuild them. What is hopeful about
abolishing nuclear weapons is that it is doable within a relatively short time
frame, and it would propel other efforts at cooperative security and
cooperative development to the benefit of all.
resides in our capacities to get along with each other. What sense does it make
to threaten China daily with incineration by a Trident-launched hydrogen bomb
when China now manufactures half of our consumer goods and holds nearly a
trillion dollars of our debt? How about instead of spending another $783
million for a redundant and outmoded facility to service (illegal) weapons of
mass destruction we instead invest in securing fissile materials worldwide,
pass a nuclear weapons convention to abolish them, and develop cultural and
educational exchanges with China, Russia, Iran and even North Korea to empower
mutual understanding. That was a huge part of what helped to end the Soviet era
of domination in Eurasia and bring an end to the Cold War.
President, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Washington Physicians for
Social Responsibility (psr.org and wpsr.org)
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (gzcenter.org)
on the Navy's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 2nd
Explosives Handling Wharf (EHW2) and ways to comment on the EIS are available
on the Navy's website for the project: http://www.nbkeis.com/EHW. Comments have been extended to May