Outing the Nuclear Energy-Weapons Connection – Can a Fractured Movement Opposing Both Sides of the Nuclear Enterprise be Re-united?

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Graphic: AntiNuclear.net

                           Graphic: AntiNuclear.net

By James Heddle, Mary Beth Brangan – EON
Crossposted on Substack

Yes, Alice. Atoms for Peace was a Psyop

Clean, limitless nuclear power was the military-industrial complex’s early public relations promise to a U.S. public sensibly wary of the horrific destructive potential of nuclear technology.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s (in)famous 1953 Atoms for Peace speech to the UN General Assembly initiated the use of commercial nuclear power as the cover story for continued nuclear weapons research and production and the enormous nation-wide manufacturing complex necessary to build it out.

The program it launched rebranded atomic technology from the horrors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs to a benign source of ‘peaceful energy too cheap to meter.’ It also led to the proliferation of U.S. nuclear know-how, materials and technologies to many other countries around the world, and with them went the capacity to produce nuclear bombs.

This deliberately created illusion of the disconnect between nuclear energy and weapons production persisted for decades as nuclear proponents used it to their advantage in many ways.  Although early concerned citizens did not differentiate their opposition between nuclear weapons and power, the illusion gradually led to the bi-furcation of the anti-nuclear weapons ‘peace’ movement and the anti-nuclear energy environmental movements.

The created illusion of the disconnect between nuclear energy and weapons production persisted for decades as nuclear proponents used it to their advantage in many ways. Although early nuclear opponents did not differentiate between them, the illusion gradually led to the bi-furcation into the anti-nuclear weapons ‘peace’ movement and the anti-nuclear energy environmental movements.

The Plutionium Twins Escape the Closet

But now, as the commercial nuclear energy industry is in deep economic difficulties worldwide, nuclear proponents have decided in desperation to blow their own cover.  They have reversed course and now proudly point to the once-denied inextricable commercial/military connection of nuclear power and weapons as a vital issue of ‘national security.’

As we have detailed in our previous articles The Real Nuclear Triad: Energy, Weapons and Waste, as well as The Hydra Heads of Armageddon Man and others (here, here & here), no less an authority than former U.S. Energy Secretary Albert Moniz has been stressing the energy-weapons connection as a selling point.

Moniz founded an organization called Energy Futures Initiative that has issued a report entitled The U.S. Nuclear Energy Enterprise: A Key National Security Enabler. This report launched a campaign that emphasized that the commercial nuclear energy industry is what Moniz terms a key ‘enabler’ of the production of nuclear weapons and of the nuclear powered U.S. Navy.  He plainly argues that, as a 2017 NewsMax article puts it, Nuclear Power’s Woes Imperil US National Security.

Former Energy Secretary Moniz addresses the U.S. Naval War College – Credit: Flickr.com/U.S. Naval War College

Just one big nuclear family – Former Energy Secretary Moniz gets an award plaque from his good buddies in the Nuclear Navy – Credit: Flickr.com/U.S. Naval War College

Moniz’ analysis is heartily seconded by French President Macron, who unapologetically states,

“One cannot exist without the other. Without civil nuclear power, there is no military nuclear power, and without military nuclear power, there is no civil nuclear power.”

Graphic Credit: NEIS.org

The new public relations/military psyop is that nuclear power is necessary to combat climate change. Many people, formerly against nuclear power, have now been bamboozled into believing this expensive, dangerous slow-to-deploy technology must be used to save us from the even greater threat of climate chaos.

Can a Fractured Anti-Nuclear Movement be Re-united?

But now there are hopeful signs within the national movement that a renewed awareness of the nuclear energy/weapons connection is beginning to take hold, at least on the energy side of the long-bifurcated, once-powerful nuclear opposition.

One strong step in that direction was a June 29, 2023 zoom webinar entitled Why Are We Still Going Nuclear? presented by the Chicago based Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) and hosted by the organization’s Director, Dave Kraft.
[A recording of the Zoom event has not yet been made available as of this posting.  We will update once it is. ]

The presenter was veteran nuclear activist and educator Alfred Meyer whose articles It’s All About the Bomb and ‘F’ Stands for Failure provide important background information on this issue.

In his presentation to NEIS viewers Meyer succinctly and persuasively laid out what he called his hypothesis on the energy-weapons connection,

“…that what is really driving the entire nuclear enterprise are nuclear weapons and the nuclear navy. And the rest of any discussion is really false advertising promises. You could say, it’s diversionary tactics. It doesn’t have to be cheap, it doesn’t have to be clean, it doesn’t have to be safe. And we don’t really have to worry about the waste. And it doesn’t have to solve climate change because what it’s doing is making nuclear weapons…”  [A partial transcript of his presentation is here.]

The Plutonium Twins Escape the Closet

Now that the Plutonium Twins are revealed to have been conjoined from birth, it’s to be hoped that the nuclear energy and weapons opposition movements can re-unite and once again become the powerful counterforce against the doubly disastrous Nuclear Enterprise that they once were.

On January 22, 2021, Amnesty International announced a historic moment, “The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted by two-thirds of UN member states in 2017 and enters into force today.” 

The article went on to report,

“The treaty prohibits a wide range of actions by states, including developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory. These are commonplace activities – according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey collectively host around 150 U.S. nuclear weapons. None of these states have joined the treaty.” [Emphasis added.]

Can we stop this nuclear insanity if all anti-nuclear activists work together?

Unfortunately, the Treaty contains a self-contradictory loophole that fails to acknowledge the nuclear energy and weapons connection. The preamble emphasizes “that nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of its States Parties to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.” Source

In fact, as we have discussed. there can be no ‘peaceful purposes’ for civil nuclear energy that do not have serious military nuclear weapons implications. The manufacturing processes required for the currently pushed ‘small modular nuclear reactors’ would be providing necessary components, such as ‘close to weapons grade material’ for use in nuclear weapons as well. And significantly, the accumulating deadly radioactive waste that must be kept sequestered from the environment for millions of years is totally ignored.

Furthermore, the reality is that every operating commercial nuclear reactor, because of of its legally allowed routine radioactive emissions into the surrounding air and water and every commercial stranded radioactive waste storage site streaming radiation into surrounding communities, constitute a nuclear weapon-in-place for both state and non-state actors. There are 92 operating reactors at 54 such sites in the US. The current situation in war-torn Ukraine and at Zaporizhzhia demonstrates this use of a civil reactor as a weapon in place – even to threaten using it is using it as a weapon.

Nevertheless, let’s just let ourselves imagine – because of the indissoluble co-dependence of the civil and military sides of the global Nuclear Enterprise, that the current anti-nuclear weapons movement fully recognizes commercial nuclear power’s sinister relationship. And that our united movement’s fresh understanding of this fact prevents it from ever being strong armed again to include such a preamble that calls it an “inalienable right” to “develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.”

We must aim again together to simultaneously ban nuclear weapons and its co-dependent evil twin, nuclear energy. And to mitigate as much as possible the damage done so far.