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Images from the nuclear weapons “heartland”

September 23, 2015

Guest commentary

by Greg Mello

We cannot easily convey the reality of life and culture in the US nuclear weapons “heartland” but perhaps these images will help.  They cannot replace reasoned discourse, or first-hand experience, but they may help supplement them.

It is important for activists, parliamentarians, and diplomats to realize that the US will NEVER negotiate a comprehensive treaty eliminating nuclear weapons, aka a nuclear weapons convention.  It is possible that people who have no first-hand personal experience in the nuclear weapons complex, or in the executive or Congress, imagine that the US is more open to disarmament than it is.  US diplomats lie continuously and well.  

A nuclear weapons ban is very important, not just as the FIRST step before us toward nuclear abolition but also to prevent nuclear war.  Delegitimizing nuclear weapons by even a handful of countries, in the beginning, would immediately lower the credibility of nuclear threats.

Bomb City Bock with oilOrbit_gloveboxThe first picture, taken by friends, is from Amarillo, TX, where US warheads are assembled.  I think it says many things about our culture.

The second is the mascot (name: “Orbit”) of the Albuquerque minor league professional baseball team, the Isotopes, at a “cold” training glovebox near the plutonium facility in Los Alamos, trying to help recruit new plutonium warhead core manufacturing workers.  The stadium at which they play is informally called “The Lab.”

AquatomicsThe third is a random slice of life in Los Alamos in the local paper this morning — a celebratory occasion for the local swim team, the “Aquatomics.”  I thought the name was quite good.  Their 50-meter pool is located directly above Acid Canyon, so-called because untreated nuclear waste was dumped there during the Manhattan Project.

There are thousands of warheads and bombs in a bunker a few miles from our office.

You can only imagine how happy local businesses and politicians are to accept the millions of dollars spent and donated by these facilities and their workers.

Camp ResurrectionNext picture, from a news article: a homeless encampment near our office, one of many in this city that has been shuttled from one vacant piece of land to another by police.  The billboard behind the camp is part of a tourism campaign.  It bears the tagline, “New Mexico True.”  The yellow flag is the New Mexico state flag.  Homelessness is of course a major problem here.  Thousands of school children in this city are homeless.  In wealthy Santa Fe, near Los Alamos, hundreds of school children are homeless.

TA-16 Appaloosa tanksLast picture: thick-walled single-use tanks for subcritical scaled nuclear tests, to help the US design nuclear weapons under a comprehensive test ban treaty.  These tanks were defective and are being stored prior to recycling.  This picture is quite old now but such programs continue underground in Nevada.  I took this picture.

The ban treaty is very, very important for the future of the United States.

Greg Mello is Executive Director of the Los Alamos Study Group, which pursues the interrelated goals of nuclear disarmament, environmental protection and enhancement, social justice, and economic sustainability.

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