fissile material


Nuclear Weapons, Frontline Communities, and the COVID Stimulus. What You Need to Know.

Lilly Adams, , UCS

On March 1, 1954 the US tested a nuclear weapon 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. The blast from the Castle Bravo test over the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands rained down over a 7,000 square mile area. U.S. Department of Energy

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing us to confront the vast inequities in our society that have made this virus more deadly in some communities than others. This is also true in the world of nuclear weapons policy: US nuclear weapons activities have, and continue to, hurt communities through harmful and sometimes deadly radiation exposure. Now, the survivors of this radiation exposure are also at greater risk from COVID-19. Effective COVID-19 response requires that those who need care can receive it. It also means recognizing who is at greatest risk, and addressing their needs. As we gear up for another stimulus package, UCS and more than 100 other organizations across the country are calling for Congress to include funding for health care access for communities directly harmed by US nuclear activities.  Read more >

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The Human Side of Nuclear Weapons Issues in the FY20 Defense Bill

Lilly Adams, , UCS

Editors Note: January 27, 2020 is the “National Day of Remembrance for Downwinders”—a day to acknowledge the extreme harm caused to those exposed to radiation and fallout from atmospheric nuclear weapons tests conducted in the United States. UCS stands with these communities in their fight for compensation, through the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), for the health consequences and deaths resulting from this testing. Join us in calling on members of Congress to support legislation to expand and extend RECA, which is currently set to expire in 2022. You can read more about recent developments and current legislation on RECA below.

Tonight, President Trump is expected to sign the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)  at Joint Base Andrews, a defense budget bill totaling a stunning $738 billion. Much attention has been given to the many ways that Democrats lost out on progressive priorities in this bill. The nuclear arms control and disarmament community lost hard-fought battles over issues like the low-yield warhead, and overall spending levels on nuclear weapons systems.

UCS’s President Ken Kimmel put out an important statement on these issues, urging members of Congress to vote “no” on this dangerous bill. But many nuclear weapons-related issues have been flying under the radar, especially those relating to the communities directly impacted by nuclear weapons production and testing. Here’s a run-down of the issues nuclear policy wonks might have missed in their analysis of the NDAA.

Read more >

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The House is Setting a New, More Rational Direction for US Nuclear Policy

, analyst

The House today began debating its version of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress’ annual effort to oversee US security policy and set defense program funding levels. What’s different this year is the bill signals a new, much-needed change in direction for US nuclear weapons policy, one that would reduce the nuclear threat and cut some spending on these weapons.

The House bill stands in stark contrast with the version the Senate passed easily in late June, which would fully fund the Trump administration’s nuclear programs and in some cases even increase funding. We support passage of the House version of the NDAA; if its version becomes law, it will be a victory not only for US security, but also for common sense. Read more >

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The Versatile Test Reactor Debate: Round 2

, Director of Nuclear Power Safety, Climate & Energy

In mid-February, the House of Representatives passed the “Nuclear Energy Research Infrastructure Act of 2017” (H.R. 4378). It authorizes the secretary of energy to spend nearly $2 billion to build and begin operating a facility called a “versatile, reactor-based fast neutron source” by the end of 2025 “to the maximum extent practicable.” The purpose of the facility would be to provide an intense source of fast neutrons that could be used by startup companies developing fast reactors for power production. Current US power and test reactors do not generate large quantities of fast neutrons.

However, the facility itself would be a fairly large, experimental fast neutron reactor, likely fueled with weapon-usable plutonium, and would pose significant security and safety risks. H.R. 4378 authorizes the Department of Energy (DOE) to construct this facility, now known as the “Versatile Test Reactor” (VTR), without really knowing how much it would cost or how long it would take, let alone whether there was a significant need for it in the first place. In fact, at the time of the bill’s passage in the House, the DOE had not even begun to conduct such an analysis. This is bad public policy. Read more >

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What Does North Korea Want—and What is the US Prepared to Give?

, co-director and senior scientist

North Korea is not likely to negotiate in earnest unless it is convinced the United States is committed to the process. It is important that the administration put together a package of what it is willing to put on the table in response to Pyongyang’s steps. Read more >

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