Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Just a quick note the letter you are about to read was originally intended for the editorial page of the local newspapers. Then Divine Strake got cancelled. One of the peace groups I belong to wanted me to pursue the issue anyway. Well, since most papers have words limits and reserve the right to edit your submissions I decided to throw it on my humble blog. I wasn’t able to edit to length that would makes the papers happy. I also didn’t want to trust my baby to some editor who doesn’t give a damn about my viewpoints.

Even though the test has been cancelled the threat is still very real. That’s why I posted it here for your reading pleasure. Much more information about Divine Strake can be found here.

On June 23rd 700 tons of ammonium nitrate fuel oil will be detonated in the Nevada desert. This test, codenamed Divine Strake, is to test the class of weapons called bunker busters. The purpose of these bunker busters is to penetrate and destroy underground weapons caches and other underground installations. Bunker busters carrying conventional explosives have been used before and have been less than effective. In fact those used in Afghanistan were said to have hardly damaged the targets at all.

So the United States is now testing a large amount of explosives in the Nevada desert. It’s not that the fact that they are testing explosives that is disturbing. It is the sheer amount that they are using. The 700 tons of ammonium nitrate fuel oil that they are using have the explosive force equivalent of 593 tons of TNT. The size is so important because no aircraft known has the capability to deliver a payload that large. No military aircraft, including the immense cargo planes, has the capability to deliver a payload in excess of 500 tons. The C5 Galaxy, an immense cargo plane, can only get airborne at about 837,000 lbs or 418.5 tons. That is less than 60% of the weight of the Divine Stake test. The C5 is not a bomber and would be a poor choice to drop bunker busters. The B-52, our largest bomber has maximum take off weight of 488,000 lbs or 244 tons.

So why test such a large amount of explosives if we cannot deliver them? There is only one logical solution. It is preparation for the construction of a Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator or RNEP. An RNEP is simply a bunker buster that uses a nuclear payload instead of conventional explosives.

According to the Department of Defense’s own analysis a 1-megaton nuclear weapon dropped in Iran, the most likely target for these weapons, would kill about 3 million people and expose another 35 million to levels of radioactive fallout that could cause cancer. The fallout would no be restricted to Iran however it would spread through Afghanistan. Pakistan and India. To put that 3 million number in some sort of perspective it is approximately equal to twice the population of Columbus, Ohio or 1000 times the number of lives taken in the September 11th attacks.

Nuclear weapons are horrifying. Every President, from Eisenhower to Clinton, did something to either limit their testing or reduce their numbers. President Reagan even eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons, medium range missile launched warheads in Europe.

The effectiveness of these nuclear bunker busters is under scrutiny. The Union of Concerned Scientists has reported that an RNEP would lack the destructive power to destroy a target that is fairly deep underground. Also unless the strike was a direct hit the detonation of the nuclear warhead would not completely destroy whatever nuclear or biological weapons components present.

Divine Strake and the testing and proliferation of all nuclear weapons must be opposed. Nuclear weapons are too destructive to be ever be used again. No nation on Earth, including our own, can be trusted with this terrible weapon.


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