USAF Report: “Most” Nuclear Weapon Sites In Europe Do Not Meet US Security Requirements

Hans Kristensen, NATO, Nuclear Weapons, United States Add commentsPrint This Post

Members of the 704 Munition Support Squadron at Ghedi Torre in Italy are trained to service a B-61 nuclear bomb inside a Munitions Maintenance Truck. Security at “most” nuclear bases in Europe does not meet DOD safety requirements, a newly declassified U.S. Air Force review has found. Withdrawal from some is rumored. Image: USAF

By Hans M. Kristensen  [article updated June 26 following this report]

An internal U.S. Air Force investigation has determined that “most sites” currently used for deploying nuclear weapons in Europe do not meet Department of Defense security requirements.

A summary of the investigation report was released by the Pentagon in February 2008 but omitted the details. Now a partially declassified version of the full report, recently obtained by the Federation of American Scientists, reveals a much bigger nuclear security problem in Europe than previously known.

As a result of these security problems, according to other sources, the U.S. plans to withdraw its nuclear custodial unit from at least one base and consolidate the remaining nuclear mission in Europe at fewer bases.

European Nuclear Safety Deficiencies Detailed

The national nuclear bases in Europe, those where nuclear weapons are stored for use by the host nation’s own aircraft, are at the center of the findings of the Blue Ribbon Review (BRR), the investigation that was triggered by the notorious incident in August 2007 when the U.S. Air Force lost track of six nuclear warheads for 36 hours as they were flow across the United States without the knowledge of the military personnel in charge of safeguarding and operating the nuclear weapons.

Figure 1:
European Nuclear Sites Fail

“Most” nuclear sites in Europe don’t meet DOD security standards, according to the Blue Ribbon Review report.

The final report of the investigation – Air Force Blue Ribbon Review of Nuclear Weapons Policies and Procedures – found that “host nation security at overseas nuclear-capable units varies from country to country in terms of personnel, facilities, and equipment.” The report describes that “inconsistencies in personnel, facilities, and equipment provided to the security mission by the host nation were evident as the team traveled from site to site….Examples of areas noted in need of repair at several of the sites include support buildings, fencing, lighting, and security systems.”

The situation is significant: “A consistently noted theme throughout the visits,” the BRR concluded, “was that most sites require significant additional resources to meet DOD security requirements.” Despite overall safety standards and close cooperation and teamwork between U.S. Air Force personnel and their host nation counterparts, the inspectors found that “each site presents unique security challenges.”

Specific examples of security issues discovered include conscripts with as little as nine months active duty experience being used protect nuclear weapons against theft.

Inspections can hypothetically detect deficiencies and inconsistencies, but the BRR team found that U.S. Air Force inspectors are hampered in performing “no notice inspections” because the host nations and NATO require advance notice before they can visit the bases. If crews know when the inspection will occur, their performance might not reflect the normal situation at the base.

Many of the safety issues discovered are precipitated by the fact that the primary mission of the squadrons and wings is not nuclear deterrence but real-world conventional operations in support of the war on terrorism and other campaigns. This dual-mission has created a situation where many nuclear positions are “one deep,” and where rotations, deployments, and illnesses can cause shortfalls.

The review recommended consolidating the bases to “minimize variances and reduce vulnerabilities at overseas locations.”

USAFE Commander Visits Nuclear Bases

In light of the findings about Air Force nuclear security, General Roger Brady, the USAFE Commander, on June 11 visited Kleine Brogel Air Base in Belgium and Volkel Air Base in Holland. Both bases store U.S. nuclear weapons for delivery by their national F-16 fighters.

Figure 2:
Nuclear Security Inspection At Volkel Air Base

General Roger Brady, USAFE Commander, is shown B61 nuclear weapon disarming procedures on a “dummy” in an underground Weapons Security and Storage System (WS3) vault at Volkel Air Base, Holland, on June 11, 2008.

A news story on a USAF web site notes that the weapons security issues found by the BRR investigation were “at other bases,” suggesting that Bchel Air Base in Germany or Ghedi Torre Air Base in Italy were the problem. Even so, the BRR found problems at “most sites,” visits to Kleine Brogel and Volkel were described in the context of these findings. Two commanders of the 52 Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base, which controls the 701st and 703rd Munitions Support Squadrons at the national bases, were also present “to witness both units for the first time.”

Withdrawal and Consolidation

The deficiencies at host nation bases apparently have triggered a U.S. decision to withdraw the Munition Support Squadron (MUNSS) from one of the national bases.

Four MUNSS are currently deployed a four national bases in Europe: the 701st MUNSS at Kleine Brogel Air Base in Belgium, the 702nd MUNSS at Bchel Air Base in Germany, the 703rd MUNSS at Volkel Air Base in Holland, and the 704th MUNSS at Ghedi Torre in Italy (see top image).

It is not yet known which base it is, but sources indicate that it might involve the 704th MUNSS at Ghedi Torre in Northern Italy.

Status of Nuclear Weapons Deployment [June 26: warhead estimate updated here]

The number and location of nuclear weapons in Europe are secret. However, based in previous reports, official statements, declassified documents and leaks, a best estimate can be made that the current deployment consists of approximately 150-240 B61 nuclear bombs (see update here). The most recent public official statement was made by NATO Vice Secretary General Guy Roberts in an interview with the Italian RAINEWS in April 2007: “We do say that we’re down to a few hundred nuclear weapons.”

Table 1:
US Nuclear Weapons in Europe 2008

Derived from more extensive table. Click table or here to download the full table.
[June 26 update: weapons removed from UK]

The U.S. weapons are stored in underground vaults, known as WS3 (Weapon Storage and Security System), at bases in Belgium, Germany, Holland, Italy, and Turkey. Most of the weapons are at U.S. Air Force bases, but Belgium, Germany, Holland and Italy each have nuclear weapons at one of their national air bases.

The weapons at each of the national bases are under control of a U.S. Air Force MUNSS in peacetime but would, upon receipt of proper authority from the U.S. National Command Authority, be handed over to the national Air Force at the base in a war for delivery by the host nation’s own aircraft. This highly controversial arrangement contradicts both the Non-Proliferation Treaty and NATO’s international nonproliferation policy.

Implications and Observations

The main implication of the BRR report is that the nuclear weapons deployment in Europe is, and has been for the past decade, a security risk. But why it took an investigation triggered by the embarrassing Minot incident to discover the security problems in Europe is a puzzle.

Since the terrorist attacks in September 2001, billions of dollars have been poured into the Homeland Security chest to increase security at U.S. nuclear weapons sites, and a sudden urge to improve safety and use control of nuclear weapons has become a principle justification in the administration’s proposal to build a whole new generation of Reliable Replacement Warheads.

But, apparently, the nuclear deployment in Europe has been allowed to follow a less stringent requirement.

This contradicts NATO’s frequent public assurances about the safe conditions of the widespread deployment in Europe. Coinciding with the dramatic reduction of nuclear weapons in Europe after the Cold War 15 years ago, “a new, more survivable and secure weapon storage system has been installed,” a NATO fact sheet from January 2008 states. “Today, the remaining gravity bombs associated with DCA [Dual-Capable Aircraft] are stored safely in very few storage sites under highly secure conditions.”

Apparently they are not. Yet despite the BRR findings, the NATO Nuclear Planning Group meeting in Brussels last week did not issue a statement. But at the previous meeting in June 2007 the group reaffirmed the “great value” of continuing the deployment in Europe, “which provide an essential political and military link between the European and North American members of the Alliance.”

That NATO - nearly two decades after the Cold War ended - believes it needs U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe to keep the alliance together is a troubling sign. NATO air forces are stretched thin to meet real-world operations in the war against terrorism and other campaigns, and tactical nuclear weapons are not a priority, no matter what nuclear bureaucrats might claim.

Even Republican presidential candidate John McCain apparently does not believe tactical nuclear weapons in Europe are essential for NATO. On May 27 he stated that, if elected, he would, “in close consultation with our allies…like to explore ways we and Russia can reduce – and hopefully eliminate – deployments of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.”

Many European governments would support such a plan - even though some of the new eastern European NATO members see Russian resurgence as a reason to continue the deployment. But their security concerns can be met by other means, and Germany and Norway have already been pushing a proposal inside NATO for a review of the alliance’s nuclear policy, the Belgium parliament has called for a withdrawal, and there is overwhelming cross-political public support in Germany to end the deployment in Europe.

Perhaps the BRR findings will help empower these countries and convince NATO and the next U.S. administration that the time has come to finally complete the withdrawal of tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.

Additional Information: Blue Ribbon Review (2008 report) | United States Removes Nuclear Weapons From German Base, Documents Indicate (2007 report) | US Nuclear Weapons in Europe (2005 report)

written by hkristensen

4 Responses to “USAF Report: “Most” Nuclear Weapon Sites In Europe Do Not Meet US Security Requirements”

  1. Michael Arnold Says:
    June 21st, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    It is the utmost serious issue that the US bases, be kept up to par. Not just for the safety of our allies, but for ourselves as well. Nuclear Weapons are not toys, nor are they like any other weapon in US inventory, and should not be taken lightly. These weapons should have the highest of security and safety.

    Reply: I think everyone agrees with that, including the U.S. Air Force and the people safeguarding the weapons at these forward bases. The Air Force and NATO can and will, of course, fix the security problems once again and then things can continue for a number of years till the next problems emerge. But security is not what this is about; the security problems are merely indicators of a bigger problem.

    The core issue is that we retain tactical nuclear weapons in Europe even though the mission for which they were initially deployed has disappeared. These days the nukes in Europe are a burden for NATO because they compete with scarce resources that are urgently needed elsewhere, because they complicate relations with Russia, and because the training of non-nuclear countries in delivering nuclear weapons is in violation of the nonproliferation norms that the NATO countries are trying to promote in the world.

    Instead we hear statements that they are vital political symbols of NATO’s trans-Atlantic link - that without them the European countries would not really believe that the United States would come and help them if someone attacked Europe. Not only is that nonsense - because NATO security issues today have very little to do with nuclear weapons, and because the US (and the UK and France) has thousands of nuclear weapons deployed on long-range systems - but it also does NATO and the trans-Atlantic partnership a great disservice by politically anchoring US-European security on tactical nuclear weapons rather than the real-world security priorities that face NATO today. HK

  2. loadster Says:
    June 24th, 2008 at 8:34 am

    Good discussion, though somewhat Chicken Little. I agree resources are key, when an audit sees deficiencies. How appropriate that the first photo is from Holland where you can only keep a manageable number of thumbs in the dike leaks. It seems to me that nuclear strategic weapons should be a budget element that is non-negotiable and perpetually endowed. If
    we’re robbing from nuclear deterrence to bolster fences and border patrol, we’re only shifting risk. The greatest problem is that comptrollers at the Pentagon are clueless of issues in Holland or Italy and Lou Dobbs gets greater air time.

  3. Michael Gerke Says:
    June 24th, 2008 at 11:56 am

    As I have already stated a decade ago:
    1. Nukes on planes, no matter if tactical or strategic, do not have any military relevance in war scenarios which will last no longer than a few dozen minutes and whose results will be apocalyptical.
    2. Using tactical nukes as a bargaining-chip in debates about strategic disarmament is all but a good advice. Their military value is doubtful: they either escalate a conflict automatically to an all-out nuclear war or cannot help fight combatants in an asymmetric war (How helpful are mini-nukes against the Taleban, Mr President?).
    Thus, let’s get rid of them, especially in Europe!

  4. Steve White Says:
    June 25th, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    One major, major flaw in this article: the U.S. armed forces do not have ‘conscripts’, and haven’t for the last 30+ years.

    Further, the coursework and training for a person who will be around nuclear weapons is substantially longer than nine months. The security and psychological vetting takes considerable time.

    Just these basic errors make me doubt the entire report. It is simply not likely at all that an ‘internal U.S. Air Force investigation’ would make such errors.

    Reply: The mentioning of “conscripts” is made by the Blue Ribbon Review report, not by me, and it concerns conscripts in the national armed forces of some of the countries where the weapons are stationed, not U.S. conscripts. HK

European nuclear weapons sites not secure, says US report


24.06.2008 @ 09:16 CET

Most European sites containing US nuclear weapons are failing to meet security standards set by the Pentagon, a report has shown.

The study, commissioned by the US Air Force, was released in February but much of the detail was left out.

However, the Federation of American Scientists obtained a partially declassified version, which it posted on its website, showing that the security problem for nuclear weapons in Europe is much bigger than was previously known.

According to the study, most sites in Europe "require significant additional resources to meet standards", while inspectors uncovered inconsistencies in "personnel, facilities and equipment provided to the security mission by the host nation."

"Examples of areas noted in need of repair at several of the sites include support buildings, fencing, lighting, and security systems."

"A consistently noted theme throughout the visits was that most sites require significant additional resources to meet [Pentagon] security requirements," reads the Blue Ribbon Review of Nuclear Weapons Policies and Procedures study.

The investigation was commissioned by the Air Force following an incident last year in which nuclear warheads were flown across the United States without the knowledge nuclear safety personnel.

Hangover from the Cold War

Although the US removed many of its nuclear weapons from Europe after the Cold War, there still remains a number of weapons in NATO countries Germany, Belgium, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.

According to information displayed on the FAS website, quoting previous reports and declassified documents, the number of 00-350 B61 nuclear bombs in Europe range between 200 and 350.

In Germany, the report has sparked criticism among both the Social Democrats - the junior part of the governing coalition - and opposition parties.

According to the International Herald Tribune, Niels Annen, foreign affairs expert for the Social Democrats, said that nuclear disarmament would receive a big boost if Germany got rid of the weapons.

"The nuclear weapons are a hangover from the Cold War and must go," Guido Westerwelle, the head of the liberal Free Democrats, told the Berliner Zeitung daily on Monday.

"If there are any security risks, this is one more reason to remove all nuclear weapons that were kept in Germany for tactical reasons," he added.

However, the AFP news agency reports government spokesperson Ulrich Wilhelm as saying that the country is bound by NATO agreements to maintain nuclear arms as a military deterrent.

"For the foreseeable future ... we remain of the view that a deterring military capacity includes not only conventional capacity but also nuclear components," the spokesperson said.

from Ace Hoffman in USA
June 13th, 2008


Dear Readers,


This list was written at the request of a local (California) organization.  Hopefully all 24 reasons will be able to be read into the official record at several upcoming state hearings to be held about San Onofre.

The plan is to print each reason on a separate sheet of paper with additional background information for that segment, and then give each page to a different person to read, who would otherwise not speak.  Most of them are short enough so that even if we're only given two minutes each, they can be read in their entirety.




1)  Diablo Canyon's operators have stated that they feel terrorists would be much more likely to strike San Onofre, and that is one of the factors making them feel safe from terrorism.  If there's any truth to their opinion, the correct response is surely to shut San Onofre!


2)  Spokespersons for San Onofre have lied for decades.  Upon complaining to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about numerous blatant lies, an activist received the following written response from the NRC: "Statements made by the public affairs officer of a NRC licensee are not regulated activities.  Therefore, the veracity of such statements will not be investigated by the NRC."  So nuclear industry spokespersons will just go on lying to the media, to the government, and to the public.  To cite just one example, in June, 2001, the day one of the San Onofre reactors went back online after a four-month-long shutdown following a fire, workers improperly rigged, and then dropped, an 80,000-pound crane about four stories inside the turbine room, nearly killing at least one worker.  The incident was covered up, and the plant's spokesperson was shown on local television that very day, responding to a question unrelated to the crane drop, saying that activists: "don't understand the laws of physics."


3)  San Onofre is an accident-waiting-to-happen.  Chernobyl is a symbol the world over of the worst possible industrial accident.  More than 22 years later, the list of health effects from Chernobyl continues to grow.  Deformities among plants, animals and humans are the subject of an entire museum and a research institute near the site.  But not too near.  There is a 1200-square mile EXCLUSION ZONE around Chernobyl, which is expected to remain for the foreseeable future, and which many scientists feel is woefully small.  Animals (and some people) enter the exclusion zone through holes in fences, or by just flying, jumping, or climbing over it, or burrowing under it.  The U.S. nuclear industry claims only 29 people died because of Chernobyl, but the real figure is probably over 100,000!  In 2002, the Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Ohio nearly melted down -- it was perhaps just minutes -- or at most a month or two -- away from a potentially catastrophic LOCA (Loss of Coolant Accident).  Three Mile Island's 1979 partial meltdown is a better-known, but much older, example.  Society tends to forget, or just doesn't know, that it can happen HERE, too.  San Onofre makes us ALL unnecessarily vulnerable.


4)  After 9-11-2001, San Onofre's spokespeople, and the rest of the nuclear industry, immediately and inaccurately claimed that nuclear power plant containment domes can withstand the force of a jetliner crashing into them.  The domes weren't actually designed to do this.  (They were designed to withstand the force of a steam explosion from within.)  A few weeks later the nuclear industry was forced to back off their specious claim, because unbiased engineers could easily prove it was inaccurate, ESPECIALLY if an engine turbine shaft crashed into the top portion of the dome, perhaps as the result of a steep, suicidal dive.  But that lie was replaced by other lies.  For example, the lie that our skies are completely protected now, and no American jet could ever be hijacked, ever again!  And what about private jets, which can be just as big as commercial planes, and can be RENTED for a wad of cash?  The truth is, EVEN IF the domes were jetliner-proof (which they aren't), a FAR WORSE ACCIDENT awaits if the spent fuel pools or dry cask storage systems are breached -- and again, the industry will LIE and tell us these are ALSO safe from jetliners, but they aren't even close.  And the control rooms, and the backup diesel generators, and the coolant intakes, and the offsite power lines, and so on -- all are VITAL parts of a nuclear power plant, but NONE OF THEM are safe from jetliner crashes -- accidental OR intentional.  So San Onofre is an accident waiting to happen and its spokespersons are liars.


5)  Right now, San Onofre is undergoing enormous RETROFITTING.  Its steam generators are being replaced, as are several other major parts and thousands of smaller parts.  But BILLIONS OF DOLLARS worth of parts will NOT be replaced:  Pipes, pumps, valves, vessels, control cables, actuators, motors, sensors, power cables, data transmission cables, fireproof insulation, steel supports, gantrys, cranes, old thinking.   Retrofitting these reactors instead of building completely new ones saves BILLIONS of dollars for Edison International (SCE's parent corporation) and avoids a public relations nightmare.  But endless retrofitting ALSO means some critical systems will be HALF A CENTURY OLD, or even older.  The need to replace the steam generators surprised the nuclear industry, as have the failures of many other parts of our nation's nuclear reactors.  Are ALL the old parts that NEED to be replaced GOING to be replaced?  NOT AT ALL!  Most of the time, parts are STILL only replaced when they fail completely.  Even the steam generators -- which leak like sieves -- are ONLY being replaced because they are becoming too clogged and inefficient to MAKE MONEY FOR SCE.  Holes are plugged only when the reactor is shut down for other maintenance reasons, so crack by crack, the steam generators have been leaking POISON into our environment more or less CONSTANTLY for decades.  And they were SUPPOSED TO LAST THE LIFE OF THE PLANT.  SCE doesn't understand metallurgy, that's for sure.


6)  San Onofre is OLD TECHNOLOGY and in a fair market -- a competitive environment where all the costs are included -- nuclear energy simply cannot compete with clean energy solutions.  We now all know that radiation is a mutagenic, carcinogenic, teratogenic, destructive force.  What it does to steel is awe-inspiring; what it does to children is terrifying.  In nearly every study, the public has REJECTED nuclear power, and women especially -- perhaps more keenly aware of the biological consequences of radiation -- have consistently rejected nuclear power by margins of 2 to 1 or more.  Smart people go into REAL "high tech" fields like wind turbine blade design (what the Wright Brothers spent a long time on is now done with computers), wave energy systems, the Internet and other interconnected networks INCLUDING the electrical energy grid, and many other things which unfortunately must include health care for cancer victims.  Radiation causes cancer.  Wind turbines do not.  Even the most efficient nuclear power plant is rendered dreadfully inefficient because of the waste it generates, and the potential for catastrophic accidents, AND because it's simply a dumb way to boil water to generate steam to turn a turbine to generate electricity.


7)  Like all nuclear power plants, San Onofre is prone to outages, as decades of experience has shown.  Outages are sudden, sometimes prolonged, and always inconvenient.  In contrast, a distributed energy system is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to bring down accidentally, either through acts of God, acts of stupidity, acts of negligence, or acts of malice.  Renewable energy is almost always distributed, and it is not a potential target of terrorism.  Instead of getting our power from nuclear energy, which is failure-prone, expensive, dangerous, and secretive, we can switch to renewables TODAY.   In 2007, when fires swept throughout San Diego County (for the second time in less than half a decade), San Onofre (as so often happens) was NOT AVAILABLE to help provide emergency power.  Typical.  If San Onofre doesn't melt down after an earthquake ("Genpatsu-Shinsai" in Japanese), it nevertheless will probably be unavailable just when it's needed most.  A proper mix of small-scale energy production systems would have NO possibility of suffering a complete failure, and CERTAINLY would not poison the air, land, and water, regardless of what portion of it failed.


8)  San Onofre generates about 500 pounds PER DAY of high level radioactive spent fuel and other "high level" waste.  That waste has NOWHERE TO GO.  There are good, solid, scientifically-valid, unarguable reasons why Yucca Mountain, the proposed repository in Nevada, is a bad idea, and the Yucca Mountain team of scientists (a revolving-door of people, by the way) were told not JUST to look at Yucca Mountain, but to consider ANYTHING that ANYONE brought them: Rocketing the waste to the sun, deep-sea burial, various retrievable-storage systems -- THEY couldn't find anything better to do.  Yet Yucca Mountain is unlikely to be built:  The entire project is rife with criminally negligent scientific fraud, is despised by everyone in Nevada, is decades behind schedule, is being pushed forward by a corrupt Bush Administration, and is really more of an excuse to PRETEND there is a solution coming for the waste problem.  Well, there isn't.  Not a good one.  Not a safe one.  Not a cheap one.  And maybe just plain -- there isn't.  Elected and appointed officials in California should GET REAL about this fact.  The problem is unsolvable.  It's intractable:  A dilemma, a conundrum, an Achilles' heel (ANOTHER one).  It can't be solved because nuclear disintegrations (radioactive decays) break down all known molecular and chemical bonds (bonds between atoms) in the universe and can even destroy the nuclei of atoms.  Chemical bonds in biological systems are particularly weak and easily broken.  But the point here is that ALL containers are broken down at the atomic and even subatomic level by their radioactive contents.  It's a fact of life.  And death.


9)  San Onofre destroys the aquatic life around it.  It does this not just by raising the temperature of the water it uses -- millions of gallons every minute -- by about 15 to 20 degrees, but also by sucking in millions of fish, fish eggs and young hatchlings through its deadly swirling pumps every day.  And when the plant shuts down, the thermal shock to the ecosystem is ALSO damaging.  In addition, San Onofre spews RADIOACTIVE WASTE into the environment EVERY DAY.  Every day they LIE and say there are "NO RELEASES."  What they mean is that the release is DILUTED, by using storage vessels and dribble-valves, to be BELOW REGULATORY CONCERN.  But Government studies (and others) have shown that there is NO MINIMUM DOSE OF RADIATION.  ANY dose of radiation can destroy your DNA.  ANY dose of radiation can cause cancer.  Any dose of radiation can kill.  Studies HAVE VERIFIED that living downwind of radioactive sources IS DANGEROUS.  This is especially true for a source which ALSO spews a lot of OTHER chemicals into the environment, usually getting special dispensations from the federal government to do so!  After half a century, why is such favoritism still necessary?  Why are insurance loopholes still necessary?  Why can't California regulate ANY -- let alone all -- of these things?  Why must the federal government overrule our state's normal right to TIGHTER, SAFER RESTRICTIONS if we want them?  (And we want them!)


10)  The biological effects of radiation are undoubtedly worse than the federal government admits.  Nearly all radiation risk assessments are STILL based on what are called the "healthy survivors" of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Those biased studies were DESIGNED TO SHOW that nuclear weapons could CONTINUE to be used.  Newer, more honest research has shown time and again that radiation is more harmful than previously assumed.  That is why allowable doses for nuclear workers and for the general public have dropped dramatically over the years.  But they should drop even further.  AND much more frequent and much more accurate radiation measurements should be required throughout the community.  Accurate epidemiological studies of the PEOPLE around San Onofre should be carried out by INDEPENDENT researchers, but should be PAID FOR by Southern California Edison.


11)  San Onofre is located near several major earthquake faults, and the design basis, which only requires the facility to be able to survive a 7.0 earthquake, isn't adequate.  In fact, it's woefully, laughably, disgustingly, thoroughly antiquated and should be discarded. Furthermore, even a MUCH SMALLER earthquake could trigger an "underwater land slide" down the slopes of one of the MANY OFFSHORE UNDERWATER CANYONS, which could, in turn, generate a TSUNAMI which would INUNDATE SAN ONOFRE.  The Banda Ache earthquake-triggered tsunami in 2004 generated well-documented wave heights of SIXTY FEET, even hundreds of miles from the epicenter.  But afterwards, the San Onofre power plant operators continued to assert that the facility's tsunami wall of about HALF THAT HEIGHT is still considered adequate.  It's NOT adequate, and any fool can see it.


12)  San Onofre's existence prevents renewable-energy projects, and even people who HATE San Onofre have to pay for it.  But the utility doesn't want the public to be able to choose.  The utility doesn't want the public to recognize the full costs of nuclear power, so they fudge the numbers by putting this cost and that cost off on some other entity.  They simply EXPECT the federal government to pay for air safety around the plants.  But there aren't, and never will be, anti-aircraft batteries around our nuclear power plants ready to shoot down civilian planes.  They expect the fuel disposal problem to be solved.  They deny responsibility for every cancer, even among their own workers.  And when they do settle with a harmed worker or their survivors, the details of the agreement are ALWAYS kept secret from the public, from the media, and from epidemiological researchers.  The utility makes a fortune.  The public pays through the nose and then gets cancer.  Lucky for the utility, nuclear poison is odorless, colorless, and tasteless.  Indeed, it is impossible to detect without sophisticated equipment, except for extremely high doses which are nearly always quickly fatal.  Its primary health effects are often delayed by many years.  Radiation is, in reality, the perfect murder weapon.


13)  San Onofre's land can (in theory) be -- and is required by law to eventually be -- turned back into pristine beachfront property.  At that point society could, of course, develop that land.  What would 84 acres of beachfront realty located about midway between Los Angeles and San Diego be worth today if it came on the market?  More than that stupid plant is worth, that's for sure!  If San Onofre has a catastrophic accident, it will NOT be possible to return those 84 acres, nor the rest of Southern California, to pristine condition.


14)  At San Onofre, a meltdown -- an accident beyond comprehension -- IS possible.  Therefore, we as citizens, have a DUTY to contemplate it.  To be aware of what might cause it, and what the real consequences would be for us and our children.  And EVEN THOUGH no modern study of the costs has been done, it is inarguable among reasonable people that the cost of a meltdown at San Onofre could reach upwards of a TRILLION DOLLARS.  In lives, perhaps a MILLION people could get cancer -- even in the UNLIKELY event that an evacuation is somehow 100% SUCCESSFUL.  Even more could die if evacuations are HINDERED for some reason, such as a concurrent WILDFIRE or EARTHQUAKE or even just a few traffic accidents.  In the event of a meltdown, what are the chances of a perfect evacuation?  Approximately zero.


15)  If Yucca Mountain opens (a dubious assumption) and San Onofre were to shut down today (a less dubious assumption, we hope), it will STILL take HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS of individual shipments to dispose of the radioactive waste which has ALREADY ACCUMULATED at San Onofre.  Hundreds and hundreds of chances for a terrorist attack or an accident -- a bridge falling down, whatever.  Two trains colliding.  The federal government has offered HOLLOW ASSURANCES that EVERY CHEMICAL TRUCK that the spent fuel might pass near on its journey will likewise be CAREFULLY MONITORED to keep the two separated.  But it's a LIE.  LIES make the nuclear industry seem safe to the uninformed, but they do NOTHING to protect the public and NOTHING to fool the experts (or the terrorists).  It is the duty of all citizens and HONEST government officials to see through the lies.  If San Onofre stays open, then EVERY FEW WEEKS forever, ANOTHER shipment of extremely hazardous nuclear waste, capable of destroying THOUSANDS OF SQUARE MILES, will have to travel through our state to SOMEWHERE.  Somewhere where nobody wants it, either.  After sitting for years -- possibly for decades, and perhaps even for centuries -- on our coast.


16)  San Onofre is a relic of the COLD WAR.  Nuclear power was touted as "TOO CHEAP TO METER" by a corrupt government agency which believed their own propaganda.  We now know nuclear power is NOT cheap.  We know it's not safe.  We know that in 60 years of trying, the BEST MINDS have not been able to solve the waste problem.  We know that renewable energy is ready to completely REPLACE coal, oil, and nuclear power for electrical energy generation.  In other words, renewable energy can help solve both the radioactive waste disposal problem AND the global warming problem.


17)  Despite pro-nuclear claims to the contrary by people who, until about five years ago, didn't believe that global warming was happening, nuclear power is a major CONTRIBUTOR to global-warming.  Not only do the radioactive gasses emitted by nuclear power plants destroy the upper atmosphere at a terrific rate, but the entire nuclear fuel cycle burns an enormous amount of CARBON-BASED FUELS just to exist.  The fifteen hundred workers at each plant also burn LOTS of carbon fuels getting to and from work, at work, and everywhere else, while ACCOMPLISHING NO LONG-TERM BENEFIT FOR SOCIETY, and at GREAT RISK to society.  All proposed nuclear waste management solutions require enormous amounts of fossil fuels, as the reactor waste is moved to and fro, and guarded for eons.  Eons!  Try to calculate the cost of even ONE security guard on duty 24/7 for a million years, just to guard YOUR waste (and don't forget to account for inflation)!  Then factor in all the security guards needed to protect the waste created by everyone who comes after us.  If we don't choose renewable energy solutions, society will be wallowing in nuclear waste.  Hundreds of dry casks in California will turn into thousands.  More and more "exclusion zones" where accidents have happened will be created.  Is THIS the future we want?


18)  Nuclear fuel is NOT renewable and any sort of nuclear renaissance would just burn up the limited supply faster.  Some say we have only thirty years' worth of cost-effectively recoverable uranium left, others put it around 150 years, tops.  And the price of uranium has skyrocketed in the past few years, going up by more than 1000%, with no end in sight.  So-called "breeder reactors" are extremely dangerous and inefficient and, like the current reactors, generate FISSION PRODUCTS which MUST BE CONTAINED away from human life, in many cases for thousands and tens of thousands of years.  An impossible demand.  An impossible promise.


19)  San Onofre's owners hope to get TENS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS in federal, state, or public money so they can build a THIRD REACTOR at the site.  Unit ONE was closed down in the 1990s because it was inefficient.  Its reactor pressure vessel still remains at the site because no waste management facility will take it.  No one even wants it traveling through their neighborhood, and so it will probably remain here for DECADES.  Pound for pound, spent fuel is at least ten million times MORE lethal than the "RPV" (and there is a lot more of it), so you can see that it too, will be VERY DIFFICULT to get rid of.  Nobody wants radioactive waste.  A state law (recently UNSUCCESSFULLY challenged) prohibits NEW reactors in California until a solution to the radioactive waste problem is found.  But nevertheless, the license for Unit One can be RE-ACTIVATED and the public has virtually NO LEGAL RIGHT to stop a "new" THIRD REACTOR from being built at the site at ANY TIME.  The only way to ENSURE it won't happen is to SHUT THE WHOLE FACILITY DOWN and put the people to work building CLEAN, EFFICIENT, SAFE renewable energy systems.  Or jail them.


20)  In the 1960s, the public that originally accepted San Onofre was blatantly lied to, and that is now well-documented.  Citizens who NOW spend the time to wade through the CURRENT lies, who LEARN about radiation's EFFECTS, have no trouble REJECTING this technology.  Virtually EVERY SUPPORTER had, or still has, a FINANCIAL CONNECTION to nuclear power -- it pays their bills, it provides for their retirement, it sends their kids to college, it buys their yacht.  But virtually every DETRACTOR either dropped OUT of the industry to become a WHISTLEBLOWER of conscience, or studied nuclear power INDEPENDENTLY and simply reached a logical conclusion.  THE MORE THE PUBLIC KNOWS ABOUT NUCLEAR POWER, THE LESS THEY LIKE IT.  And the more they know about the renewable energy alternatives, the more they know that THOSE ARE THE WAY TO GO, NOT NUCLEAR.


21)  The nuclear industry is filled with people who fear knowledge.   In an honest debate, they quickly prove that, while they might be experts in, for instance, ground-assault security, they know NOTHING of the biological consequences of tritium.  Or perhaps they think they understand the biological consequences of tritium, but will not consider the engineering problems caused by the potential for 100-foot tsunami waves -- it's out of their area of expertise.  Pro-nukers invariably assume that all the problems outside their little area of understanding have all been solved, but they are wrong.  And, things which would be just "problems" for other industries are FATAL FLAWS for nuclear technology.  Reactor engineers are not pediatricians (and no pediatrician works for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, you can be sure of that).


22)  No national, open debate about nuclear power has EVER occurred.  Any public focus has ALWAYS been couched in lies brought about by the fears of enemy forces within and without, real and imagined, named and unnamed.  A realistic attitude about nuclear power cannot be cubby-holed by false promises, dark threats, or threats of darkness.  A realistic attitude cannot be the product of lies believed, however strongly or frequently those lies are told.  A realistic attitude cannot misrepresent the health risks OR the financial risks.  It also cannot ignore the alternatives.


23)  The biological consequences of radiation poisoning are horrendous.  An infinite variety of deformities are possible.  Pro-nukers like to claim that "radiation" causes "evolution" but in reality, DNA strands join and divide in unique patterns without ANY NEED for radiation to destroy those delicate molecules, each comprised of billions of atoms, on which life depends.  Radiation can help trigger every known type of cancer, as well as heart disease and many other ailments.  Pro-nukers even like to claim that a little radiation is good for you -- like a vitamin.  But ANY beneficial effect that has ever been noted must always be balanced against the long-term consequences.  Even medical radiation treatments to "cure" cancer ALSO can cause cancer, and this is a well-known and fully-accepted medical fact.  Small doses of radiation can kill, and the amount of hazardous waste produced in just one MINUTE at San Onofre could wipe out a city if it got out -- and sometimes it gets out, and sometimes people in the community undoubtedly die because of it, even though the plant's owners deny every death they cause.  Mere micrograms, or at most a few milligrams of Polonium-210, a product of nuclear reactors, was all that was used to kill British citizen and ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, and leave a trail of contamination from Russia to London.  Radioactive materials are EXTREMELY dangerous in vanishingly-small quantities.  But the pro-nukers would have you believe it's health food!




24)  San Onofre's State overseers (the CEC, the CPUC, the CCC, etc.) claim that their hands are tied -- that "federal" regulations "prohibit" the state agencies from "considering health and safety issues."  And if you read the Nuclear Regulatory Commission web site's description of these so-called statutes, agreements, regulations, and laws, you might be TEMPTED TO BELIEVE that the Feds have somehow taken away YOUR right to life (for, a sufficiently radiative environment WILL kill you). But look at the ACTUAL STATE STATUTES by which authority was relinquished.  THERE lies the truth about who gave up what and who TOOK what.  California gave up authority ON ONE CONDITION: That the feds would handle the nuclear issue, the whole kit-and-kiboodle, safely.  That California's citizens would be protected.  So how would the CEC, the CPUC, the CCC, or any other commission, or ALL OF THEM PUT TOGETHER, KNOW if our safety is being protected when they immediately WASH THEIR HANDS (in tritiated water, no doubt) of all health and safety issues, and have done so since the 1962 agreement relinquishing authority to the federal government was first signed (with the old A.E.C. (Atomic Energy Commission))?  Dozens of countries FAR SMALLER than California (geographically, by population, and / or by economic power) have COMPLETE CONTROL of their own nuclear facilities (let alone, the 100+ countries which have so far been wise enough not to have ANY nuclear power facilities on their soil).  So why are California's elected and appointed officials arrogantly "playing dumb"?  They keep saying they couldn't close California's nuclear power plants if they wanted to.  Can't they at least have the good sense to WANT to?


** Russell "Ace" Hoffman, Owner & Chief Programmer

** P.O. Box 1936, Carlsbad CA 92018-1936

** (800) 551-2726 (U.S. & Canada)

** (760) 720-7261 (elsewhere)


U.S. Nuclear Weapons Withdrawn From the United Kingdom

Ask your Congressman About Science Select Agent Program Regulations and High-Containment Laboratories Jun 26

Hans Kristensen, NATO, Nuclear Weapons, United Kingdom, United States Add commentsPrint This Post

More than 100 U.S. nuclear bombs have been withdrawn from RAF Lakenheath, the forward base of the U.S. Air Force 48th Fighter Wing.  Image: GoogleEarth

By Hans M. Kristensen

The United States has withdrawn nuclear weapons from the RAF Lakenheath air base 70 miles northeast of London, marking the end to more than 50 years of U.S. nuclear weapons deployment to the United Kingdom since the first nuclear bombs first arrived in September 1954.

The withdrawal, which has not been officially announced but confirmed by several sources, follows the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Ramstein Air Base in Germany in 2005 and Greece in 2001. The removal of nuclear weapons from three bases in two NATO countries in less than a decade undercuts the argument for continuing deployment in other European countries.

Figure 1:
US Nuclear Weapons in Europe 2008

Withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from three European bases since 2001 means that two-thirds of the arsenal is now on the southern flank.

Status of European Deployment

I have previously described that President Bill Clinton in November 2000 authorized the Pentagon to deploy 110 nuclear bombs at Lakenheath, part of a total of 480 nuclear bombs authorized for Europe at the time.

President George Bush updated the authorization in May 2004, which apparently ordered the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The withdrawal from Lakenheath might also have been authorized by the Bush directive, or by an update issued within the past three years. This reduction and consolidation in Europe was hinted by General James Jones, the NATO Supreme Commander at Europe at the time, when he stated in a testimony to a Belgian Senate committee: “The reduction will be significant. Good news is on the way.”

Last week I reported that security deficiencies found by the U.S. Air Force Blue Ribbon Review at “most” sites were likely to lead to further consolidation of the weapons, and that “significant changes” were rumored at Lakenheath.

Table 1:
US Nuclear Weapons in Europe 2008

Derived from more extensive table. Click table or here to download the full table.

The withdrawal from Lakenheath means that the U.S. nuclear weapons deployment overseas is down to only two U.S. Air Force bases (Aviano AB in Italy and Incirlik in Turkey) plus four other national European bases in Belgium, Germany, Holland and Italy, for a total of six bases in Europe. It is estimated that there are 150-240 B61 nuclear bombs left in Europe, two-thirds of which are based on NATO’s southern flank (see Table 1).

Some Implications

Why NATO and the United States have decided to keep these major withdrawals secret is a big puzzle. The explanation might simply be that “nuclear” always means secret, that it was done to prevent a public debate about the future of the rest of the weapons, or that the Bush administration just doesn’t like arms control. Whatever the reason, it is troubling because the reductions have occurred around the same time that Russian officials repeatedly have pointed to the U.S. weapons in Europe as a justification to reject limitations on Russia’s own tactical nuclear weapons.

In fact, at the very same time that preparations for the withdrawal from Ramstein and Lakenheath were underway, a U.S. State Department delegation visiting Moscow clashed with Russian officials about who had done enough to reduce its non-strategic nuclear weapons. General Jones’ “good news” could not be shared.

Figure 2:
History of U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe 1954-2008

While NATO boasts about its nuclear reductions since the Cold War, the Alliance is more timid about the reductions in recent years.

By keeping the withdrawals secret, NATO and the United States have missed huge opportunities to engage Russia directly and positively about reductions to their non-strategic nuclear weapons, and to improve their own nuclear image in the world in general.

The news about the withdrawal from Lakenheath comes at an inconvenient time for those who advocate continuing deployment of U.S. non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe. By following on the heels of the withdrawal from Ramstein Air Base in 2004-2005 and Greece in 2001, the Lakenheath withdrawal raises the obvious question at the remaining nuclear sites: If they can withdraw, why can’t we?

What is at stake is not whether NATO should be protected with nuclear weapons, but why it is still necessary to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. Japan and South Korea are also covered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella, but without tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Asia. The benefits from withdrawing the remaining non-strategic nuclear weapons from Europe far outweigh the costs, risks and political objectives of keeping them there. The only question is: who will make the first move?

Previous reports: USAF Report: “Most” Nuclear Sites in Europe do not Meet US Security Requirements (FAS, June 2008) | United States Removes Nuclear Weapons from German Base, Documents Indicate (FAS, July 2007) | U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe (NRDC, 2005)