Joining the Nuclear Free Future tour 2017: From Ann Arbor to ‘DC Days’

Nuclear Free Future Tour in Detroit

The Nuclear Free Future Tour in Detroit. Credit: Ellen Thomas.

By Odile Hugonot Haber, Ann Arbor Branch, WILPF US Mideast Committee Chair

Ellen Thomas came to Ann Arbor on the WILPF US Nuclear Free Future Tour 2017 after visiting Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and East Lansing, MI. She is promoting the abolition of nuclear weapons and asking for help in re-introducing the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act, known as Proposition One. She is also urging us to get involved in the Ban the Bomb Treaty by joining the march to the UN in New York City on June 17, 2017, or else engaging in some action locally to demand that the United States join the UN General Assembly’s Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty negotiations, June 19-July 7, 2017.

In Ann Arbor, we had a small group that came together to welcome Ellen. Then I joined Ellen in the Nuclear Free Future tour. Together, we went to Port Huron and attended a lecture hosted by the Great Lakes Environmental Alliance, who presented Diane D’Arrigo of the Nuclear information and Resource Service speaking by satellite. Her talk was titled “Out of Control: Nuclear Radioactive Waste on Our Roads and in Our Household Goods.”

The local people explained to us that liquid, highly radioactive uranium is being transported by truck from Canada through Port Huron to the Savannah River site. All waste sites are leaking and contaminate the water around them; they make the people who live around this area very sick.

In Detroit, we had breakfast with WILPF member Laura Dewey. Then we drove to Cleveland and then on to Pittsburgh by way of smaller roads. We were well received by the WILPF branches along the road, and it was nice to see familiar faces.

On Sunday, we were joined by Robin Lloyd, co-chair of the WILPF US Disarm/End Wars Committee, in Washington, DC, for the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability training session for the lobbying that was to take place during three days, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. There, we received the new ANA 2017 report, “Accountability Audit.”

We were asked to lobby, mostly focusing on two ANA aims: 1) To reduce nuclear weapons use and proliferation dangers, and stop the overkill nuclear weapons production; and 2) To support and meet the clean-up challenge of nuclear power waste and nuclear weapon waste.

A. We were urging Congress and Senate members to co-sponsor the “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017” (HR 669, S 200 – Rep. Lieu – Senator Markey), but not to stop there and to also sponsor Eleanor Holmes Norton’s nuclear weapons abolition bill!

The policy recommendation on nuclear weapons invited Congress “to increase funding for weapons dismantlement which increases security, save taxpayers’ money and demonstrated global non-proliferation leadership.”

B. Then, to “increase rigorous oversight of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and National Security Administration (NNSA)” and to put more money toward repairs and maintenance of high-level waste sites that are for the most part in terrible shape. Nuclear waste and clean-up were urgent priorities.

With others, I visited all my representatives from Michigan—Sen. Gary Peters, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, and Rep. Debbie Dingell—and then went to the Armed Services Committee by visiting Sen. John McCain, where we met with Analyst Aide Augusta Binns-Berkley. Marylia Kelley of Tri-Valley CAREs (Community against a Radioactive Environment) led our delegation. The talk there was very precise and technical.

The new budget came out while we were in DC; it had increased by a billion dollars, to $1.4 trillion for the modernization of nuclear weapons, but the good news was: 1) the “boondoggle” mixed-oxide fuel program (MOX) was no longer funded; and 2) the “Inter-operable missile program” was not funded either.

Yes, we insisted on the fact that dismantlement should be irreversible, leading to global nuclear disarmament mandated by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Returning home, I learned the bad news that Gary Peters is urging the Department of Defense to construct a missile defense site at Fort Custer, Michigan. It will ostensibly pump $3.2 billion into the region’s economy, adding 300 jobs and supporting 1,800 others indirectly. It will be “non-weaponized missiles: hit to kill missiles.” The DOD has budgeted $3.2 million over the next two years for an environmental impact study on the four proposed sites.

Inset Photo: From left: Joanne Steele, Nuclear Watch South; Ellen Thomas, WILPF US Disarm/End Wars Co-Chair; Lauren Dudley, Legislative Counsel for Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton; Odile Hugonot Haber, WILPF US Mideast Committee Chair; Robin Lloyd, WILPF Disarm/End Wars Co-Chair; Mark Hamilton, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Courtesy Ellen Thomas.

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