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When the sky fell to earth via Republik

By Joshua Wheeler (Text) and Reto Sterchi (Photos), 16.10.2021

Hundreds of twinkling lights, five hundred brown paper sacks with candles in them, luminarias around the mound and spilling out into the base paths and a family of three with singing bowls on the infield grass, the biggest singing bowls I’ve ever seen, like singing buckets between their legs and them dragging mallets along the glass rims to make the air drone, for hours the air drones as one by one the luminarias are extinguished by roving figures in the dark. And when another wisp of smoke from a smothered wick dissipates, then we are done remembering, for this year, one more victim of the Gadget, the Manhattan Project’s crowning achievement at Trinity, the world’s first atomic explosion on July 16, 1945, right here in Southern New Mexico.

Up in the press box a trio of announcers takes turns reading pages of names of all the people in the Tularosa Basin who have died of cancer caused, they say, by radioactive fallout from the first breath of the atomic age. For hours, name after name like the slow grind of a macabre graduation ceremony. So then this is how the Gadget’s blast fades: after a flash of heat ten thousand times hotter than the surface of the sun, after a blast reverberating windows for a hundred miles, after lifting as much as 230 tons of radioactive sand mixed with ash into a mushroom cloud over seven miles high, after seven decades. And still the blast echoes here at the baseball field as another name is called and another flame extinguished in remembrance of someone dead from cancer caused, they say, by the world’s first atomic bomb.


Nothing but a goddamn gadget.

Just toying with the nauseous joy of physics.

Henry Herrera sits up in his lawn chair next to the bleachers and says, “the thing went off and the fire went up and the cloud rose and the bottom half went up that way.” He gestures over my head toward first base. “But then the top part, the mushroom top started coming back this way and fell all over everything.” He waves both his arms back toward us and all around us, big swoops of old, thin, and crooked arms over his head like he might be able to accurately pantomime an atomic blast or like he’s invoking its spirit or just inviting the fireball to rain down again so the rest of us can really understand.

Henry’s sort of a celebrity in this crowd, one of a handful of folks around Tularosa still living who actually witnessed the Gadget’s blast, a guy who’s beat cancer three times already and says he’ll lick it again if he gets the chance. I’ve heard him repeat his story, word for word, to anyone who will listen, for years now. He sits next to me, fiddling with the pearl snaps on his Western shirt, petting his white hair down in back behind his big ears, telling the tale in spurts, little stanzas between long gaps of pondering, those rests of silent reflection that never stop growing as we age, like ears, like I guess all our really old storytellers have big ears and the will to ride a lull for as long as it takes until an aphorism or anecdote has marinated on the tongue and is ready to serve. He serves one up: “I’ll bet ten dollars to a donut your momma never blamed you for the atomic bomb.”


Nobody ever thought much of a bomb going off because bombs were always going off over at the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range since our Second World War began, but this explosion was different.

“It was huge and after a few minutes comes this little filmy dust,” Henry says. “Fine dark ash just came down and landed all over everything. Momma’s clothes hanging out there turned nearly black, so she had to wash them over again. You talk about a mad Mexican.” He laughs at the thought of his momma’s face, seeing all her whites turned to grays, screaming, “what the hell did you explode out here, Henry?”

So that’s the story of how Henry’s momma tried to blame him for the atomic bomb.

“It’s funny until you know we was drinking it and eating and everything else.”

“But we didn’t know that for years.”

“Not really until we started dying.”

Henry intertwines his tale of the Gadget with tales about being in the military 10 years after Trinity, touring Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the war because he’d become obsessed with what he’d seen as a kid – “night turned to day, like heaven came down” – and he needed to see also what the Bomb had done to our enemies, and he surely saw it all: the complete devastation, the rubble and ash and shadows stuck to walls and “just imagine all those families,” he says.


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Sister Megan Rice, Fierce Critic of U.S. Nuclear Arsenal, Dies at 91 via New York Times

Sister Megan Rice, a Roman Catholic nun who was arrested more than 40 times for protesting America’s military industrial complex, most spectacularly for breaking into one of the world’s largest uranium storage sites, died on Oct. 10 at the residence of her religious order in Rosemont, Pa. She was 91.

Her order, the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, said in a statement that the cause was congestive heart failure.

Sister Rice was a leading figure among antiwar activists, especially the cohort of nuns and priests who saw protesting nuclear weapons as part of their religious calling.

She was already 82 when, in 2012, she and two other antinuclear activists, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, hiked through the night over a steep ridge to the outskirts of the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn.


They served just two years and were released after an appeals court vacated the sabotage convictions — though Sister Rice said she would have gladly stayed in prison longer.

“It would be an honor,” she told a reporter for The New York Times soon after her release in 2015. “Good Lord, what would be better than to die in prison for the antinuclear cause?”

The episode at the nuclear complex was just one of many efforts by Sister Rice to take on the American military, a career that led to some 40 arrests — even she lost count — going back to the 1980s. And it was the capstone to a life steeped in progressive Catholicism.

Megan Gillespie Rice, who pronounced her first name MEE-gan, was born on Jan. 31, 1930, in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan, to a family deeply involved in the Catholic progressive movement. Her father, Frederick Rice, was an obstetrician-gynecologist, and her mother, Madeleine Newman Hooke Rice, was a homemaker who later received a doctorate in history from Columbia.

Both of her parents were active in the Catholic worker movement and were close friends with its founder, Dorothy Day, who Sister Rice remembered visiting her family’s home in Morningside Heights.

Morningside Heights, home to Columbia University and venerable religious institutions like Riverside Church and Union Theological Seminary, was fertile ground for Sister Rice’s religious awakening. Father George Barry Ford, a leader in New York’s civil rights movement, preached at Corpus Christi Church on Columbia’s campus, where her family worshiped, and ran her elementary school.

During World War II, Sister Rice heard rumors about another side of her community: the professors from Columbia who were working on a top-secret government project. Its nature was revealed on Aug. 6, 1945, when the Americans dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, and dropped another on Nagasaki three days later.

She recalled her mother thanking God for the attack; it meant that her uncle, who was to be part of the invasion of Japan, would now be spared. He went anyway, in the first wave of soldiers to reach Hiroshima after Japan surrendered, and he told her about the horrors he had encountered.


“Sister Megan’s only regret about Y-12 was that she didn’t do something like that earlier,” said Carole Sargent, the author of the forthcoming book “Transform Now Plowshares: Megan Rice, Gregory Boertje-Obed, and Michael Walli.”

The complex shut down for two weeks, and Sister Rice’s incursion spawned Congressional hearings, where representatives thanked her for calling attention to the site’s poor security.

“That young lady there brought a Holy Bible,” said Representative Joe Barton, Republican of Texas. “If she had been a terrorist, the Lord only knows what would have happened.”

It was not the response Sister Rice was hoping for, but it didn’t stop her. After her release, she continued her antiwar activism, joining regular demonstrations outside the White House and the Pentagon.

Spending on nuclear weapons, she said in a 2019 interview, is “one of the root causes of, say, poverty in the United States, and therefore of crime.”

“It’s a root cause of many other issues because so much money is going into them,” she said.

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To Avoid Armageddon, Don’t Modernize Missiles—Eliminate Them via The Nation (Portside)

Daniel Ellsberg and Norman Solomon

The single best option for reducing the risk of nuclear war is hidden in plain sight. News outlets don’t mention it. Pundits ignore it. Even progressive and peace-oriented members of Congress tiptoe around it. And yet, for many years, experts have been calling for this act of sanity that could save humanity: Shutting down all of the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Four hundred ICBMs dot the rural landscapes of Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming. Loaded in silos, these missiles are uniquely—and dangerously—on hair-trigger alert. Unlike the nuclear weapons on submarines or bombers, the land-based missiles are vulnerable to attack and could present the commander in chief with a sudden use-them-or-lose-them choice. “If our sensors indicate that enemy missiles are en route to the United States, the president would have to consider launching ICBMs before the enemy missiles could destroy them. Once they are launched, they cannot be recalled,” former Defense Secretary William Perry warns. “The president would have less than 30 minutes to make that terrible decision.”

The danger that a false alarm on either side—of the sort that has occurred repeatedly on both sides—would lead to a preemptive attack derives almost entirely from the existence on both sides of land-based missile forces, each vulnerable to attack by the other; each, therefore, is kept on a high state of alert, ready to launch within minutes of warning. The easiest and fastest way for the US to reduce that risk—and, indeed, the overall danger of nuclear war—is to dismantle entirely its Minuteman III missile force. Gen. James E. Cartwright, a former vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had been commander of the Strategic Command, teamed up with former Minuteman launch officer Bruce G. Blair to write in a 2016 op-ed piece: “By scrapping the vulnerable land-based missile force, any need for launching on warning disappears.”

But rather than confront the reality that ICBMs—all ICBMs—are such a grave threat to human survival, the most concerned members of Congress have opted to focus on stopping new ones from taking the place of existing ones. A year ago, the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $13.3 billion “engineering and manufacturing development” contract for replacing the current Minuteman III missiles with a new generation of ICBMs named the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent. […]

The same Congressman Smith said less than a year earlier, “I frankly think that our [ICBM] fleet right now is driven as much by politics as it is by a policy necessity. You know, there are certain states in the union that apparently are fond of being a nuclear target. And you know, it’s part of their economy. It’s what they do.”

Senators from several of the states with major ICBM bases or development activities—Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah—continue to maintain an “ICBM Coalition” dedicated to thwarting any serious scrutiny of the land-based weaponry. Members of the coalition have systematically blocked efforts to reduce the number of ICBMs or study alternatives to building new ones. They’re just a few of the lawmakers captivated by ICBM mega-profiteers. […]

“First and foremost,” former Defense Secretary Perry wrote five years ago, “the United States can safely phase out its land-based [ICBM] force, a key facet of Cold War nuclear policy. Retiring the ICBMs would save considerable costs, but it isn’t only budgets that would benefit. These missiles are some of the most dangerous weapons in the world. They could even trigger an accidental nuclear war.”

Contrary to uninformed assumptions, discarding all ICBMs could be accomplished unilaterally by the United States with no downside. Even if Russia chose not to follow suit, dismantling the potentially cataclysmic land-based missiles would make the world safer for everyone on the planet. Frank von Hippel, a former chair of the Federation of American Scientists and a cofounder of Princeton’s Program on Science and Global Security, wrote this year: “Eliminating launch on warning would significantly reduce the probability of blundering into a civilization-ending nuclear war by mistake. To err is human. To start a nuclear war would be unforgivable.”


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U.S. mayors urge Washington to give nod to U.N. nuke ban treaty via The Asahi Shimbun

A hugely influential group of mayors in the United States unanimously adopted a resolution calling on Washington to embrace the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) as a step toward finally ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

The call was made by the United States Conference of Mayors in reference to the treaty that took effect in January with the aim of working toward the complete elimination of nuclear arsenals.

The nonpartisan body, which represents more than 1,400 cities with populations of 30,000 or more, is part of the “Big Seven,” a group of organizations that represent local and state governments in the United States.

The U.N. treaty bans the development, retention and use of nuclear weapons. It has been ratified by 56 countries and territories. But the nuclear powers, the United States included, have not ratified the treaty. Nor has Japan, which relies on the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” for it ultimate defense.

The resolution urged the U.S. government “to consider reversing its opposition to the TPNW and to welcome the treaty as a positive step toward negotiation of a comprehensive agreement on the achievement and permanent maintenance of a world free of nuclear weapons.” 

The resolution was adopted at the conference’s annual convention held at the end of August. It is not the first time for the conference to adopt a resolution with the same broad aims. In fact, it has done so since 2004.

While the resolution has no legal binding power, it sends a clear message to the U.S. government and the people of America.

Frank Cownie, the mayor of Des Moines in Iowa, proposed the resolution with seven others.

According to Cownie, two mayors initially expressed opposition to the treaty during a committee debate on international issues.

But after making a minor amendment, the resolution was unanimously adopted at a board meeting attended by more than 20 mayors that was held during the annual convention.

“Most American people are unaware of the TPNW, and this resolution we hope can help inform them,” Cownie told The Asahi Shimbun during an online interview. “I don’t think that they understand the threat of nuclear weapons.”


Yuki Miyamoto, a professor at DePaul University in Chicago whose work centers on nuclear discourse and environmental ethics, called the resolution significant, saying it illustrates increased awareness of the nuclear weapons issue among mayors.

Miyamoto noted that numerous grass-roots movements have forced policy changes that brought about reform in the United States.

Des Moines is one of more than 8,000 cities that consist of Mayors of Peace, an NGO that aims to abolish nuclear weapons. The organization is headed by Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui.

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「核廃絶は私たちから」 全米市長会議、核禁条約への歓迎を決議 via 朝日新聞





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核のごみ、突然問われた港町 決断前の「重苦しい雰囲気」の意味 via 毎日新聞

























全文は核のごみ、突然問われた港町 決断前の「重苦しい雰囲気」の意味

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【写真ルポ】日本の電力供給源を歩く〈前編〉via JBPress


橋本 昇
















「今更原発をやめろと言って何になんになる。半島の果ての果ての町じゃ、産業といっても漁があるだけだ。しかもマグロなんて『獲れたらなんぼ』の博打のようなもんだ。みんな貧乏なんだ。原発の協力金で町の予算も潤う。原発関連の仕事もある。店も飲み屋もみんな助かるんだ。何が悪い! 町が潰れてもいいのか!」







































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Australia Picks A Nuclear Waste Disposal Site – Now The Dance Begins via Forbes

James Conca

Australia’s Federal Resources Minister, Keith Pitt, has declared that the national nuclear waste storage facility will be at Napandee, near Kimba, on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. The choice was widely expected as the government had already picked Napandee as its preferred site.

When one hears that a country has picked a Nuclear Waste Disposal Site, the first thought is high-level waste or spent nuclear fuel. But most nuclear waste disposal sites in the world are either for low-level or intermediate-level nuclear waste and many countries have them. Although incredibly safe, they seem to generate as much controversy as the higher-level ones.


The United States, France, Sweden and Finland have actual nuclear waste disposal programs, having spent significant money and time, having full scale underground research laboratories, having broken ground or, in the case of the United States, having permanently disposed of some real nuclear waste below ground.


The issue has split the people in the region. Many want it for economic development, knowing the risks are so low they can’t even be measured, others don’t want it near them and just want it near anyone else. This ironic since a petrol station has more impact on human health and the environment than this waste site ever could.

Some of the native Barngarla people of the region have said they do not want the facility on their land. In a statement, the representative body Barngarla Aboriginal Corporation said it was denied the right to vote on the site. 

On the other hand, Minister Pitt said more than 60% of people in the Kimba council area supported the facility in a ballot run by the Australian Electoral Commission.

Read more at Australia Picks A Nuclear Waste Disposal Site – Now The Dance Begins

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Study Finds Radioactivity Migrated from Contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory During Woolsey Fire via Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles

Congressional and Local Elected Officials Release Letters to CalEPA Complaining that the SSFL Soil Cleanup, Which Was to Have Been Completed by 2017, Hasn’t Even Begun

Contact: Denise Duffield, 310-339-9676 or
Melissa Bumstead ‪(818) 835-5258‬ or
Dr. Marco Kaltofen

A peer-reviewed study, just published by the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, found that radioactive contamination from the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) migrated offsite during the 2018 Woolsey Fire, which began at SSFL. The study calls into question widely distrusted claims by the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) and its toxics department that no contamination was released.

SSFL is a former nuclear and rocket-engine testing facility located in the hills above the Simi and San Fernando valleys. Decades of accidents, spills, and releases – including a partial nuclear meltdown – resulted in extensive radioactive and chemical contamination that still has not been cleaned up.

The study “Radioactive microparticles related to the Woolsey Fire in Simi Valley, CA” was conducted by Marco Kaltofen of the Dept. of Physics, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Maggie and Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Energy Education. It examined 360 samples of household dust, surface soils, and ash from 150 homes as well as other locations collected in December 2018 through February 2019 by community volunteers who received training in sample and safety protocols. Photos and video of the sample collection can be downloaded here. The study found radioactive particles associated with the fire at SSFL as high as nineteen times background (normal) as much as nine miles away.


“Most of the fire-impacted samples found near the SSFL site’s perimeter were on lands accessible to the public. There were, however, scattered localized areas of increased radioactivity due to the presence of radioactive microparticles in ash and recently-settled dusts collected just after the Woolsey fire. These radioactive outliers were found in Thousand Oaks, CA, and Simi Valley, CA, about 15 and 5 km distant from SSFL, respectively. The Thousand Oaks samples had alpha count rates up to 19 times background, and X-ray spectroscopy (SEM) identified alpha-emitting thorium as the source of this excess radioactivity. Excessive alpha radiation in small particles is of particular interest because of the relatively high risk of inhalation-related long-term biological damage from internal alpha emitters compared to external radiation.”

The findings contradict conclusions by CalEPA’s Dept. of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), which, a mere 9 hours after the fire began on November 8, 2018, declared that the fire didn’t result in releases of hazardous materials. CalEPA/DTSC issued an interim study in December 2018, affirmed in a final version in December 2020, which asserted that “data from sampling and measurements did not detect the release of chemical or radiological contaminants from SSFL.” The CalEPA/DTSC claims were widely criticized (see, e.g., Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists).


MSNBC to Air Award-Winning Documentary About the Santa Susana Field Lab

MSNBC has announced the acquisition of the documentary, “In the Dark of the Valley,” which follows the story of Melissa Bumstead and other local mothers whose children have been diagnosed with rare cancers and are fighting for SSFL to be fully cleaned up. The film has won numerous awards on the festival circuit, including Best Documentary at the Phoenix and Catalina Film Festivals. The film will air nationwide on November 14, 2021 at 10pm EST.

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Nuclear power is not sustainable energy – German environment ministry via Reuters

BERLIN, Oct 13 (Reuters) – Germany’s [sic] continues to push for the European Union not to classify nuclear power as a sustainable energy source, the country’s environment ministry spokesperson told a press conference on Wednesday.

“In the event an accident, entire regions would become uninhabitable and many future generations of taxpayers would have to pay for the damage as well as deal with the waste. All this is obviously not sustainable,” the spokesperson said.


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