Waking up from the nuclear nightmare

There are those among us who venture across a dangerous border: the line between our daily world and the realm of political and economic power. There the global economy is formed, societies are structured, law is written. Most of us never touch that world, though it touches us. We are kept separate not just by privilege and power, but also by language. Through a lack of training, many of us don’t understand the technology shaping our world.

The consequences can be seen clearly in the case of nuclear power. Until 1945, humankind had never faced a force so destructive. The best that we could hope for was that it would never be used. But it was: The atomic bomb was dropped not once, but twice — on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. And we, trapped on the wrong side of the political border, saw hell on earth.

How many of us would have built the bomb, had it been our choice? How many of us would have dropped it? What about now? The global powers are telling us the threat of nuclear energy is no longer an issue, that the arms race vanished with the end of the Cold War. How many of us want to believe it? What will be the future cost of our gullibility?

Bruce Gagnon, Mary Olson, and Ellen Thomas are three activists who have dedicated their lives to crossing the line separating people and power. They have tracked the progress of the nuclear industry, learned its language, and will translate it for us on Thursday, Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. at Lord Auditorium at Pack Library. The session, sponsored by Asheville’s Town Hall Project, is entitled “Our Nuclear Future.”

Bruce Gagnon is the coordinator of Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. Gagnon reports that, despite President Clinton’s Sept. 1 decision to delay deployment of the National Missile Defense (NMD) program, flight-testing will continue for 16 more tests, at $100,000 each. Based in Alaska, the project is founded on the dubious and ineffective strategy of firing missiles at missiles, in other words, hitting a bullet with a bullet.

Simultaneously, Theater Missile Defense testing is moving forward as another potentially destabilizing program to be deployed in the Middle East and Asia. Both Russia and China have promised to begin rapidly augmenting their nuclear stockpile should the U.S. persist in its plans, which violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. The Pentagon is also expected to approve a testing program for the space-based laser, a resurrection of Reagan’s Star Wars scheme, with an estimated bill of $30 billion.

“Eleven million children don’t get any health care,” says Gagnon. “With these expenditures of the nuclear industry, how can we have social programs? The aerospace corporations are becoming the new pharaohs of our times, building pyramids to the heavens. The taxpayers will become the new slaves.”

Mary Olson is the director of the southeastern branch of Washington, D.C.’s Nuclear Information and Resource Center (NIRS). She moved to our region to build a campaign based on issues that affect both internationally and locally. The “Nix Mox” campaign will oppose the largest new nuclear program in the country — located in the Carolinas — which involves the use of weapons-grade plutonium as fuel for commercial nuclear-power reactors. The Mox (Mixed Oxide Fuel) plan is a high-stakes experiment to be conducted by Duke Power in aging nuclear reactors in Charlotte and Rock Hill, S.C. The unprecedented use of plutonium in commercial reactors will accelerate their aging process, increasing the possibility of a nuclear accident.

It will also increase tax subsidies to the nuclear industry, warns Mary Olson: “This will be first time ever that your income tax will go directly to a nuclear utility in the form of a check in the mail.”

Ellen Thomas is the co-director of the Proposition One Committee in Washington D.C., an organization dedicated to global disarmament and conversion of the war machine into a peacetime industry. For 16 years, Ellen and her husband have been keeping a famous vigil in Peace Park, across the street from the White House. Permanently stationed in front of their anti-nuclear signs, passing out information to millions of tourists, Ellen and her husband are pledged to educate the world about corporate profit from weapons of mass destruction.

Our nuclear future is now. We hope you’ll join us.

For more information about the Oct. 5 forum, call 271-1032.

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