Air Force Launches Cosmetic Fixes for “Self-Inflicted Rot” in Nuclear Missile Crews
By John LaForge
After a string of what the Secretary of the Air Force called “systemic” violations of nuclear weapons procedures, the service has moved to address what one internal email called “rot” in the nuclear missile corps.
Air Force higher-ups plan to fix problems involving low morale, poor discipline, alcohol and drug use, security lapses, leadership failures and widespread cheating, by offering bonus pay (like Navy nuclear war teams get), a “nuclear service” medal and additional modernization of the Minuteman III missiles. The Air Force maintains 450 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which are spread across North Dakota, Montana and parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. They are kept on “alert” status, ready to launch on a moment’s notice, by the crews suspected of the wrongdoing.
In August, the Air Force’s Global Strike Command -- yes peaceful citizens, that’s what it’s called -- and the 20th Air Force also launched an “officer swap” among the three ICBM bases — Minot in North Dakota, Malmstrom in Montana and FE Warren in Wyoming. “The idea is … to experience … the Force Improvement Program,” said Lt. Col. David Rickards, 91st Operations Group deputy commander at Minot, in a press release. “It’s always good to see how another team works,” the Lt. Col. said. Improved training and evaluation schemes are to start at Minot AFB, according to a media advisory by Minot’s Lt. Col. Rusty Williford.
In May 2013, 17 ICBM launch officers at Minot were removed from their missile duties because of a long list of discipline and security failures. At the time, the deputy operations commander at Minot complained in an internal email of “rot” in his ranks.
“I think a lot of the problems in the missile world have been self-inflicted,” Capt. Adam Ross, a 341st Operations Support Squadron missile crew combat crew instructor, said in a statement this August 14.
Subsequent scandals have involved gambling, alcoholism, drug use, cheating on missile control examinations and “burnout” among Air Force personnel. At Malmstrom AFB, two lieutenants are at the center of a drug investigation — still ongoing — in which they reportedly sent messages to 11 others in the ICBM crews about “specific, illegal drug use ... [including] synthetic drugs, ecstasy, and amphetamines.” This according to a 268-page report published last February by Lt. General James M. Holmes, Vice Commander of the Air Force’s training command.
The shocking revelation of our nuclear war on drugs moved Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to say in January this year, “We know that something is wrong.” Yes, and Mr. Dylan would say, “But you don’t know what it is, do you?”
Air Force Secretary Deborah L. James visited all three ICBM bases in January, and afterward she voiced her “profound disappointment” in the nuclear weapons controllers. The secretary went so far as to say the problems were “systemic,” not isolated, AP reported June 10.
In August Adm. Cecil Haney, the chief of Strategic Command at Omaha’s Offutt AFB, flatly contradicted Air Force Secretary James, his boss, when he told reporters at a conference in Omaha that “integrity lapses” occurred only among “a very small population.” More than 90 missile launch officers initially were removed from duty under suspicion of cheating on proficiency tests.
According to J. Jeffrey Smith writing in Slate last April, when investigators probing the alleged drug ring seized cell phones of the suspects at Malmstrom, they discovered that “dozens of lieutenants on missile combat crews” -- the teams that sit underground with the missiles for days on end -- “had been exchanging questions and answers from their proficiency tests for nearly two years.”
Rear Adm. John Kirby, a spokesman for Sec. of Defense Hagel, said in February that the Pentagon had launched two separate inquires to advise how best to address the string of scandalous conduct. But since commanders of a nuclear war system can’t see the forest for the trees, their investigations will not notice that the “rot” in the missile system is the mission itself: the deliberate, self-conscious participation in an ongoing conspiracy to kill millions of people.
– John LaForge writes for PeaceVoice, is co-director of Nukewatch—a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group in Wisconsin.
Canadian ‘Experts’ "Comfy" with
Radioactive Pollution of Great Lakes
By John LaForge
“No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.” — Lily Tomlin
Ontario Power Generation (OPG) — which owns or leases 20 nuclear reactors across Ontario — would save loads of cash by not having to contain, monitor and repackage leaky above-ground radioactive waste storage casks. Last Sept., I testified in Ontario against the company’s plan to deeply bury some of this waste next to Lake Huron.
OPG officially plans to let its waste canisters leak their contents, 680 meters underground, risking long-term contamination of the Great Lakes — a source of drinking water for 40 million people, including 24 million US residents.
The Bruce reactor complex — the world’s biggest with 8 reactors — is on Huron’s Bruce Peninsula and is the storage site for radioactive waste (other than fuel rods) from all of OPG’s 20 reactors. Digging its dump right next door would save the firm money — and put the hazard out of sight, out of mind.
OPG’s public statements make clear that it intends to poison the public’s water. First, the near-lake dump would be dug into deep caverns of porous limestone. The underground holes are to “become the container” OPG testified last fall, because its canisters are projected to be rotted-through by the waste in 5 years. (On April 13 the Canadian government was shocked to learn that OPG grossly understated the severe radioactivity of its waste material, some of which, like cesium, is 1,000 times more radioactive than OPG had officially claimed. (See http://www.freep.com/article/20140413/NEWS06/304130074/great-lakes-nuclear-waste)
Second, OPG’s callous poisoning plan was broadcast in a December 2008 handout. Radioactive contamination of the drinking water would not be a problem, OPG says, because, “The dose is predicted to be negligible initially and will continue to decay over time.”
The ‘expert’ group’s report says it’s possible that as much as 1,000 cubic meters a year of water contaminated with radiation might leach from the dump, but calls such pollution “highly improbable.” (Emphasis on “predicted” and “improbably” here: The US government’s 650-meter-deep Waste Isolation Pilot Project in New Mexico was predicted to contain radiation for 10,000 years. It failed badly on Feb. 14, after only 15.)
OPG’s pamphlet goes further in answer to its own question, “Will the [dump] contaminate the water?” The company claims, “…even if the entire waste volume were to be dissolved into Lake Huron, the corresponding drinking water dose would be a factor of 100 below the regulatory criteria initially, and decreasing with time.”
This fatuous assertion made me ask in my testimony: “Why would the government spend $1 billion on a dump when it is safe to throw all the radioactive waste in the water?” Now, what I thought of then as a rhetorical outburst has become “expert” opinion.
‘Experts’ unworried about drinking industrial radiation
On March 25, the “Report of the Independent Expert Group” was issued to the waste review panel. The experts are Maurice Dusseault, Tom Isaacs, William Leiss and Greg Paoli. They concluded that the “immense” waters of the Great Lakes would dilute any radiation-bearing plumes leaching from the site.
Dusseault advises governments and teaches short courses at the Univ. of Waterloo on oil production, petroleum geomechanics, waste disposal and sand control.
Paoli founded Risk Sciences International and the company’s web site notes his position on Expert and Advisory Committees of Canada’s National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy.
Isaacs, with degrees in engineering and applied physics, works at the plutonium-spewing Lawrence Livermore National Lab, studying “challenges to the effective management of the worldwide expansion of nuclear energy.” Of course, hiding the effects of radioactive waste from public scrutiny is one of his industry’s biggest challenges.
Leiss has degrees in history, accounting and philosophy, and has taught sociology, eco-research, risk communications and health risk assessment at several Canadian universities.
So what level of expertise do the experts bring? None of them have any background in water quality, limnology, radio-biology, medicine, health physics or even radiology, hazardous nuclides, health physics, or radiation risk.
As plumes of Fukushima radiation spreading into the Pacific continue to show, the poisons spread from the source and can contaminate entire oceans. (See: http://www.ibtimes.com/fukushima-radiation-reach-west-coast-april-experts-weigh-how-dangerous-it-1560580) Fish large and small, and other organisms, bio-accumulate the cesium, strontium (which persist for 300 years), and cobalt (persisting for 57), etc. in the plumes. The isotopes also bio-concentrate in the food chain as albacore tuna studies repeated in April. (http://www.ibtimes.com/radiation-tripled-some-pacific-tuna-fukushima-meltdown-study-says-levels-too-small-cause-1578495>)
Canada’s expert group’s opinion on how radioactive waste might spread and be diluted in Great Lakes drinking water is inane and meaningless; its cubic meter estimates and risk assessments nothing but fairy tales. You could call the report a rhetorical outburst.
– John LaForge writes for PeaceVoice, is co-director of Nukewatch—a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group—and lives at the Plowshares Land Trust out of Luck, Wisconsin.
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