OREPA members gathered outside the Knoxville IRS office on the eve of Tax Day to call attention to the waste of tax dollars—to the tune of $3 BILLION!—on the UPF bomb plant. OREPA coordinator Ralph Hutchison offered these remarks:
Over the next thirty years, the Department of Defense and the National Nuclear Security Administration plan to spend one trillion dollars “modernizing” the US nuclear weapons stockpile.
If taxpayers don’t stop them, they will spend $4 million per hour, every hour of every day for thirty years.
On what? More than 1/3 of the money will go to the National Nuclear Security Administration—ever heard of that agency?
It’s part of the Department of Energy—the part that designs, builds and tests thermonuclear weapons of mass destruction. The US has more than 5,000 nuclear weapons in our stockpile right now. Fifteen hundred of them are deployed around the world, on hair trigger alert, waiting for a command or a mistake or an accident or a computer hack to launch the Last World War—the one in which we wipe out almost the entire planet, leaving behind a radioactive earth incapable of supporting human life.
Yes, it’s true the United States signed a treaty in 1969 promising to eliminate our nuclear stockpile “at an early date.” And yes, it’s true that President Obama, in 2009, declared the US was committed to a “world free of nuclear weapons.”
But it is also true that the US budget for nuclear weapons right now is the largest it has ever been in history. And the danger of nuclear war—something we rarely think about—is also greater than at any time in our history. Even people like former Secretary of Defense William Perry has figured it out. Last month he said, “A lifetime immersed in special access to and top-secret assessment of strategic nuclear options has given me a unique and chilling vantage point from which to conclude that nuclear weapons no longer provide for our security, they endanger it.”
Perry is not the first. Scores of other generals and Admirals, national security advisers and diplomats have called for the US to dismantlement its stockpile in the interest of our own security.
But the message isn’t getting through to our elected officials who pass the budget. They seem only to hear their corporate donors—Bechtel and Lockheed and others—and they keep shoveling money by the billions to them every year.
In Oak Ridge, the centerpiece of “modernization” is a brand new bomb plant which would have the capacity to produce 80 thermonuclear warhead secondaries every year. That’s insane—and completely unnecessary: we can maintain our current stockpile for decades just as it is.
By the end of next year, more than $3 billion will have been spent on the UPF bomb plant—that’s just for the design. Construction will cost many times that amount. And every dollar we waste on a bomb plant we do not need is a dollar we won’t spend on cancer research, or better schools, or creating living-wage jobs, or providing health care, or any of the other things that really and truly make us secure.
That’s why we’re here. To demand accountability for our tax dollars. To say “Stop handing our public funds over to private companies that are lining their pockets and producing nothing.” We’re here to say we want our tax dollars to buy real strength and real security. We want higher teacher pay and better programs for students; we want job training and health care and living wages and affordable housing. These are the elements of the American dream—they are what we are supposed to be buying with our tax dollars.”