Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Nuclear Proliferation

Many may wonder at my interest in radiological preparedness and response issues. Well fate intervened. I commanded a nuclear warhead unit in FRG (SASCOM) and inspected nuclear capable units in southern FRG during the years 1968-1970! I was also a trained and assigned NAICO (Nuclear Accident and Control Officer) during that time frame. My unit was inspected not just by EUCOM but also by traveling members of the former Atomic Energy Commission AEC)which was created to control both weapons production, surety and nuclear power for the United States. I had a childhood friend whose father was the General Counsel of the AEC and later a Commissioner. That friend I will see this weekend at my 50th high school reunion. I also became the lead lawyer for FEMA for the Shoreham Nuclear Power Station administrative litigation in September 1986. Again later I was a key fact witness even though a lawyer for FEMA at the license hearings for Seabrook Nuclear Power Station.
The nuclear priesthood that led the United States into the Atomic Age was headed by Dr. Robert Oppenheimer and many fine biographies of that brilliant and interesting man are in existence. The reduction in his access to classified programs by Lewis Strauss of the AEC through administrative hearings is the stuff of legend. The reform of that process and Executive Order 10450 awaits a President that has better understanding of the issues and policies of the nuclear age than any we have had since Eisenhower.
It should be noted that the most fundamental misunderstanding is of the role of the United States in nuclear proliferation. The people of the United States have never had it made clear to them that while nuclear reactors are NOT bombs and controlled chain reactions are possible, they actually are a stepping stone to knowledge and technical capability that can lead to bomb making. In addition as nuclear power, a necessary ingredient for world energy demand to be met, expands from nation to nation it becomes harder to control production of materials from those reactors that are useful to the bomb makers. The various UN conventions have not acted as successful control and surety vehicles although the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) a UN organization has done some good work. If the reader of this blog is serious in trying to understand this complicated history, and has read biographies of OPPENHEIMER and the excellent books out on the making of both the atomic bomb and later nuclear weapons then I have a further unclassified gem to recommend. I also strongly recommend that Professor Paul Bracken's book "Command and Control" Yale University Press 1982 or 1983 be read as far as the limitations on delegation of strike authority to armed forces wherever they may be. Professor Bracken's 1989 book "Fire In The East" provides the background and rationale for the drive to obtain weapons for countries such as Iran. The "theft" of special nuclear materials by the Isralies from the United States is another story.

But as to the nitty gritty of nuclear development and policy my friend Professor Richard Sylves in a book dedicated to his father entitled "The Nuclear Oracles" and published by Iowa State University Press in 1987 provides a detailed blueprint for those interested in this history which sooner or later will control the fate of mankind IMO. Readers of other blogs know that I believe WMD issues and policies should be at the top of the priority list for the Department of Homeland Security. Unfortunately, their leadership has not made that topic their biggest priority.
The "Nuclear Oracles" is nothing less than a detailed political history of the General Advisory Committee of the AEC, led largely by Dr. Oppenheimer, and covers the years 1947 to 1977. Under a Presidential Reorganization the former AEC became part of the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This book should be mandatory reading for all the newest members of the nuclear priesthood and is available from Dr. Sylves. Again it must be understood that atomic and nuclear weapon proliferation in the world has been largely assisted by US policies and programs. This proliferation has occurred in all administrations since that of Dwight D. Eisenhower. It has the elements of the greatest tragedy of all time. And the "Shining City on a Hill" is largely responsible.