Nevada Test Site as exercise area against Iran

From the air, the terrain of the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site [as they claim, it actually is Western Shoshone land], with its arid high plains and remote mountain peaks, has the look of northwest Iran. The site, some sixty-five miles northwest of Las Vegas, was once used for nuclear testing, and now includes a counterintelligence training facility and a private airport capable of handling Boeing 737 aircraft. It’s a restricted area, and inhospitable—in certain sections, the curious are warned that the site’s security personnel are authorized to use deadly force, if necessary, against intruders.

It was here that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducted training, beginning in 2005, for members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a dissident Iranian opposition group known in the West as the M.E.K. The M.E.K. had its beginnings as a Marxist-Islamist student-led group and, in the nineteen-seventies, it was linked to the assassination of six American citizens.

Further reading.

Remembering Chernobyl and Fukushima at the Test Site, April 26th 2011

On April 24th (Easter Sunday) 38 people gathered at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) as thousands have done each spring over the past 30 years. Eight were arrested and a dozen will return tomorrow to the NNSS (at the Mercury exit of US Highway 95) with the same hope for peace, environmental safety, and nuclear abolition. Both prayer-actions celebrate the Springtime hopes for an end to the terrors of the Nuclear Age. The April 26th event is held to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine. Tomorrow’s demonstration will be held from 7am to 8am, and is one of hundreds all over the globe. These vigils and protests highlight the painful and expensive radioactive troubles from Chernobyl (Ukraine) and Fukushima (Japan).

The group holding interfaith prayers tomorrow morning, April 26th, at the NNSS wishes to communicate the urgent need to end the expansion of nuclear power technology and to protect the Nevada Desert and other bioregions from nuclear disasters. The recent Fukushima, Japan nuclear melt-down has sent radioactive fallout around the planet. The Chernobyl nuclear power explosion contaminated food and people across Europe. Ten thousand demonstrators in the town of Gronau, Germany today and fifty thousand others in Amsterdam last week are all supporting the same cause of ridding the earth of the radiological problems of nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

One of the Franciscan activists in Nevada this week hoping to stop the spread of nuclearism, Paul Lachance, said, “at this season of Easter we give thanks to the rising power of Love which overcomes the forces of evil and death in ourselves, in our world and in the nuclear madness.”

New sign at Test Site

Veterans For Peace
John Amidon

The Nevada Test Site was recently re-branded the Nevada
National Security Site. On Easter Sunday, April 24, 2011
a new sign (picture attached) will welcome visitors to the
Western Shoshone Nation at Mercury, Nevada.

Chief of the Western Shoshone National Council
Johnnie Bobb @ 775-964-2210
Veterans For Peace – John Amidon @ 518-312-6442 (cell)
Nevada Desert Experience – Jim Haber @ 415-828-2506 (cell)

What: A new sign for Mercury, Nevada, and civil resistance to the illegal occupation of the Western Shoshone Homeland and nuclear weapons.

When: Sunday, April 24, 2011 10:15 AM

Where: Nevada National Test Site, Mercury, NV

Who: Members of Veterans For Peace, the Western Shoshone,Nevada Desert Experience, Code Pink, and concerned citizens who support justice for the Western Shoshone and nuclear abolition.

Why: How is the war economy working for you, Las Vegas and how will you like the nuclear waste that the US government will once again try to shove down your throats at Yucca Mountain? The illegal occupation of the Western Shoshone Homeland has brought nothing but misery, disease, hatred and distrust to the world with the development of nuclear weapons. It is time to wake up. Time is running out. Let us hope we can learn from Japan. Restoration of the Western Shoshone Homeland will beginning the process of restorative healing which is so deeply needed. John Amidon (center) and Johnnie Bobb (right) in attached picture.

Western Shoshone – Most Radiated Nation on Earth

The Nevada Test Site Within Newe Sogobia

In 1948, Western Shoshone lands were seized to create the Nevada Test Site, forcing over 100 families to abandon seasonal or permanent family camps. Many burial and cultural sites exist within the Test Site and are inaccessible to the people. No compensation was ever offered. The Western Shoshone are the most bombed nation on Earth, with over 1,000 nuclear bombs detonated on their lands by the U.S. and Great Britain.

In 1987, the Western Shoshone National Council exercised their sovereignty and challenged U.S. jurisdiction by issuing WSNC Land Use Permits to participants of anti-nuclear gatherings at the Nevada Test Site. Since that time, hundreds of simple trespass actions onto the Test Site have not been prosecuted, because the government wants to keep the issue of the Ruby Valley Treaty out of the courts.

The Yucca Mt. Nuclear Waste Repository

On February 14th, 2002, Energy Secretary Abraham recommended Yucca Mt. as the site for storage of all US irradiated reactor fuel and other high-level radioactive waste. If passed, the federal government would ‘ withdraw’ (steal) another 260 square miles of Newe Sogobia. The DOE hopes to complete their license application by the end of 2008. The WSNC is completely opposed to the Yucca Mountain project, and has passed a resolution making all of New Sogobia a Nuclear-Free Zone. Litigation continues.

WSNC member Johnnie Bobb, a spiritual leader from the Yomba Shoshone Reservation, has led the annual spring Newene Sogobi Mava’a Mia: Western Shoshone Walk On the Sacred Land since 2000. Walkers and runners alternately encircle the western and eastern boundaries of the Test Site the first two years, ending at the NTS gates or Yucca Mountain. They conduct prayer ceremonies and vigils, visit communities, and bless waters, hot springs, all living beings and the land along the way.


60 Years of Disaster

by Jim Haber, Coordinator of Nevada Desert Experience

January 27 marks 60 years since the first atomic bomb test in Nevada. Codenamed “Able” it was tiny for a nuclear weapon: the equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT, about 1/15 the size of the bomb that killed upwards of 130,000 people in Hiroshima. Anniversaries are times to reflect, so what is the legacy of the Nevada Test Site (NTS), now called the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS)? What is the current state of the NNSS and what is going on there? Are the nation and world safer for all the Cold War and post-Cold War efforts? As the NNSS re-purposes itself to focus more on detecting and containing national security threats, it still stands as a world-wide symbol of the making of weapons of mass destruction. The name change is intended to reassert its relevance in the absence of exploding nuclear devices, but the inherent problem of the NTS remains. The NNSS is always able to resume testing nuclear weapons within two years should the president order it.

Testing of nuclear weapons didn’t only happen at the Nevada Test Site. Historians even argue that using the bombs on Japan rather than demonstrating them on an unpopulated location constitute human experimentation. Treating victims as research subjects rather than patients was widely reported in Japan, as well as from victims of atmospheric testing in the 1950s. Targeting civilians was and remains a crime against humanity, as does threatening nuclear attack on non-nuclear states, no matter how repressive their leaders.

We, as a people, caused much worldwide grief for our part in the Cold War, which used small countries as battlegrounds with no concern for local populations or environments. Official tours of the NNSS and the displays at the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas exhibit great pride in the NTS’ Cold War role. There is little mention in their history about efforts to stop testing and other parts of the nuclear weapons complex. Efforts to shut down the Soviet nuclear test site in Kazakhstan or French test sites in Africa and the South Pacific garner barely a word. Only a limited view is presented.

At the NNSS which is run by the Department of Energy (blurring the lines between civilian and military in this country), military nuclear waste is buried even as remediation efforts elsewhere are undertaken. The detection and first responder trainings are only defensive in nature if we concurrently support the leadership of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its mission to monitor nuclear programs around the world. Unilateral or bilateral agreements that ignore the mandate of the IAEA actually encourage other states to seek nuclear weapons to be seen as worthy players on the international stage.

The United States military budget is on par with military spending of all other countries combined. When the US attacks countries that don’t have nuclear weapons, it makes the possession of nuclear weapons seem like a necessary deterrent. But if more countries have deterrent forces, then we’ve lost the disarmament fight.

Taking the land of the Western Shoshone and other native peoples to use it for nuclear testing is not just. Forcing the people of Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands to live on tiny Ebeye Island, creating one of the most densely populated places on Earth is not just. Stealing and contaminating native hunting and fishing grounds is not just.

Thank God so few countries have tested or possess nuclear weapons. The global consensus is clearly to eliminate all nuclear weapons. “Stockpile Stewardship” tests at the NNSS, along with missile tests in the Pacific are undermining the credibility of the U.S.’s agreement to seriously reduce nuclear stockpiles. Sharing nuclear technology with violators and abstainers of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty while threatening countries not in egregious, well-documented breaches of the NPT is not just and promotes horizontal proliferation. Hence, continued testing whether they’re full-scale tests or not, signals to the world that the US will keep its finger on the button and will brook no new players in the nuclear game.

When we devise ways for nuclear weapons to be more precise and kill fewer civilians, to be more militarily useful, we undermine the international consensus against all weapons of mass destruction. And how many design upgrades and revisions can be implemented and still not require a real test? At some point, unless we in the United States get serious about pressuring our government to cut its nuclear weapons arsenal, the Nevada Desert will again quake with detonations…and be filled with peacemakers crashing the gates like in the 1980s to shut it down once and for all. This anniversary should serve as a time to work for peace and disarmament.

# # #

Jim Haber is the Coordinator of Nevada Desert Experience (NDE) which organizes interfaith resistance to nuclear weapons and war. Jim is on the War Resisters League National Committee, and he edited the 2008 WRL Peace Calendar. Jim is also very active with Jewish Voice for Peace, the G.I. Rights Hotline and the Catholic Worker movement. He can be reached at: jim[at]

Documenting the first nuclear bomb tests

Two new atomic documentaries, “Countdown to Zero” and “Nuclear Tipping Point,” feature archival images of the blasts. Both argue that the threat of atomic terrorism is on the rise and call for the strengthening of nuclear safeguards and, ultimately, the elimination of global arsenals.
As for the atomic cameramen, there aren’t that many left. “Quite a few have died from cancer,” George Yoshitake, 82, one of the survivors, said of his peers in an interview. “No doubt it was related to the testing.”
Check out the NY Times.

More on animals on test sites

A two-year study is underway to help wildlife biologists better understand the behavior of mountain lions living on and around the Nevada Test Site, located 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Researchers hope to determine where these elusive predators live, what they eat, and how best to manage potential risks to workers at the site. With funding and field support provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration Nevada Site Office, a research team was recently assembled to trap eight mountain lions at the Nevada Test Site over the next two years, fitting each animal with a GPS satellite collar to track the cats’ movements over continuous 24-hour periods. Using the tracking devices, researchers will document each animal’s location six times per day and physically visit one or two clusters of locations per week to gather information on recent kills.

“We want to determine where lions are most likely to be predatory,” said wildlife biologist David Mattson, who is heading up the study. Dr. Mattson of the U.S. Geological Survey, along with a field team from National Security Technologies—NSTec (the Management and Operating contractor for the Nevada Test Site), aims to record the hunting behaviors of the eight collared cats, whose diets are known to include mule deer, young horses, and rabbits. “It is important to know what is being hunted and under what circumstances in order to better understand the risk to potential prey,” Mattson added.

Juvenile vs. Adult Mountain Lions

While mountain lion attacks on humans are extremely rare (only one attack has ever been documented at the Nevada Test Site), the last five years has seen an increase in the number of lion sightings at the site, particularly at the lower elevations. Remote, motion-activated cameras installed to monitor the movement of mountain lions have captured photographs of the animals near active work facilities. “Even though the risk of an employee being attacked by a mountain lion is extremely low,” explained Federal Project Director Peter Sanders, “we want to assess where the risk is the highest since some new projects are being conducted in mountain lion habitat.” Managing risk to workers is the primary goal of the study; but researchers also hope to explore broader questions about how predator/prey relationships play out in habitats that are restricted from public access. “This is an incredible opportunity to look at the predator/prey dynamic without the effect of human interference,” said Dr. Mattson. The government-controlled land in and around the Nevada Test Site offers an unprecedented stage for observing wildlife unaffected by construction/development and outdoor recreation, like camping and hunting, he explained. “Being able to look at an unexploited population of lions is an extraordinary situation that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else in North America at this time.”

Researchers agree that studying mountain lions in this or any kind of setting is a challenge. These nocturnal, solitary hunters are notoriously difficult to track because of their keen ability to stay out of sight and on the move. Mountain lion experts believe the species has been able to maintain its numbers, rebounding from near extinction in 1900, as a result of its elusive nature and ability to cover large territories. Trapping a lion at the Nevada Test Site, explained NSTec biologist Derek Hall, is particularly difficult at this time due to an abundance of winter rain that has increased temporary water sources at the site, dispersing prey and the hunters they attract. “As these temporary water sources dry out, prey will be restricted to just a few permanent water sources, which should increase the chances of trapping a mountain lion around these watering holes.”

Dr. Mattson hopes the research at the Nevada Test Site will someday contribute to a long-term study that looks at mountain lions on a regional scale. Since 2003, researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey have been able to track more than 60 mountain lions from northwestern Arizona to southwestern Utah, observing the cats’ hunting territories and behaviors, especially when new prey is introduced (e.g. big horn sheep). Mattson admits parlaying the objectives of existing studies into one comprehensive regional effort would require more funding and a solid commitment. “In an ideal world,” stated Mattson, “it takes at least ten years to adequately study lion and deer populations.”