Activists Banner over Seattle Freeway with Clear Message: “Abolish Nuclear Weapons”

Photo Credit: Attached photo of June 7th bannering on NE 45th St overcrossing by Glen Milner, Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action

by Leonard Eiger, Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, June 16, 2021

Seattle, WA, June 7, 2021:  Activists held a banner and signs over a busy Seattle freeway during the morning commute to remind people of the imperative to abolish nuclear weapons.

Beginning on June 7th, and continuing throughout the Summer, activists with Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action are bannering over Interstate 5, on the NE 45th overcrossing, with messages stressing the imperative to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Activists plan to banner every Monday between 8:00 and 9:00 AM on the NE 45th Street overcrossing.

At a time when a new Cold War, involving not only the US and Russia, but also China, is heating up, the bannering is intended to remind citizens of Puget Sound to accept their role and responsibility–as taxpayers, as members of a democratic society, and as neighbors to the Trident nuclear submarine base in Hood Canal–to work to prevent the use of nuclear weapons.

Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, just 20 miles west of Seattle,  is homeport to the largest concentration of deployed nuclear warheads in the U.S.  The nuclear warheads are deployed on Trident D-5 missiles on SSBN submarines and are stored in an underground nuclear weapons storage facility on the base.

There are eight Trident SSBN submarines deployed at Bangor.  Six Trident SSBN submarines are deployed on the East Coast at Kings Bay, Georgia.

One Trident submarine carries the destructive force of over 1,200 Hiroshima bombs (the Hiroshima bomb was 15 kilotons).

 

Each Trident submarine was originally equipped for 24 Trident missiles.  In 2015-2017 four missile tubes were deactivated on each submarine as a result of the New START Treaty.  Currently, each Trident submarine deploys with 20 D-5 missiles and about 90 nuclear warheads (an average of 4-5 warheads per missile).  The warheads are either the W76-1 90-kiloton or W88 455-kiloton warheads.

The Navy in early 2020 started deploying the new W76-2 low-yield warhead (approximately eight kilotons) on select ballistic submarine missiles at Bangor (following initial deployment in the Atlantic in December 2019).  The warhead was deployed to deter Russian first use of tactical nuclear weapons, dangerously creating a lower threshold for the use of U.S. strategic nuclear weapons.

Any use of nuclear weapons against another nuclear weapon state would likely elicit a response with nuclear weapons, causing overwhelming death and destruction.  Besides the direct effects on the adversaries, the associated radioactive fallout would affect people in other nations.  The global human and economic impacts would be far beyond imagination, and orders of magnitude beyond the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Civic responsibility and nuclear weapons

Our proximity to the largest number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons puts us near a dangerous local and international threat.  The Puget Sound region would be a primary target for a nuclear attack, which would cause complete and total devastation for which there is no effective response or recovery. When citizens become aware of their role in the prospect of nuclear war, or the risk of a nuclear accident, and the consequences, the issue is no longer an abstraction.  Our proximity to Bangor demands a deeper response.

Citizens in a democracy also have responsibilities–which includes choosing our leaders and staying informed about what our government is doing.  The submarine base at Bangor is 20 miles from downtown Seattle, yet only a small percentage of citizens in our region know that Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor exists.

Citizens of Washington State consistently elect government officials who support nuclear weapons in Washington State.  In the 1970s, Senator Henry Jackson convinced the Pentagon to locate the Trident submarine base on the Hood Canal, while Senator Warren Magnuson obtained funding for roads and other impacts caused by the Trident base.  The only Trident submarine to be named after a person (and our former Washington State Senator) is the USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN-730), homeported at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

In 2012, Washington State established the Washington Military Alliance (WMA), strongly promoted by both Governor’s Gregoire and Inslee.  The WMA, Department of Defense, and other governmental agencies work to strengthen the role of Washington State as a “…Power Projection Platform (Strategic Ports, Rail, Roads, and Airports) [with] the complementary air, land, and sea units with which to accomplish the mission.”  Also see “power projection.”

Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor and the Trident submarine system have evolved since the first Trident submarine arrived in August 1982.  The base has upgraded to a much larger D-5 missile with a larger W88 (455 kiloton) warhead, with ongoing modernization of missile guidance and control systems.  The Navy has recently deployed the smaller W76-2“low-yield” or tactical nuclear weapon (approximately eight kilotons) on select ballistic submarine missiles at Bangor, dangerously creating a lower threshold for the use of nuclear weapons.

Major issues

* The U.S. is spending more on nuclear weapons programs than during the height of the Cold War.

* The U.S. currently plans to spend an estimated $1.7 trillion over 30 years for rebuilding the nation’s nuclear facilities and modernizing nuclear weapons.

* The New York Times reported that the U. S., Russia and China are aggressively pursuing a new generation of smaller and less destructive nuclear weapons. The buildups threaten to revive a Cold War-era arms race and unsettle the balance of power among nations, while increasing the risk of accidental or intentional nuclear war. Both Chinese and Russian nuclear modernization can be seen as a response to the U.S. continuing upgrades to existing nuclear weapon systems and plans for new (replacement) systems. Currently the U.S. is moving forward with the Columbia Class replacement program for the existing OHIO Class ballistic submarine fleet. Plans are also in the works for a new warhead for the trident missile (which has already been given the designation “W93”).

* The U.S., under the Trump administration, announced in May 2020  that it would withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty. In January 2021 Russia announced its intention to withdraw, and in May 2020 the Biden administration notified Moscow that it would not re-enter the pact.

* None of the nuclear weapon states have demonstrated support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the U.S. urged non-nuclear weapon states to withdraw their support for the treaty.

* The U.S. Navy states that SSBN submarines on patrol provide the U.S. with its “most survivable and enduring nuclear strike capability.”  However, SSBNs in port and nuclear warheads stored at SWFPAC are likely a first target in a nuclear war.  Google imagery from 2018 shows three SSBN submarines on the Hood Canal waterfront.

* An accident involving nuclear weapons occurred on November 2003 when a ladder penetrated a nuclear nosecone during a routine missile offloading at the Explosives Handling Wharf at Bangor.  All missile-handling operations at SWFPAC were stopped for nine weeks until Bangor could be recertified for handling nuclear weapons.  Three top commanders were fired, but the public was never informed until information was leaked to the media in March 2004.

* Public responses from governmental officials to the 2003 missile accident were generally in the form of surprise and disappointment.

* Due to ongoing modernization and maintenance programs for warheads at Bangor, nuclear warheads are routinely shipped in unmarked trucks between the Department of Energy Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas and the Bangor base.  Unlike the Navy at Bangor, the DOE actively promotes emergency preparedness.

Nuclear weapons and resistance

In the 1970s and 1980s, thousands demonstrated against nuclear weapons at the Bangor base and hundreds were arrested.  Seattle Archbishop Hunthausen had proclaimed the Bangor submarine base the “Auschwitz of Puget Sound” and in 1982 began to withhold half of his federal taxes in protest of “our nation’s continuing involvement in the race for nuclear arms supremacy.”

One Trident SSBN submarine at Bangor is estimated to carry about 90 nuclear warheads.  The W76 and W88 warheads at Bangor are equal respectively to 90 kilotons and 455 kilotons of TNT in destructive force.  One submarine deployed at Bangor is equal to more than 1,200 Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs.

On May 27, 2016, President Obama spoke in Hiroshima and called for an end to nuclear weapons.   He said that the nuclear powers “…must have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without them.”  Obama added, “We must change our mindset about war itself.” Years before that, President Ronald Reagan questioned the value of nuclear weapons: A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?”

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The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action was founded in 1977.  The center is on 3.8 acres adjoining the Trident submarine base at Bangor, Washington.  The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action offers the opportunity to explore the roots of violence and injustice in our world and to experience the transforming power of love through nonviolent direct action. We resist all nuclear weapons, especially the Trident ballistic missile system.

Upcoming Ground Zero-related events:

* Activities in collaboration with other peace organizations, as we can, in the Puget Sound region.

* Ground Zero Peace Fleet! in Elliott Bay, Seattle on August 4.

* The annual Interfaith Peace Walk led by Bainbridge Island Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple (Late July through early August; dates TBD)

* The Annual Ground Zero Hiroshima/Nagasaki Commemoration on August 7 and 9 at Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action with a vigil and nonviolent action at the entrance to the Bangor Trident submarine base.

Please check our website at www.gzcenter.org for updates.

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