Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Brunswick, Maine, United States

I'll be taking an 'unpaid leave of absence' from my job at the Global Network from December 15-March 15, 2020 in order to help my friend Lisa Savage on her campaign for the US Senate in Maine. She's running as a Maine Green Independent Party member and needs to gather 2,000 petition signatures of registered Greens during that period. I'll be back to GN after March 15.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

PLUTONIUM LAUNCH COUNTDOWN BEGINS


The controversial January 11 launch of the New Horizons space probe, that will carry 24 pounds of plutonium, has been delayed until January 17. National media are now beginning to focus on the launch and are calling our office. A demonstration has been set for January 7 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. Members of the Global Network will be there as well as people from the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice.

There have been many demonstrations at the space center since the early 1980's when I began taking people there. Our first protest was around 1985 when seven of us went there to stand against the launch of a military spy satellite. Then in 1987 we had well over 5,000 people to protest the first flight test of the Trident II nuclear missile from the cape. About 285 were arrested in that action. Then in 1989, NASA launched the Galileo mission carrying radioactive plutonium onboard and we had about 1,000 people at that protest. The next year saw Ulysses go up, also carrying plutonium, and we held another large protest with about 500 people.

I worked for three years to build global opposition to the 1997 launch of Cassini that carried the most plutonium ever into the heavens - 72 pounds. The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported just prior to that launch that between 1994-1996, when the Department of Energy was fabricating the plutonium generators at Los Alamos Labs in New Mexico, over 244 cases of worker contamination were reported. It has always been our contention that these plutonium missions are harming people and communities even before they are launched. All anyone has to do is review the long and sad history of plutonium contamination at the DoE labs across the nation to understand our concern. And now, the DoE is doing a $300 million expansion of the Idaho laboratory to meet the "growing demand" for plutonium on future space missions. Nuclear powered bases on the moon and nuclear rockets are planned.

We had over 1,000 people at our Cassini protest at the space center just before it was launched. I'll never forget the Associated Press reporter said we had 400 people in her article. I heard another reporter ask her during our march to the base gates how many people she was going to report. "Four hundred," she replied. I heard him say to her, "There are at least 800 here!" It was the AP story that got picked up all over the world and it said a disappointing crowd of 400 was at the space center that day. The reporter was a "space booster" and did not appreciate our efforts to oppose the launching of plutonium. She was one of those reporters that would use expressions like "Our launch" or "we have a successful launch." She saw herself as part of the NASA team. Her job was to be a cheerleader.

As I have traveled and spoken out over the years against the nuclearization and weaponization of space, people tell me they don't want their tax dollars wasted on launching radioactive materials into space. They understand that space technology can, and does fail, and they also understand that a release of plutonium could have catastrophic consequences for Florida and beyond.

Years ago the U.S. Congress passed the Price-Anderson Act to protect the nuclear power industry from liability. The law places limits on how much the nuclear industry would be liable for after an accident. A few years back, Congress amended the law to include space nuclear accidents. So the limits have been set to protect NASA and the U.S. government from clean-up liability. Just who then would be responsible to clean-up a worst case space nuclear accident?

NASA and the DoE wish the Global Network and our supporters would go away. But we won't. We will continue to build national and international opposition to the launching of nuclear power into space. And with each new launch, more people learn about the dangers, and more people lose faith in NASA and their mission.

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