]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]   UNILATERAL DISARMAMENT     [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[ 
 Editorial, The Wall Street Journal, 4 November 1988, p. A14:1
            [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 10602PANC]

   In a congressional hearing on  September 30, the United States
embarked  on the  course of  unilateral nuclear  disarmament.  No
arguments were offered  about the Soviet  Union, NATO, arms talks
or the place of  a nuclear deterrent in  ensuring the security of
the United States.  But  a New York Times  report struck the tone
for  the  extraordinary  and in  some  ways  incredible  chain of
political events that has occurred in the month since.
   "The  Savannah  River  Plant in  South  Carolina,  an enormous
government complex  that produces  fuel for  the nation's nuclear
weapons, has  experienced a  number of  serious reactor accidents
that have been kept  secret from the public  as long as 31 years,
two  congressional  committees  disclosed  today."   Melodramatic
press coverage,  led by the  Times's Keith  Schneider and echoing
through  Time [31  October  1988, "The  Nuclear  Scandal", cover;
"They Lied  to Us",  p. 60] and  Newsweek [31  October 1988, "The
year  the  bomb  makers  went   boom",  pp.  35],  and  demagogic
statements  by  Members  of Congress  have  focused  the nation's
nuclear phobia  squarely on  the U.S.  nuclear-weapons production
complex.   Indeed,  the reactor  complex  is now  closed  down by
concern over  "accidents" in  which no  one was  hurt and nothing
   The White  House and Pentagon  have dumped the  problem on the
Department of Energy,  which runs the  defense production plants.
Secretary John  Herrington and  his department  have responded to
this assault with a firm policy of pre-emptive surrender.
   This is  not merely  a matter  of producing  new weapons.  The
nuclear reactors at  the Savannah River  plant produce tritium, a
rare  form  of  hydrogen  essential  for  nuclear  warheads.  The
Tritium in existing weapons, with a radioactive half-life of only
12 1/2 years, melts away like ice and must routinely be replaced.
With  the Savannah  River reactors  closed  since August,  no new
tritium is  being produced  in the  U.S.  The  Defense Department
says  it has  about  a nine-month  supply.   Secretary Herrington
promises  to restart  one of  the reactors  in December,  but the
National Resources Defense  Council promises to  sue to stop him.
James Schlesinger, former  secretary of both  energy and defense,
says,  "If  you want  the  shortest route  to  unilateral nuclear
disarmament, just shut down those reactors for a while."
                            *   *   *
   The U.S. nuclear  deterrent now faces  its most serious threat
not from Soviet ICBMs or KGB sabotage or START bargains, but from
NEPA,  the National  Environmental  Policy Act  [1969].   For any
"major  federal action,"  whatever that  means, NEPA  mandates an
environmental-impact  statement,  which today  concerns  not what
happens to the environment but what legal hoops have to be jumped
through.  Over  the past  few years,  a series  of little-noticed
lawsuits  have  established  NEPA  as  an  effective anti-defense
   These  court  precedents  have been  won  primarily  by Jeremy
Rifkin  -- former  promoter  of the  "People's  Bicentennial" and
one-time sponsor of  a bounty for  secretaries informing on their
bosses.   With  the  assistance of  extensive  coverage  from the
Time's Mr.  Schneider, Mr.  Rifkin has  more recently established
himself  as  the  scourge   of  biotechnology.   His  peripatetic
lawsuits  against gene-splicing  and the  like  have by  now been
pretty  well  defeated;  the  scientific  community  branded  his
contentions  as  nonsense  and judges  have  recently  decided he
lacked  standing  to  supervise   federal  regulators.   He  has,
however, found a softer target in the Pentagon.
   o In 1985, federal Judge Joyce Hens Green of the D.C. district
ruled  favorably on  Mr. Rifkin's  NEPA  suit against  the Army's
plans to  build a biological-weapons-defense  research complex at
the Dugway Proving Grounds in  Utah.  Judge Green said the Army's
environmental assessment was "clearly inadequate" under standards
laid out in previous appeals  court rulings.  Last month -- three
years after Judge Green's decision -- the Army announced that the
capabilities of its as-yet-unbuilt facility would be scaled down.
NEPA had been used to defeat the U.S. Army.
   o Subsequent  to the Green  decision, Mr. Rifkin  filed a suit
charging that  the Army's  entire biological  antiwarfare program
was in violation  of NEPA.  Faced with  the possibility of delays
and  nightmarish publicity  campaigns  of the  sort  that plagued
Dugway,  the government  as "an  expeditious  way to  resolve the
case." agreed in a  February 1987 court settlement  to do a major
study of the program's environmental effects.
   o The month  following this settlement,  Mr. Rifkin filed suit
to  halt  so-called  "electromagnetic  pulse  experiments"  being
conducted  by  the Pentagon  in  five states,  partly  to develop
countermeasures  against  a  potential  Soviet directed-radiation
weapon that could disable U.S. command and communications systems
during a nuclear  attack.  This past  May, the Defense Department
settled, agreeing to turn off or reduce the project's generators.
After a  preliminary, six-month  environmental assessment  of the
project's  effect  on  wildlife and  humans,  Commander  in Chief
Rifkin would agree to  allow the Pentagon to  operate some of the
generators  at reduced  power.   A full,  two-year environmental-
impact statement is to follow.
   So an  anti-defense strategy  had been  born: Find sympathetic
judges to  lend credence to  environmental lawsuits  built out of
frightening, Strangelovian  scenarios of  "disaster."  Intimidate
frightened politicians.  Trap  the military in  the NEPA red-tape
spiderweb.  Make  the point  that even  if your  opponent may win
eventually, his program will face intolerable delay, then dictate
your  settlement.  Jeremy  Rifkin  provided the  first-wave shock
troops; now the heavy artillery  of the Natural Resources Defense
Councils  [sic]  is  zeroing  in on  the  heart  of  the nation's
deterrent posture.
                            *   *   *
   An  NRDC unilateral  disarmament suit  would ensure  delay and
paralysis.  To do a full-blown impact statement on Savannah River
could  require two  tiers of  public  hearings and  perhaps three
comment  periods  consuming  two  years,  not  counting  possible
judicial review  and supervision of  the project.   To argue that
national  security  required  a  restart  of  the  reactors,  the
government would most probably have to file affidavits containing
highly   classified  data   from   defense  officials,   and  the
plaintiffs'  lawyers  would  have  to  be  cleared  to  see  this
material.  Meanwhile, the U.S.  nuclear deterrent would dissipate
as the tritium in warhead after warhead degraded.
   The Savannah River  defense reactor has  been operated under a
non-profit contract by DuPont Co. since 1951 and jointly with the
Department of  Energy since  1977.  Following  the 1986 Chernobyl
accident, the Department of Energy  asked the National Academy of
Sciences to  evaluate safety  and management  issues at  the U.S.
defense reactors.
   In its report  last year the academy's  team did cite specific
areas of DOE's  management of the  reactors that need improvement
to ensure future  safety.  The shutdown  of the Savannah reactors
in August, for example, occurred because workers failed to follow
proper safety practices when the reactor failed to respond during
a restart procedure.   No harm came of  that incident, but groups
are  in place  to  work on  the  issues raised  in  the academy's
   As to the reactor's safety record over the past three decades,
the academy  committee states:  "The contractors  responsible for
the operation of the N Reactor and the reactors at Savannah River
have excellent  records of  safe operation.   There have  been no
major  reactor accidents  at  these facilities.   Both facilities
have  records  of  avoidance  of lost  workdays  as  a  result of
on-the-job injuries  at least 10  times better than  that of U.S.
industry as a  whole."  No one  questions that ultimately funding
has to be made available to construct new facilities and reactors
for the defense complex.  In  any event, restoring the complex to
an operational level that meets both long-term security needs and
safety will require  more than the  lurid sensationalism that the
issue is getting now.
   The  short-term  imperatives, however,  could  hardly  be more
compelling.   U.S. security  needs  the Savannah  River reactor's
tritium.   While  it   may  surprise  nearly   everyone  but  the
environmentalists that  NEPA has  become the  Supreme Law  of the
Land, it is also true that the Department of Energy, Congress and
the  Pentagon have  mismanaged the  current situation.   Even now
there is  little evidence that  officials at the  Pentagon or the
National Security Council fully appreciate  the legal bind that a
succession of NEPA  suits has put them  in.  A Pentagon spokesman
says, "We have no  specific solutions for DOE."   The line at the
NSC is, "DOE has the lead on that right now."
   Yet over at  the Department of Energy,  its lawyers are mainly
talking  about the  position of  legal  strength now  occupied by
potential NEPA  plaintiffs.  Instead of  pressing the  case for a
reactor  restart,  its  officials   have  been  mainly  conceding
hypothetical safety problems,  as if this  would somehow make the
political assault on the defense complex abate.
   Senator John Glenn  [D, Ohio] has  described exactly what will
be needed to stop this  unacceptable threat to the deterrent from
getting further  out of  hand: "It's  not overstating  that we've
gotten  to  a  situation  where  the  President  has  to  make  a
                         *    *    *

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