Obama administration resurrects his ban-the-bomb stance from his student days

Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Secretary of State John Kerry talk about banning the bomb (Getty Images)

You may say he is a dreamer, but he’s not the only one.

Out of the blue the Obama administration’s Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz are calling for a new round of talks in an attempt to revive the nuclear test ban treaty that the Senate nixed in 1999.

After giving Iran the green light to develop its own nuclear weapons at some time in the vague future — after Obama is out of office presumably — now seems like an odd time to resurrect Obama’s youthful, naifish dream of a nuke free world.

“I don’t think I was that unique at that time,” Obama has since said of his 1983 article in a Columbia University publication calling for for nuke-free world, “and I don’t think I’m that unique today in thinking that if we could put the genie back in the bottle, in some sense, that there would be less danger — not just to the United States but to people around the world.”

Nevada Test Site bomb test (Nevada State Museum)

There hasn’t been a full-blown, so to speak, nuclear weapon test at the Nevada Test Site since 1992, according to a Review-Journal article by Keith Rogers.

“From 1951 through 1992, the test site’s role focused on full-scale tests of nuclear weapons. During that time, 100 were conducted in the atmosphere until the Limited Test Ban Treaty took effect in 1963. That was followed by 828 that rumbled through the desert after they were set off below ground in shafts and tunnels,” Rogers writes. “The last one, Divider, was conducted on Sept. 23, 1992. What followed was a moratorium that has been extended indefinitely.”

But what has followed are underground subcritical tests. There have been at least two dozen of those.

But those apparently would not violate a nuclear test ban treaty. According to Lawrence Livermore scientists, in these experiments chemical high explosives are detonated next to samples of weapons-grade plutonium to obtain information about what happens to the plutonium in a matter of microseconds. No critical mass is formed — no self-sustaining nuclear fission chain reaction or detonation.

Earlier this summer the Air Force did drop a dummy nuke bomb at the Tonopah Test Range. The tests are designed to assure the continued reliability of the weapon’s parts.

According to Politico, shortly after Kerry and Moniz started talking about a test ban treaty, Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican called the effort “almost comical.”

“It wasn’t in our national security interests then, it’s not in our interests now, and it won’t be in the future,” Cotton was quoted as saying in a statement. “If the Obama administration intends to ‘reopen’ the discussion over Senate ratification of the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) then I intend to ‘reopen’ the fight against it.”

How confident are we that our current nuclear weapons still work as intended after all these decades? Just asking.


8 comments on “Obama administration resurrects his ban-the-bomb stance from his student days

  1. Maybe John Kerry can talk James Taylor into performing a reprise of the the Lennon tune before the full House and Senate…that would surely do the trick, ya thank?


  2. iShrug says:

    Iran must be encouraged to develop their solar and wind resources, instead of petroleum and nuclear programs. It’s what Americans are forced to do, in the name of saving our planet.

  3. Rincon says:

    Wind and solar, wind and solar. What is it with this fixation? “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye?” (A plank? I didn’t make it up – I just quoted it)

    What we’re also forced to do is to pay the pharmaceutical industry billions through Medicare’s Republican-dictated inability to negotiate drug prices as every other government on the planet can do. We’re also forced to pay 55 times as much for Daraprim, a generic treatment for a life threatening parasitic infection, because a clever hedge fund manager bought the rights to it. Doxycycline increased 91 times, leading to the deaths of a few dogs in my hospital. The list of similar drugs goes on. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We have been paying 40% more for our medical care than any other country on the planet, but live shorter lives than citizens of 26 of those countries. The wind and solar industries are chump change in comparison. The hospitals of our country hire more lobbyists than the entire defense industry. How do you think the renewable energy lobbies stack up in comparison? Take off your blinders!

  4. iShrug says:

    What does the pharmaceutical industry have to do with national security? If solar and wind are such great energy sources, Iran shouldn’t need nukes.

  5. Steve says:

    Trouble with trying to get Iran to use renewables is the same as us. We have cheap natural resources. Renewables are expensive. (don’t give me the “externality” argument, that cannot be quantified in a persons wallet.)
    Greens love to hold Germany up as the example for successful implementation of renewable energy. With one exception, Germany is no different from the rest of the world. Like the rest of the world they have the thing called human nature…what they do not have is a ready supply of natural resources. Human nature dictates people will do whatever costs them less to achieve what they want. In the energy market, Germans have a real need for energy independence, and the blood born engineering to achieve it. Iran ( the middle east and the USA) we all have cheap fossil fuels and the price point has now been identified, we won’t exceed that for the next few generations.

    Rincon is right about drugs, they simply are a source for investment and profit, at the expense of the people who can least afford them. (I even hold some biopharm in my portfolio, last week was a roller coaster!)

    What both these points have to do with Tom’s blog is that our administration is now spending a large amount of time, money and wasted effort trying to jump start what should be a dead horse after 16 f’ing years.

    Now, THAT should inspire a removal of blinders.

  6. Rincon says:

    “..don’t give me the “externality” argument, that cannot be quantified in a persons wallet.” Wishing it away is not a strategy. Simplicity can be a good thing, but simplistic thinking rarely deals well with complex problems. Even if we buy the argument (which I don’t) that externalities are universally not quantifiable, that does not negate their existence. You have to deal with the world as it is, even if it’s difficult to measure.

  7. Rincon says:

    I am not defending the fiscal soundness, or lack thereof, of renewable energy. I am complaining that Conservatives pound away at their pet gripes ad nauseum while ignoring far larger problems in our society. Liberals do the same, as in gun control, for example. I tend to go on about income inequality, so perhaps I’m in a glass house, but I honestly don’t think there are very many larger problems. Only my opinion, of course.

  8. Steve says:

    Well….you kinda took the blinders off….maybe.

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