Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Evacuate Nukes, Not Albuquerqueans
By Jeanne Pahls
Co-founder of Stop the War Machine, facilitator of the Nukes Out of Duke City effort

    How do we mitigate disaster in Albuquerque? Eliminating the threat altogether outranks all other methods!
    Katrina's aftermath in New Orleans has been a wake-up call to the entire country about emergency preparedness in the face of large disasters. As the city that houses (according to Brookings Institution public-policy research group in 2002) 2,510 nuclear weapons and warheads at the Kirtland Underground Munitions Storage and Maintenance Complex, Albuquerque needs to take special note of this.
    If Albuquerque were to secede from the union, it would immediately become our planet's third largest nuclear power. Certainly this, paired with the location of Sandia National Laboratories in close proximity to the world's largest nuclear weapons depot near the runways of the Sunport, paints a huge bull's eye over Albuquerque for anyone who is angry with our country.
    An explosion caused by an accident, attack or plane crash at the Kirtland Underground Munitions Storage and Maintenance Complex could disperse the uranium and plutonium contained in the nuclear warheads there. This would create a massive dirty bomb effect larger than anything in Osama Bin Laden's thoughts. Federal officials seem to recognize this: Albuquerque had the honor of hosting the first federal dirty bomb drill in 2002.
    Effective emergency preparedness requires effective mitigation. Get the nuclear weapons at Kirtland dismantled! After all, what will we do with them— use them? The money poured into protecting and maintaining them could be better spent.
    No emergency plan can adequately prepare for a disaster involving the large amount of uranium and plutonium in the 2,510 nuclear warheads. The city's current draft of the Albuquerque Emergency Operations Plan does a very poor job of this. The main method listed of rapidly alerting the public is the Emergency Broadcast System. How well would that work if an emergency occurs at night while the city sleeps? Some of us, after reading through the present draft of the plan, met with Jim Hunter, Albuquerque's Emergency Manager, and suggested a siren alert system for the city. "Sirens don't work," Mr. Hunter told us. Those of us whose lives have been saved in tornado situations by sirens were astounded to hear this.
    We were also dismayed at the lack of a viable evacuation plan. The Albuquerque Emergency Operations Plan lists the interstate highways as the main evacuation routes should a disaster occur here in Albuquerque. Rush hour always sees jam-ups on these routes. It is easy to imagine the chaos a short-notice evacuation would wreak on these routes, and the difficulty families would experience when trying to flee radiological contamination.
    After a summer spent reading through the plan and meeting with the Albuquerque Office of Emergency Management, we were quite concerned that the strategy of government regarding Albuquerque in the event of an accident/attack on the nuclear warheads at Kirtland appears to be containment, not evacuation.
    Mitigation is the solution. It is time to call for the removal and dismantlement of these WMDs. Twenty-five hundred weapons of mass destruction housed in a city area is simply not a good idea. Do we need these weapons? On 9/11 all of our weapons and technology did not protect us. Perhaps a better foreign policy is actually what is needed. Certainly we would benefit as a country from diminishing our reliance on weapons and increasing our reliance on a less dominant and military approach to the world.
    Recent events have demonstrated that the citizens of New Orleans were viewed as expendable by many in positions of authority. It appears that Albuquerqueans are viewed this way also. Let us prevent Albuquerque from being the next New Orleans.