At a time when the United States is condemning the potential for nuclear arms development in North Korea and Iran, the University of California continues its cozy relationship with nuclear weapons manufacturers.
Just this month the Department of Energy selected the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) to research and design a new nuclear warhead that can be capped on old missiles. The lab, run by the UC system, won the contract over two other labs, the Sandia National Labs and the Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL), the latter of which is also UC-managed. The award was given to LLNL because it submitted a conservative design that does not require nuclear testing—an ecological threat that the Clinton administration banned.
The issue hits close to home. Why are two of the three national laboratories competing to revamp the production of nuclear warheads connected to the UC? The LLNL is fully controlled by the UC system, while the LANL is run by the UC in conjunction with several other companies.
While student funds do not go towards weapons manufacturing, this commitment by the UC represents the militarization of our university and our public life. What is to stop violence in classrooms and on campuses if the university continues to create the means of the most wretched and wicked violence on Earth? Nuclear weapons don’t offer scientists an insight into life—they offer our military the ability to blow foreigners to smithereens.
It is hypocritical and irresponsible to expect peace on our campuses if our institutions internally create the means for violence and warfare. A quest for learning and knowledge is important, but educational systems should lead to the means of peace and prosperity and impede national killing—not promote it.
Beyond the inherent contradictions of the UC involvement in arms manufacturing, it is further hypocritical for the United States to begin planning and building nuclear weapons, while nearly starting wars with other nations for doing the same.
If we truly want to stop the proliferation of these destructive arms, we would stop proliferating them ourselves. It is inappropriate and irrational to build these weapons and not expect that other nations will follow suit, upping their arsenal and contributing to the creation of a neo-Cold War era arms race.
The UC system has been involved with the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons since its beginning. UC Berkeley employee Ernest Orlando Lawrence led the early stages of the Manhattan Project, which constructed the first nuclear weapon. This research and development happened at LANL, previously known as Site Y. The UC system developed and raised nuclear weapons and thus is directly responsible for opening the door for the Cold War and the perpetual threat of fallout.
This latest deal with the Lawrence Livermore Lab continues that hidden tradition, as the campus community often overlooks this reality.
But at the same time, some students and faculty have dedicated themselves to exposing this truth through voicing opposition to the UC’s involvement in these programs. At the Regents protest last October, students demanded a cessation of weapons manufacturing within the UC.
To the dismay of many, this current contract just continues the trend of the UC system’s involvement with weapons of mass destruction. And the victory over LANLS pushes research fully on the shoulders of the UC, increasing the responsibility that had been shared by other corporations.
It seems ironic that in kindergarten they teach you to be peaceful, but in the university they teach you to kill your enemies, emit carcinogenic radiation into the atmosphere and local environment and inflict innumerable suffering on countless living beings.