By John Williams
There is no food and no end in sight for a group of approximately 20 hunger strikers who are protesting University of California involvement in the management of nuclear weapons labs.
Yesterday, students from five different UC campuses joined the strike protesting the nuclear weapons research at UC-owned Los Alamos National Labs (LANL) and Lawrence Livermore National Labs (LLNL).
In 2004, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists estimated that the U.S. had a total of about 10,000 nuclear warheads stockpiled. The UC played a major role in the production of every one of these weapons.
LANL is renowned for the development of the first nuclear weapon during the Manhattan Project in the 1940s.
The UC Regents, in cooperation with the Bechtel Corporation, manage LLNL and LANL, the two largest atomic weapons research facilities in the U.S.
The strike, coordinated by UC Nuclear Free (UCNF), a coalition of student and community organizations opposed to the UC’s management practices, already includes strikers from UC Santa Cruz, UC Santa Barbara, UC Los Angeles, UC Irvine and UC Berkeley. The nature of the strike is such that anyone can participate at any level and for as long as he or she chooses.
Darwin Bond-Graham, a UCSC alumnus and a major organizer for UCNF, clarified the terms of the hunger strike.
“We demand the end of UC oversight of nuclear weapons production and research, and secondly, that the UC Regents publicly state their opposition to the continuation of the Reliable Replacement Warhead program,” Bond-Graham said. “Students will be going without solid food until these demands are met.”
Janine Carmona, one of the UCSC students planning to strike, said that the UC is responsible for nuclear weapons production.
“As students of the UC, there is blood on our hands,” Carmona said. “A hunger strike is all about removing our consent for this practice.”
Trey Davis, a representative of the UC Regents, presented an alternate view in an e-mail to City on a Hill Press.
“UC has the unique expertise and resources to manage these labs, and does so as a public service to the nation,” Davis wrote.
The students of Demilitarize UCSC, a group affiliated with UCNF at UCSC, feel that regardless of whether or not nuclear weapons research and production were ever a public service, there are grave consequences to weapons production.
Steve Stormoen, a non-striking organizer, said, “Weapons production is entirely unsustainable after you have more than enough to reduce the planet to so much nuclear fallout.”
Kelsey Bryan-Zwick, one of the facilitators of the student-run class “UC and the Bomb,” said, “The University of California legitimizes the continued research of nuclear weapons, thus we are intimately connected with weapons production.”
“UC and the Bomb” is a two-credit independent study lab taught in conjunction with a five-credit upper-division politics course, “The Atomic Enterprise.” The class was designed to examine and understand the relationship between the University of California and atomic weapons production, and to take action on the issue.
Actions include class projects such as an outreach educational effort, a campaign of sending letters in opposition of new atomic weapons to Dianne Feinstein, and the hunger strike.
Although the United States has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which outlaws further production of nuclear weapons, the Reliable Replacement Warhead program outlined by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration calls for the replacement of all of the U.S.’s current stockpile of nuclear weapons with newer, lower-maintenance weapons.
Congress is currently considering whether or not to provide continued funding for the program. LLNL produced the accepted Reliable Replacement Warhead, and has now entered into a second phase of research on its production.
Bryan-Zwick explained her position on the reliable replacement plan.
“The interest of non-proliferation is better served by the U.S. policy of deterrence than through the development of more ‘usable’ nuclear weapons,” she said.
Students kicked off the strike with an event yesterday, but that is only the beginning.
The students will also converge at the UC Regents meeting at UCSF on May 16 and 17 for a rally and conversation with the regents about the strike and their demands. Students who participated in the May 9 hunger strike will have been without food for a week at the time of the UCSC rally.