The Coalition to Demilitarize the UC issued a call to arms this week, asking students to protest the University of California’s involvement in nuclear research and weapons production.
The coalition, a UC-wide organization, wants students and faculty to attend Thursday’s UC Regents meeting at UC Los Angeles in order to persuade the decision-making body to cut ties with three national laboratories. The Regents are scheduled to discuss employee retirement issues of one at the labs, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, on that day.
“[We will] demand the Regents divest the university’s good name and intellectual resources from the new arms race,” the coalition announced to its supporters via e-mail.
The University of California has managed the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) near San Francisco for over 50 years. The UC has also maintained Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), located near the UC Berkeley campus, for roughly 70 years. All three labs engage in some form of nuclear research.
The UC’s contract to manage LANL, which was once again awarded to the University this year, is worth $512 million over the next seven years with the possibility of a 13-year extension. Last year, the UC won a bid to extend its stewardship over LBNL, and it is still in the bidding process for a new contract for LLNL.
Just as it is now doing with LANL, the UC intends to manage LLNL along with Bechtel National – an engineering, construction and project management company.
According to the LANL News and Public Affairs website, LANL began a six-year effort in 2003 to make the first nuclear weapon pits – the central component for such weapons – since the Rocky Flats Plant near Boulder, Colo. shut down in June 1989. The pits are for the W88 warhead, which is carried on the Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile, “a cornerstone of the U.S. nuclear deterrent,” the website stated.
While calls to the UC Office of the President seeking comment were not returned Tuesday afternoon, the UC has previously said that its continued management of the labs directly preserves national security. Quality UC research and oversight provides the needed safety in the field, it said.
According to UCSB Coalition to Demilitarize leader Darwin BondGraham, previous attempts to open a discourse between the coalition and the Regents have been met with “disinterest and open hostility,” leading him to believe that more drastic measures must be taken.
“Only through a highly visible display of opposition can we build political pressure on the Regents,” said BondGraham, a sociology and black studies graduate student.
According to a press release from the group, the UC’s new mission to create nuclear pits is part of a refocus in warfare.
“The manufacturing of weapons by our university will constitute a resumption of nuclear weapons primary production, something the U.S. has not done since 1989 and something the UC hasn’t done since 1949,” the press release stated. “The weapons produced by UC are intended to be more usable against so-called ‘rogue nations’ or ‘terrorists.'”
BondGraham said nuclear production at UC-managed labs contradicts the public’s values.
“At a time when so many people are calling for peace, the UC will have a direct and active involvement in replenishing the nation’s nuclear arsenal,” BondGraham said.
Greg Mello, leader of the Los Alamos Study Group, an organization that works with the coalition, said UC professors should alert students to the pitfalls of nuclear weapons.
“More faculty leadership at UCSB [is needed] to educate students on their university’s association with the creation of weapons that are immoral, and whose use or threat would be illegal under international law,” Mello said.
– Kaitlin Pike contributed to this report.