Peace Committee Report: Loretto Disarmament & Nuclear Issue
By Pat McCormick and Byron Plumley
Aug. 6-9 marked the 73rd commemoration of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that introduced the violence of the nuclear age.
For the coming year the Loretto Peace Committee has chosen to focus on a nonviolent response to militarism. As part of that focus we are reflecting on the recent U.N. Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons and the participation of Loretto in the past 40 years at nuclear sites like Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant outside of Denver.
In 1978 the Denver American Friends Service Committee, including staff member Pam Solo, organized a national demonstration at Rocky Flats along with the Rocky Flats Truth Force. This drew national attention to the role of Rocky Flats in manufacturing the atomic plutonium trigger essential for nuclear weapons assembly at the Pantex Plant in Texas.
Weekly Sunday prayer at the west gate of Rocky Flats began in 1979 and continued until the plant closed in 1992. Catholic Workers, Mennonites and Quakers were involved heavily. Many Loretto members participated in demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience. A couple of examples include the action on Dec. 31, 1979, when Mary Ann Cunningham, Terry Ruby, Marie Ego, Hedy Sawadsky, Marie Nord and Susana Anderson walked on the railroad tracks into Rocky Flats “bringing the light.” Terry later said, “Nothing like doing an action with nuns … you sing your way right through the gates.” In 1983 Mary Sprunger-Froese and I (Pat) drove into Rocky Flats in a car that would not go in reverse. When confronted by a guard I reminded him that it was Ash Wednesday. He said, “Oh, I forgot to go to Mass.”
Rocky Flats officially was closed in 1992, and the superfund cleanup supervised by the Department of Energy ended in 2006 at a cost of $7.7 billion.
The effort to keep Rocky Flats closed is ongoing, and a coalition spearheaded by the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center in Boulder, Colo., filed a lawsuit in federal court to challenge government assertions that it is safe for a proposed Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. June 16 the case was before a federal judge during which opponents presented evidence that the Environmental Protection Agency is required to update soil testing on proposed bike, hiking and horseback trails in the wildlife refuge and in surrounding areas to determine the level of possible residual plutonium contamination. The lawsuit hopes to prevent the refuge from opening.
By spring 2018, the Keep Kids Off Rocky Flats campaign successfully persuaded seven Colorado school district boards to pass a resolution banning any future educational visits to the refuge. As the school year opens, the campaign plans to visit six additional school districts. Opponents of visits to the refuge are convinced that keeping Rocky Flats off limits will be a standard for 20 other Department of Energy sites around the country. Yet, to drive by and see the housing developments one might believe it is a wonderful place to live.
The U.N. Nuclear Treaty announced July 7, 2017, calls for the elimination of all nuclear weapons. Thus far 60 nations have signed and 14 have ratified the treaty. Nuclear powers oppose the treaty. The ratification process may take two or three years to reach 50 nations. Setsuko Thurlow, a Hibakusha, stated, “This is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.”
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., signed the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Parliamentary Congressional Pledge July 14. He was joined by 14 other U.S. candidates for public office who have signed the candidate pledge. Any candidate for public office is invited to sign the candidate pledge for a Nuclear Weapons Free Future. (www.nuclearban.us)