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Latest on Y2K nuclear problems
2 December 1999
For those of you interested in Y2K and potential disasters with nuclear reactors and weapons systems, the European parliament passed a resolution ealier this month in which it asked for nuclear forces to be taken off alert over the Y2K rollover period, as well as for reactors to be shut down.
In reponse to this, John Hallam (FoE, Sydney) has stepped up the fax campaign to Clinton and Yeltsin re de-alerting nuclear weapons systems, and the latest draft letters / contact details / sign-on details from John are copied below.
Fri, 26 Nov 1999
There are now just 35 days until the Y2K 'rollover'.
There's not much time to get 5,600 warheads off alert.
Last Thursday (18 November), the European Parliament passed a resolution on Y2K nuclear` reactors and nuclear weapons, in which it asked for nuclear forces to be taken off alert over the Y2K rollover period, as well as for reactors to be shut down.
We need to keep the faxes that have been rolling in to Cohen, Clinton, and Yeltsin, coming! There are signs from the Pentagon that they are being forced to respond!
There are currently 3,600 Russian warheads and 2000US warheads on permanent, 24- hour, 'hairtrigger' alert. (this is simply the warheads in silo- based missiles and does not include submarine or bomber or other weapons.)
These warheads can be launched at 15-20 minutes notice.
The UK on the other hand, has recently moved the 'notice to fire ' for its warheads, from minutes to days.
We are asking the US and Russia to do likewise.
'De-Alerting', as it is called has now been called for by the 1996 Canberra Commission, by the Tokyo Forum, by two resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly last year and by the same resolutions again this year, by the Australian senate, and now by the European Parliament. A resolution by Rep. Edward Markey has gathered 71 co- sponsors.
There are signs that the Pentagon may be feeling the impact of your faxes - so keep faxing!
Do Please write to Cohen, Clinton, and Yeltsin, something similar to the letters below if you haven't already done so (or even if you have).
If you are an organisation and want to sign a large sign- on letter, please sign the letter to presidents Yeltsin and Clinton that is being periodicaly faxed to them on http://homepages.tig.com.au/~foesyd/nuclear/bbletter.html
(I strongly suggest that you don't use these letters word for word but customise them or paraphrase, and shorten.)
The fax numbers have all been tried many times and work. The Russian fax number is very slow.
You can fax Defence Secretary Cohen on +1-703-695-1149, You can fax Clinton on +1-202-456-2461, You can fax Yeltsin on +7-095-205-4330,
You can fax for free on http://www.fax4free.com
2)You can sign on to the electronic petition, coordinated by NAPF. It's at http://www.napf.org/abolition2000/intlpetition.html
From - John Hallam, Friends of the Earth Sydney.
1) SAMPLE LETTER TO COHEN/CLINTON
(This is for individuals to sent to Us Secretary for Defence Cohen and President Clinton. You can also post it to The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington DC.)
WILLIAM COHEN, US SECRETARY OF DEFENCE, +1-703-695-1149,
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON,
Dear President Clinton and Secretary for Defence Cohen, I am writing to urge your administration to take US nuclear forces off 'hairtrigger alert' even if only during the Y2K rollover period.
As you will be aware, the European Parliament recently voted to ask you and President Yeltsin to do as the UK has already done, and de-alert nuclear weapons.
It is particularly disturbing that Secretary Cohen has been reported as having stated in Moscow some time ago that de-alerting of nuclear forces is 'off the table' as a stability building measure. You have also been quoted as saying that 'The better course is reduction, limiting the number of weapons, and establishing shared early warning centers'.
The recent Europarliament vote clearly puts de- alerting back on the table. De-alerting of nuclear forces was strongly recommended by the Canberra Commission in 1996 and then by the Tokyo Forum, as a way to develop strategic stability and build trust between the US and Russia. It has also been incorporated into last year's and this years text of the New Agenda Resolution in the UN General Assembly. It has also been reccommended by a resolution specifically on the subject passed by last years General Assembly and by this years First Committee on Reduction of Nuclear Dangers.
In addition it has been the subject of two resolutions passed by the Australian Senate on 12 August and 20September, and finally it has been clearly requested by the European Parliament. It is also the subject of congressional resolution H.Con Res177 put by Edward Markey, and most recently, the City of Berkley has asked for it.
These measures are not in competition with each other. All of them - reductions in the number of weapons, the establishment of shared early warning centers and de-alerting - are vital to the reduction of tension and the establishment of strategic stability. This is particularly the case in view of the uncertainties posed by the millennium date change (Y2K).
As you are well aware, the largest and oldest computer system complexes in the world are those that control nuclear weapons systems.
The very nature of the Y2K problem makes it impossible to be sure everything has been fixed until well into the new year.
Russia has, until recently, made little effort to even acknowledge the Y2K problem, let alone fix it. It is therefore quite possible that Russian computerized control systems are not Y2K compliant and that they will experience widespread failures during the Y2K rollover period.
Even more disquieting is the fact that that the Russians have constructed the system known as 'Perimeter', or the 'dead hand'. This system seems to include additional ways in which Y2K failure might lead to an accidental launch.
The establishment of a Y2K strategic stability center in Colorado is certainly an advantageous move and an absolutely essential one.
However, it does not entirely remove the danger of an accidental launch of nuclear weapons.
The fact that the Center is scheduled, as far as we the public are aware, to come into operation only on December 27th, four days prior to the rollover, is far from reassuring. A four day delay will render it useless.
Similarly, the center itself will depend on the availability of ultra-reliable hotlines between it and Moscow. The Y2K vulnerabilities recently discovered in six of the seven hotlines on which US/Russian communications depends, are also cause for deep concern.
If nuclear weapons are removed from a status in which they can be launched within minutes, and placed in one which would require at least days to launch, the risk of an accidental missile launch induced by Y2K or other errors in command and control systems will be virtually eliminated.
This has been done by the UK, which has moved the 'notice to fire' for its missile forces from minutes to days.
In taking De-alerting 'off the table', the United States is making a serious error. Failure to take nuclear forces off hairtrigger alert over the Y2K 'rollover' period is an error that has the potential of causing unthinkable consequences.
The probability of this may be low, but it will never be zero as long as nuclear forces remain on hair-trigger alert.
In a previous administration, President Bush took strategic bomber forces off alert. We urge you to do this with all US nuclear forces.
(Signed - your name)
2) SAMPLE LETTER TO YELTSIN/DEFENCE MINISTER SERGEYEV
THIS SAMPLE LETTER IS FOR YOU PERSONALLY TO FAX, CUSTOMIZED AS YOU FEEL BEST, TO YELTSIN AND DEFENCE MINISTER SERGEYEV. PLEASE DO FAX IT AND SEND IT NOW.
You can also post it to Boris Yeltsin, C/O The Kremlin, Moscow - but its really too slow. A single A4 page fax will cost you about a dollar.
PRESIDENT BORIS YELTSIN,
IGOR SERGEYEV, RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTER, +7-095-205-4330,
'Dear Defence Minister Sergeyev and President Yeltsin,
I am writing to convey my deep concern that Y2K-related computer failures in the command and control systems for nuclear weapons may lead to an accidental nuclear war.
I am aware that both Russia and the US have taken this problem seriously enough to establish a joint strategic stability center in Colorado. However, I am very much concerned that this facility will come into operation only by 27th December 1999, so that a delay of just four days will make it useless.
I am also very much concerned that Y2K problems have been found recently in six out of seven of the 'hotlines' that would be used if a crisis of any sort arose over the Y2K rollover period.
I am aware that there have been a number of occasions when either the US or Russia have mistakenly believed that the other nation was in the process of launching a nuclear attack.
With 3,600 Russian warheads on 700 missiles and 2,000 US warheads on 500 missiles, with each side capable to launch within roughly 20 minutes, this must never be allowed to happen, either over the Y2K 'rollover', or at any other time.
The use of 5,600 warheads would certainly mean the end of what we call civilization, would likely mean the end of the human race and could possibly mean the end of all life.
I therefore urge both you and the United States, to place all your nuclear forces in a status in which at least days not minutes, would be required to launch . The United Kingdom has, I understand, already done this.
The European Parliament has recently called on both the US and Russia to de-alert nuclear weapons and to place them in a state similar to that in which the UK has placed its weapons. The recent Europarliament vote clearly puts de- alerting back on the table. De-alerting of nuclear forces was strongly recommended by the Canberra Commission in 1996 and then by the Tokyo Forum, as a way to develop strategic stability and build trust between the US and Russia. It has also been incorporated into last year's and this years text of the New Agenda Resolution in the UN General Assembly. It has also been reccommended by a resolution specifically on the subject passed by last years General Assembly and by this years First Committee on Reduction of Nuclear Dangers. In addition it has been the subject of two resolutions passed by the Australian Senate on 12 August and 20September, and finally it has been clearly requested by the European Parliament. It is also the subject of congressional resolution H.Con Res177 put by Edward Markey, and most recently, the City of Berkley has asked for it.
The immediate stakes are so high and the potential for global catastrophe is so great, that mutually verified de-alerting of nuclear forces in the face of the Y2K computer problem must take precedence over all other considerations of political and national security.'
(Signed - your name)
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Link to main Y2K page.