Plans for Testing Site of the Space-Based Laser will be Announced Soon

Livermore's NIF Project Running Billions of Dollars Over Budget

You Can Now Buy Uranium Online

*Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, recently found that the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization will be releasing a draft environmental impact statement in next couple of months regarding where the government will test the Space-based Laser.

The Space-based Laser is the real Star Wars. It consists of 20-30 satellites orbiting earth and having the capability to hit targets in space and on earth.

Presently the four sites under consideration are: Redstone Army Arsenal in Alabama, Stennis Test Center in Mississippi, and two site in Florida, Cape Canaveral or the Kennedy Space Center.

This idea of weapons in space all started on March 23, 1983, when then President Ronald Reagan announced his plan to build a shield against nuclear weapons. In the last eighteen years, U.S. taxpayers have spent $70 billion on various "Star Wars" designs with little to show for it. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Clinton/Gore National Missile Defense will cost up to $60 billion.

The Republicans, on the other hand, want the U.S. to build a massive missile defense "triad" consisting of sea-, space-, and ground-based interceptors. According to the Council for a Livable World, this system would cost at least $120 billion. The Center on Strategic and International Studies estimate that a truly "robust" system could cost up to $240 billion, which is four times the estimated costs of the Clinton/Gore plan. The "robust" system was endorsed by Republican Presidential nominee George W. Bush in his May 24th speech on nuclear weapons and U.S. foreign policy.

*Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Northern California has been constructing a giant laser called the National Ignition Facility, or NIF. According to a report written by the General Accounting Office and released last week, this project will cost taxpayers nearly $2 billion more than the original estimation of $2.2 billion, and will be delayed by at least six years. These factors are eroding the projects political support. The process that will be used by NIF, if the project is ever realized, is to heat and compress pellets of nuclear fuel with 192 converging laser beams. Supposedly, this will help study nuclear weapons without exploding them.

There are many technical questions regarding the project, and some scientists believe the project will never work and should be abandoned. The accounting office report states that, "the cost of NIF could grow even higher and completion of the project could take even longer" than the revised estimates suggest. The report also found that the former director of the NIF project withheld information regarding problems with this project.

NIF is part of the United States program to ensure the safety and reliability of its nuclear stockpile. On June 1st, Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson, sent a letter to New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici, asking that NIF's funding be increased by $95 million. This would more than double the Clinton administration's original request. Richardson wrote that, the money "will come from other Stockpile Stewardship Program activities." This proposal will probably be met with resistance because other labs like Los Alamos National Laboratory, would then receive less funding.

* Radioactive uranium can now be bought on the Internet. According to the director of marketing for New York Nuclear Corporation, ``An (Internet) auction for uranium seems far out, but it's really quite straightforward. It's like any other commodity.'' Through the website, the 430 nuclear power plants around the world can purchase uranium fuel needed to make electricity through this Internet auction process. These nuclear power plants supply about 20 percent of the world's electricity.

Buying uranium online first occurred this past July. According to an online broker, ``Any physical movement of uranium must be from a licensed producer to a licensed trader or buyer.'' Corporate representatives selling uranium online from the United States, England and South Africa say there is no additional risk and that it would be nearly impossible for terrorists to buy uranium fuel online.

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