Navy Closes Project ELF

* The U.S. Navy announced on September 17 that they are closing Project ELF, the communications system for the 18 Trident nuclear submarines stationed off the coasts of Georgia and Washington State. Project ELF was officially closed on September 30, marking a huge victory for activists opposed to the facility.

Project ELF (extremely low frequency) consisted of two antenna located near Clam Lake, Wisconsin and Republic, Michigan that projected 1.3 million watts of electricity into the earth that sent one-way commands to submerged Trident submarines. Trident submarines contain 24 missiles that are each tipped with eight nuclear warheads..

Trident submarines carry one-half of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Each submarine carries an explosive force more than 1,500 times greater than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II..

The U.S. Navy claims that Project ELF is obsolete due to, "Improvements in communications technology and the changing requirements of today's Navy." The Navy said that communications with the submarines will now be performed by the 12 very low frequency transmitters located around the world..

Military leaders have long said that Project ELF was unnecessary. In 1981, Admiral Thomas Hayward said, "No threat has emerged that causes us concern about our [nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine] force. And therefore, it is not essential to press on with [Project ELF] at the present time." Nevertheless, two years ago a Navy representative indicated that Project ELF would continue for 25 years..

Activists argued that Project ELF served as the trigger for these weapons and thus presented one of the greatest dangers to international security and nuclear disarmament. Since 1991, disarmament and peace activists have gathered at Project ELF nearly 60 times. .

These groups have often practiced nonviolent civil disobedience in order to raise awareness of Project ELF and its implications for global peace. More than 600 citations have been issued to activists at Project ELF, which has resulted in more than nine years of jail or prison time served by activists..

John LaForge, of Nukewatch in Wisconsin, said, "We did it. This is another victory for nonviolence.... No attention was ever paid to [Project] ELF unless we were out there putting ourselves in legal jeopardy. After so many years of actions, trials, and jail-going, cynics said to us, 'You've failed.' But we hadn't lost, because we never gave up..

Activists were also concerned because there is evidence that the electrical pulses released by Project ELF were compromising the health of wildlife and community members surrounding the facility. Electrical frequencies such as those emitted by Project ELF have been linked to leukemia and may have caused internal bleeding in marine life around the submarines. U.S. Representative David Obey, of Wisconsin, said in 1994, "The Navy has never been able to prove that the system is safe for the people or the wildlife living near it."

Bonnie Urfer, also of Nukewatch, said, "I feel relief for the people of the area and the local environment...."

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