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DECEMBER 23, 1998   4:04 PM
CONTACT: Physicians for Social Responsibility
Robert K. Musil, 202-898-0150, ext. 221,
or Robert W. Tiller, 202-898-0150, ext. 220
Physicians Organization Deplores Tritium Decision
WASHINGTON - December 23 - Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) expressed dismay over yesterday's announcement by Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson that the Department of Energy (DOE) will use the Watts Bar nuclear reactor in Tennessee to produce tritium for the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. Tritium is a radioactive gas used to boost the yield of nuclear weapons. Yesterday's decision breaks a 10-year U.S. moratorium on tritium production.

"There are three reasons why this is a bad decision," said Robert W. Tiller, PSR's director of security programs. "First, it is wasteful, because the U.S. nuclear stockpile does not need new tritium now. Our leaders have been urging Russia to ratify the START II treaty, which the U.S. has already ratified; if the Duma does so, the earliest that our arsenal will need new tritium is 2011. And that need could come later if the two nations negotiate a START III treaty in the next few years.

"Second, the production of military materials in a commercial reactor breaches an important wall that has been in place for fifty years between military and commercial nuclear activities. Our leaders are upset that Iraq might use civilian facilities to produce components for weapons of mass destruction, but the U.S. is now committed to do that very thing -- turning a civilian reactor into a bomb facility. This long-standing separation between military and civilian nuclear programs should only be abrogated in a severe national emergency.

"Third, this encourages nuclear weapons proliferation and sends a terrible signal to the rest of the world about U.S. nuclear intentions. With the Cold War far behind us, this nation should be demonstrating to allies and enemies alike that it is no longer committed to maintaining an overwhelming nuclear force. Producing new tritium will encourage other nations -- especially India and Pakistan -- to see nuclear weapons as legitimate and appropriate components of defense."

Dr. Robert K. Musil, executive director of PSR, declared, "The DOE announcement is deeply disturbing to everyone who wants the world to move away from the nuclear brink. I urge President Clinton, Secretary Richardson and the Congress to end this foolish tritium policy."


Physicians for Social Responsibility is a national organization of 15,000 members, committed to the abolition of nuclear weapons. It is the U.S. affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.




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