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[NOTE: Due to COVID, event could not be held at the University of Chicago Campus ‘Nuclear Energy’ Statue so it was held online via Zoom conference.]

Good Evening, Thank you all for your concern and time regarding this issue and thank you to Charles Strain for organizing this event as well as to Roberta Siegel, Jack Lawler and Brad Little for all the work on past events.

I am Gail Snyder and serve as President of the Board of Nuclear Energy Information Service a 39 year old non-profit organization based in Chicago. We are focused primarily on bringing an end to the use of nuclear energy locally here in Illinois as well as the nation and the world.

By now most of you have seen the footage of the explosion in Beirut Lebanon linked to the storage of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate on the edge of a harbor in a city of over one million people. Estimates are that over 130 have died and over 5,000 were wounded. 300,000 people are homeless as a result and the damages are estimated to be upwards of $15 billion dollars.

The pictures and videos of the devastation and impact to people as they went about their daily lives there are heart breaking.

Now I want you to think about what if they had been warned. What if someone told them there is something dangerous stored in your community that can do so much damage that if you live through it your community may not recover? Would people demand the danger be removed? Would they protest? Would they accept the risk and keep living there?

Four Hiroshima Day alums — Bradford Lyttle and friend, Roberta and Howard Siegel — show up anyway at the Henry Moore Sculpture, Univ. of Chicago, Aug. 6, 2020.

Our organization and others are sending out a warning that we have something dangerous in our communities and it is nuclear energy and the nuclear waste it produces. If it was a nuclear power plant that melted down in Beirut the damage would have been widespread and long lasting. There would be no rebuilding and returning to live there because the area would be a permanent exclusion zone like those created when the nuclear energy power plants melted down in Chernobyl in the Ukraine and Fukushima in Japan. Everything would be abandoned. There would be no returning to get your household items or your car, no community to return to. Radiation levels could be so high that rescue efforts might not be attempted. If you can imagine if the white part of that explosion you see on the video in Beirut was radioactive thousands of people would be exposed to radiation depending on which way the wind was blowing. The difference being that in a nuclear meltdown no huge explosion and shockwave would occur and no visible warning that radiation was coming toward you or was all around you be obvious to you. It is invisible and deadly.

The explosion in Beirut was small by comparison to the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and miniscule by comparison to the modern nuclear weapons countries have today which if dropped on Beirut could easily kill 150,000 to 400,000 people instantly.  By comparison almost 160,000 people have died in the U.S. from Covid-19 but that took several months.

The connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons is clear. Nuclear reactors at nuclear energy facilities create the fuel for nuclear weapons. Recently countries like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have advanced their nuclear energy programs. We would argue those countries don’t need nuclear power for energy. The expansion of nuclear power brings with it the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation. If we want to say “never again” in regards to Hiroshima and Nagasaki we must address the dangers of existing and expanding nuclear energy.

A new NEIS “Know Nukes” program made its debut this August 6th at the Chicago Hiroshima  Anniversary Observance, held at the site of the Henry Moore Sculpture to Nuclear Power on the campus of the University of Chicago.  The site – memorialized by the world-famous sculpture — is the exact location where the Nuclear Age began on Dec. 2, 1942, with the experiment conducted by scientist Enrico Fermi and his team working on the Manhattan Project that produced the first human initiated and controlled chain reaction.

NEIS Board member Linda Lewison proposed the project early in summer, and envisioned it as an ongoing, monthly educational “tour” of one of the most significant, yet equally ignored historic memorial sites in the Chicago area.

NEIS Board Member Linda Lewison at the Moore Sculpture

Rather that bombard audiences with facts and figures, Lewison invited listeners to reflect on what thoughts and feeling the sculpture evoked in them.  She led them along with three questions to consider:

  • What do we see when we look at this sculpture?
  • What happened here and what is its relevance today?
  • What can we do? What actions can we take to make a difference?

Lewison said, “Millions of tourists in Chicago every year visit the sculpture “Cloud Gate” or “The Bean” as it has been nicknamed in Grant Park. The sculpture behind me, named “Nuclear Energy,” by Henry Moore is one of the greatest sculptures in the world and yet people walk by it every day not knowing its significance….Everyone goes to see the Bean but this is much more important.”

She went on to emphasize the need for immediate and future action, and not just passive memorializing.  Plans are in development to conduct the program on a more regular if not monthly basis in the future.

The observance has been held for decades at this location, which was dedicated in 1967, the 25th anniversary of the chain reaction experiment.  This year’s event was organized by Hyde Park resident and peace advocates Roberta Siegel and Brad Lyttle (who, it was announced, turned 90 this year).

In addition to Lewison’s presentation, the program consisted of attorney and musician Marian Neudel, lead a number of classic folk songs in between speakers; Bradford Lyttle, the venerable peace

Event organizer and legendary peace activist Brad Lyttle

and justice regular participant, who addressed  what nuclear madness means to all of us and the future of our planet;  Jack Lawlor from the Buddhist Peace Fellowship Chicago chapter who read the Buddha’s Discourse on Love; and Charles Strain also from BPF Chicago, who gave a short reading on the dangers of militarism.  The event concluded with a short silent meditation

The event was attended by about 35 people, the majority of whom were older and gray haired.  Numerous University of Chicago students walked by and through the memorial, but showed little interest in stopping or finding out what was happening.

THE ANNUAL EVENT HAS PURPOSE: On December 2, 1942, the Nuclear Age was born on the very spot this event will occur.  Seventy-three years ago on this date, the U.S. ushered in the Age of Nuclear War, with the bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima.  The first atomic bombing in history killed 20,000 Japanese soldiers, and 70,000–126,000 civilians.  These were but the first of the world’s nuclear victims, to be followed by tens to hundreds of thousands more Americans, Russians, Chinese, Marshall Islanders, Western Shoshone and numerous other people from around the world who have since died in the process of making and testing nuclear weapons, or just having the enormously bad luck of living down wind of the tests of the thousands of nuclear weapons that followed.

Despite the dire and continued warnings of some of the most brilliant people the Planet has produced – Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Andrei Sakharov, Linus Pauling among them – the world still harbors tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, thousands of which remain on “hair-trigger alert” to this day.  Not having learned the lessons of near Armageddon events in 1956, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1967, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1995, and 2010, national rulers with small minds but infinite destructive power continue the adolescent but dangerous game of nuclear brinksmanship to this day.

This event serves as both a memorial to those lives lost, and a reminder – a warning – that more lives, perhaps all life on Earth remain in jeopardy of extinction as long as nuclear weapons are permitted to exist.

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”  ― Albert Einstein

“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”  —     Albert Einstein, Telegram, 24 May 1946