Catastrophic, evil madness in production of nuclear weapon parts in KC

Ann Suellentrop, ready to cross the purple line and risk arrest at the National Security Campus.

By Ann Suellentrop

We are planning for planetary mass murder just down the street at KC’s nuclear bomb parts factory! We must wake up and say NO to this war crime! We are playing with fire! In World War II, humans brought millions of innocent people to ovens to be burned. Now we are building high-tech devices to burn hundreds of millions of people to death in a half-hour’s time! We cannot live with these catastrophically evil machines that could end life on earth as we know it. One nuclear sub has the power to destroy every major city in an entire country such as China or Russia. The resulting soot would loft into the upper atmosphere and block sunlight for years, killing millions more with mass starvation. This is total madness! We have lost our way!

A wise man once said, “Fear is useless. What is needed is trust.”

To illustrate the total lack of trust that the US exhibits in its commitment to nuclear weapons, I’ve put together this fact sheet, based on federal postings, concerning the Kansas City National Security Campus (NSC).

The NSC is one of the eight major sites that together make nuclear weapons for the US and sell some of the parts to the United Kingdom. The plant is a federal National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) facility under the Department of Energy. It makes or procures 80 percent of the non-fissile parts of a nuclear bomb, key components such as electronic guidance systems, arming and fuses that set off the bomb, and mechanical parts that hold the plutonium, uranium and tritium. The NSC is integral to the Life Extension Programs (LEPs) that are making new nuclear weapons. The plant is essential to the new nuclear arms race on which the US plans to spend $2 trillion dollars nationwide over the next 30 years. The plant recently bought adjacent land and is planning to expand to at least twice its already huge size.

National Security Campus, courtesy of Department of Energy, NNSA

The Kansas City Plant, predecessor to the NSC, began producing parts for nuclear weapons in 1949 at Bannister Federal Complex (BFC). Various companies managed the plant through the years: Westinghouse, Pratt-Whitney, Bendix, Allied Signal, and now Honeywell Federal Manufacturing and Technologies. The highest number of workers at the facility was 9,000 at the height of the first Cold War. The new plant, the NSC, was opened in 2014 with about 2,500 employees, which has now increased to almost 7,000. The NSC annual budget has also increased in recent years from about $700 million to a proposed $1.28 billion for 2024. 

In 2006, when planning began for the new plant to replace the old one, PeaceWorks-KC, a local branch of the national group Peace Action, began to protest. During the past decade there have been over 160 arrests for trespassing (mainly at the new plant, the NSC), and various town halls were conducted for the thousands of sick employees and their family members who died from cancers and other illnesses due to exposure to toxins at BFC. PeaceWorks members testified at numerous city meetings, ran billboard campaigns, collected thousands of signatures for ballot initiatives, and continue to lobby elected officials at the local, state, and national levels. 

Due to increased media coverage generated by PeaceWorks, over 150 former plant workers or their family members came forward to report serious illnesses and deaths of those who worked at the nuclear bomb parts plant and in other federal offices at the BFC. The federal government eventually admitted about 2,400 hazardous toxins had been used at the old plant, including several radioactive substances. Workers said they were not informed of these dangerous substances they were exposed to. In 2000, the federal government created a compensation program exclusively for nuclear weapons workers, with the EEOICPA—the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. Several million dollars have been paid to KC Plant workers or their families, but it is often very difficult for them to prove they qualify for this compensation.  It was also publicized that there are huge underground plumes of contaminated water under the old plant containing VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). These plumes will need to be contained into perpetuity with “pump and treat” wells to prevent contamination of nearby rivers which provide city drinking water. The old plant was demolished in recent years and the area redeveloped for industrial use, with a permanent ban on residential use.

—Ann Suellentrop, MS, RN, a PeaceWorks KC vice-chair, is also a leader in the local chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility and in the national Alliance for Nuclear Accountability.. © Copyright 2023, Ann Suellentrop, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.

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