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DC Days report/pics—intense lobbying!

The Kansas City delegation to DC Days, for lobbying Congress, had exciting times!
At the office of Sen. Jerry Moran, May 20, during DC Days (left to right) : Ann Suellentrop, Luisa Olarte, Adrianna Schoonover, Bree, Kaitlin Burgess (Moran's aide), Evris Oake, and Jeni Knack from Parents of SSFL (Santa Susana Field Laboratory, near Los Angeles).

By Ann Suellentrop

Fifty-five persons participated in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s anti-nuclear lobby days, DC Days, May 19-22, and 23 of these folks were first-time participants in this annual lobbying extravaganza. ANA is a 40-year old national network of 30 grassroots organizations (including PeaceWorks) whose members live in the shadow of nuclear enterprises.

On May 19, the KC contingent at DC Days receives lobbying training. Sitting in the same row, from left: Bree, Kimmy Igla, Luisa Olarte, another lobbyist, Adrianna Schoonover, and Evris Oake.–Photo by Ann Suellentrop

PeaceWorks Kansas City helped send six of us: Kimmy Igla, Bree, Evris Oake, Adrianna Schoonover (AP), Luisa Olarte, and me. This is my 15th year at DC Days, it’s Kimmy’s and Luisa’s 2nd year, and the first year for the others in our KC contingent. “DC Days is a life-changing experience for me, and the second time around has really solidified the role of nuclear accountability work in my life,” Kimmy said after our journey.

Sunday, May 19, began with a day-long intensive training on nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, and nuclear waste. Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, was one of the presenters; he referred us to for info on nuclear issues. Monday through Wednesday, there were about 70 meetings with congressional offices and administrative offices such as those at the Department of Energy, which oversees all nuclear manufacturing and cleanup efforts. Thursday and Friday, debriefing and future planning were conducted. 

Chthonodynamis, sculpture outside DOE. “The sculpture looks ominous, even monstrous,” says photographer Ann Suellentrop.

The KC delegation had 5 meetings scheduled with staff members of our congressional elected officials: Sen. Roger Marshall, R-KS; Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-MO; Sen. Jerry Moran, R-KS; Sen. Josh Hawley, R-MO; and Rep. Sharice Davids, D-KS. I led some of the meetings, and Kimmy led the sessions with staff of Hawley and Cleaver.

During DC Days, we heard that the new nuclear arms race (which the expansion of the Kansas City National Security Campus is deeply involved in with “modernization” projects for 7 nuclear bombs) is all about preparing for a simultaneous nuclear war with Russia, China, and Iran. The NSC expansion is not about deterrence, which would require only 300 warheads as opposed to the thousands now in existence. 

PeaceWorks and other ANA groups also lobbied for Department of Energy transparency, accountability, public oversight, increased cleanup, and compensation and care for those affected by the nuclear enterprise. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy; the DOE oversees nuclear energy and weapons work for the US. I participated in a May 21 meeting with James McConnell, NNSA’s associate principal deputy administrator, the third-highest member of NNSA’s executive leadership team.  

Marcina Langrine, left, and Corinne Salter show off the award they received on behalf of the Marshallese Educational Initiative of Springdale, Arkansas.-Photo by Ann Suellentrop

Reflecting on our communications in the offices of US legislators and DOE, it’s clear to me that, in the nuclear age, we must realize—to paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr.—our choice is either nonviolence or nonexistence.

Another exciting part of DC Days is the ANA Awards Reception. Membership groups nominate groups and individuals who have made special impacts in the area of nuclear safety and disarmament in the last year, and during their lives. This year the awards event took place on Tuesday, May 21.

The awardees include: Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico (via Zoom); the Marshallese Educational Initiative of Springdale, Arkansas (in-person and, via Zoom, Benetick Kabua Maddison); Parents Against Santa Susana Field Laboratory of Ventura County/Los Angeles, California, recipients of the Bill Mitchell Grassroots Activists of the Year Award–receiving the award were Melissa Bumstead and Jeni Knack; Dr. Edwin Lyman, Director, Nuclear Power Safety, Union of Concerned Scientists, Washington, DC; and Wally Taylor, environmental attorney from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and part of Sierra Club, Iowa, recipient of the Dr. Judith H. Johnsrud “Unsung Hero” Award. Evris and Adrianna gave presentations of their eloquently powerful poetry at the awards ceremony, which will be posted later.

With Kaitlin Burgess, an aide to Sen. Moran, we discussed the need for increased oversight of nuclear weapons sites such as the KC National Security Campus, in particular regarding the egregious amounts of money wasted on nuclear weapons and the harm their production does to our health and to the environment. We conveyed our thanks to the senator for voting to pass the RECA extension and expansion; the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act helps affected downwinders with compensation and health care for cancers caused by nuclear weapons.

This pie chart shows $9.55 trillion has been spent on nuclear weapons since 1942, compared with the infinitesimally small cost of RECA ($2.67 billion) to care for US citizens affected by nuclear weapons. The US needs to do right by its citizens affected by the nuclear industry. Many have died from cancer and other diseases without compensation or care—probably more than died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Please ask US House Speaker Mike Johnson to extend RECA through passage in the House before it expires in early June. Call him NOW at 202-255-4000.

In our meeting with Sen. Moran, we asked him to oppose the two CIS plants (Centralized Interim Storage) proposed on the Texas – New Mexico border. If approved, CIS sites would require transportation by train of nuclear waste through Kansas City and rural Kansas.

—Ann Suellentrop, MSRN, is a vice chair of PeaceWorks KC, a former chair of Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, and a board member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. © 2024, Ann Suellentrop, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.

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