To the editor: Beatrice Fihn’s proposal for the University of California to “permanently disengage from developing nuclear weapons” by leaving its management participation in the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories is misguided. In fact, the two facilities should revert to exclusive UC management. The inclusion of contractors such as Bechtel was a mistake.
Excluding academia from the management of the laboratories would be a grave error because it would weaken the ability of scientists to speak up. Gone are the days when an associate director would tell some badgering federal official that he worked for UC, not the government.
Scientific independence has been important since the founding of Los Alamos during World War II. The presence of and control by academics who provide critical analysis is so important to preventing a nuclear war. The slide over recent years to merging the nuclear weapons labs into the military industrial complex is detrimental to world peace.
Kathie Harine, Kingman, Ariz.
To the editor: Fihn’s points in the article about the UC involvement in maintaining nuclear weapons are well taken. But American possession of a strong nuclear deterrent allowed us to survive the Cold War intact.
Today, there is no assurance that Pakistan, Iran, North Korea and other nations with nuclear weapons will abandon them if we get rid of ours. And, there is no assurance that the leaders of those nations will act appropriately. Certainly we have no such assurance with our own leadership right now.
Everyone who has worked with nuclear scientists knows they are not warmongers. Furthermore, the labs also do great research (I am a former employee of one) that produces non-nuclear technologies of help to everyone.
Let’s not tar UC’s reputation for keeping us safe for all these years.
Kathy Kaufman, Mission Viejo