Scientist Quits, Condemning Nuclear Weapons
"We have a moral obligation and duty to think, speak, and act first as citizens for a peaceful world, and next as scientists. The higher our education is, the higher our responsibilities are for a humane world. Should we talk about science before we even think about what our science is for? That is precisely what we are doing. And that is why I resigned from my position as a scientist in the nuclear weapons program at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) as of January 31, 2000."
So begins Andreas Toupadakis' extraordinary "Open Letter" to the Director of LLNL, one of the United States' two principal nuclear weapons research and development centers. Dr. Toupadakis, a chemist, worked most recently in the Lab's "Stockpile Stewardship" program, on nuclear weapons maintenance and refurbishment. He announced his resignation at a San Francisco press conference in February. Toupadakis' Open Letter, which describes in detail the reasons for his resignation, is being circulated internationally as "an appeal to every secretary, technician, custodian, scientist, engineer, and any other person whose participation supports the world war machine to withhold their skills from weapons work and from activities that support or enable weapons work."
It is almost unheard of for a nuclear scientist at a government lab to walk away from a high-paying permanent job, in the prime of his career, to speak out publicly against nuclear weapons. Dr. Toupadakis took a job at LLNL in August 1998 after leaving an environmental position at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (the other primary U.S. nuclear weapons lab), where he witnessed a number of dangerous plutonium mishandling incidents. "When I was hired by LLNL, I was not adequately informed about the specifics of my job responsibilities. I came to do environmental work, believing that weapons were being dismantled and help was needed to bury their deadly byproducts. Instead I found myself being expected to work on the maintenance of nuclear weapons. I believe that I am not alone in having this experience. When I refused to work on weapons, I found myself looking for a job on environmental or nonproliferation projects, but I soon realized that such a thing is an illusion. I came to realize that I was fooling myself, that all work at LLNL is directly or indirectly related to weapons. My conscience simply does not allow me to work for the development or maintenance of nuclear weapons."
According to Dr. Toupadakis: "We urgently need an international campaign to help scientists and engineers see that they must withhold their skills from war-science. I hope that my letter of appeal will start this campaign." In his letter, Toupadakis calls on concerned scientists and engineers worldwide to immediately start working to:
For copies of Dr. Toupadakis' Open Letter, or for more information, contact Western States Legal Foundation (WSLF): 1440 Broadway, Suite 500, Oakland, CA 94612; (510) 839-5877; firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacqueline Cabasso is the WSLF Executive Director and a member of the LCNP Consultative Council.