Peace activists locate and film nuclear weapon shelters on military base of Kleine Brogel – Belgium

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Peace activists called Bombspotters who campaign against nuclear weapons have filmed the nuclear weapon shelters on the military base of Kleine Brogel in Belgium. They visited most solid concrete aircraft shelters on the base and located  8 of the 11 nuclear weapon storage shelters. They also succeeded in taking pictures inside one of the nuclear aircraft shelters. A short documentary was made with the title ‘Nuclear Terrorism: proof of concept’, which is available here. A technical analysis is provided here.

By means of this documentary, the Bombspotters reveal the lack of security found at this site.  As shown in the movie, it is possible to walk to all aircraft shelters, including those containing nuclear weapons. If peace activists are able to get so close to nuclear weapon storage shelters, what would happen if people with more destructive intentions were to repeat this exercise? These nuclear bombs do not guarantee security but pose a security risk themselves.

US nuclear weapons in Europe
11 WS3 (Weapons Storage Security System) nuclear storage installations are present on the Belgian air force base of Kleine Brogel. On the basis of a US inspection report, it is known that aircraft shelters 17 and 21 contain such WS3 storage installations. The Bombspotters visited most of the 26 aircraft shelters and compared them. From our inspection, combined with analysis of military documents, we know that bunkers 2, 8, 10, 17, 18, 21, 23, 24. contain nuclear weapons:

The US still deploys between 150 and 250 nuclear weapons in Europe. In Kleine Brogel, an estimated 20 bombs are stored. Other military bases in Europe that store US nuclear weapons are Büchel (Germany), Ghedi Torre and Aviano (Italy), Volkel (Netherlands)and  Incirlik (Turkey).

The security situation in Kleine Brogel is not exceptional. Already in 2008, A US Air force report concluded that most nuclear sites did not reach security standards and “that most sites require significant additional resources to meet DOD security requirements.” A later US Air Force news story suggests that the base of Kleine Brogel was considered well-guarded and that any security problems were found at other bases. This leads to the conclusion that there is a structural problem  resulting from contradictions that lie in the nuclear policy itself.

The deployment of the US B-61 nuclear weapons in Europe is part of an outdated NATO policy from the Cold War. It no longer serves any military purpose . The only reason these nuclear weapons are still in Europe is because of bureaucratic inertia from within NATO. The presence of these bombs gives NATO diplomats an opportunity to discuss nuclear strategy with the US. In other words, these bombs give a certain prestige to some NATO bureaucrats that they do not want to lose. However, these nuclear bombs have nothing to do with security.

Even the US military, which controls these weapons, state that they are useless and a waste of money. They recommend that these nuclear weapons should be withdrawn to a central storage facility in the US. Currently, 1500 US military personnel are charged with the task of guarding a dangerous but useless nuclear arsenal. A report by a Defence Secretary Task force on nuclear weapons management quotes a USEUCOM senior leader: “We pay a king’s ransom for these things and . . . they have no military value.” The report states that according to USEUCOM, “there is no military downside to the unilateral withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Europe”, and that, “strategic nuclear capabilities outside of Europe are more cost effective” (Report Task Force on DoD Nuclear Weapons Management (dec 2008), p. 77 pdf pagination, p. 59 text pagination).

A similar attitude can be found at the European air forces. The result is that the military continues to execute nuclear tasks, but tries to spend as little money as possible on doing so. Security problems are the logical consequence of the gap between  military reality and  bureaucratic power games.

The inertia of NATO’s decision making on nuclear strategy and the continuation of an outdated nuclear posture results in providing easy targets for possible nuclear complications. The best way to solve this security problem is to remove these unnecessary nuclear bombs from Europe. Spending more money on the security of these bombs would mean spending more money on bureaucratic interests rather than security. The problem can be more easily solved with the withdrawal of these nuclear bombs.

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