Dutch Nuclear-Arms Base Infiltrated on Eve of Summit

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A Dutch air force crewman tows a U.S. F-16 fighter aircraft into a hangar at Volkel air base. Four activists last week broke into the installation, which is believed to hold B-61 nuclear gravity bombs from the United States.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
March 25, 2014, 9:01 a.m.

Pro­test­ers in­filt­rated a nuc­le­ar-arms base in the Neth­er­lands last week, days be­fore lead­ers gathered to dis­cuss atom­ic se­cur­ity less than 100 miles away.

Four mem­bers of the group “Dis­arm” entered the coun­try’s Volkel air base and pho­to­graphed the ex­ter­i­or of a build­ing pos­sibly used to hold B-61 nuc­le­ar grav­ity bombs from the United States, the or­gan­iz­a­tion in­dic­ated in Dutch-lan­guage com­ments quoted by oth­er act­iv­ists. The in­stall­a­tion is one of six bases in five European na­tions be­lieved to hold such weapons, which Wash­ing­ton fields and main­tains for the de­fense of its re­gion­al NATO al­lies.

The group stated that its mem­bers were ar­res­ted at 8:30 a.m. last Tues­day and in­ter­rog­ated.

Jef­frey Lewis, a non­pro­lif­er­a­tion ex­pert at the Monterey In­sti­tute for In­ter­na­tion­al Stud­ies, said the break-in and sev­er­al pri­or in­cid­ents “would seem to demon­strate” vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies noted in a 2008 U.S. Air Force as­sess­ment of se­cur­ity at nuc­le­ar-arms fa­cil­it­ies across Europe.

“This is very sim­il­ar to a series of in­tru­sions sev­er­al years ago at Kleine Bro­gel Air Base by a Bel­gian peace group,” Lewis wrote on Tues­day on the Arms Con­trol Wonk blog.

He ad­ded, though, that it is un­clear wheth­er a B-61 stor­age vault is in­side the struc­ture pho­to­graphed dur­ing last week’s tres­passing in­cid­ent.

Pub­licly avail­able maps of the fa­cil­ity “mark cer­tain bunkers as hav­ing a [B-61] vault, al­though I don’t know why they think they know that,” the ana­lyst wrote.

One Dutch-based act­iv­ist said last week’s in­filt­ra­tion was timed to co­in­cide with pre­par­a­tions for the 2014 Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Sum­mit in The Hag­ue, Neth­er­lands.

“The act­iv­ists want to raise aware­ness for the fact that the [sum­mit] will talk about se­cur­ity of nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­als but not those nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­als that are used for mil­it­ary pur­poses,” Wil­bert van der Zeijden wrote in a blog post for the an­ti­nuc­lear group PAX.

NATO re­portedly is poised to spend more than $154 mil­lion on se­cur­ity im­prove­ments at B-61 stor­age sites in the Neth­er­lands, Bel­gi­um, Ger­many, Italy and Tur­key. However, a num­ber of crit­ics have pressed for full with­draw­al of the arms.

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