Between the Lines | Sojourners

Between the Lines

Time to End Project ELF

In the Chequamegon National Forest of northwestern Wisconsin, a 15-mile-long antenna in the shape of a giant cross stands as a vivid reminder that the threat of nuclear weapons has outlasted the Cold War that spawned their existence.

The antenna - and another like it on Michigan's Upper Peninsula - is a transmitter that sends extremely low frequency (ELF) radio messages to U.S. nuclear submarines patrolling under the oceans. The ELF system, designed as the trigger of a first-strike attack, was justified by the Reagan and Bush administrations as a response to the "Soviet threat." Now, activists say, it is time to end Project ELF.

"With the end of the Warsaw Pact and the collapse of the Soviet Union, there is no possible perceived need for Trident submarines," wrote John LaForge, a board member of the peace organization Nukewatch and a member of the Anathoth Community in Luck, Wisconsin. "And there is no reason to operate Project ELF."

New research from Sweden released in November found that exposure to electromagnetic fields - such as that associated with the ELF facility, as well as that from regular power lines - is linked to higher rates of leukemia, especially among children. "We believe that there's a real strong case to suspend the operation of this machinery - this wave emitter - until the effects are known," LaForge said.

During the last year, there have been 125 arrests for civil disobedience at the site, and an Ashland County judge - who said he's getting "sick" of the increasing protests - has promised six-month jail terms for demonstrators. Undeterred, activists promise to continue their work for peace.

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Sojourners Magazine February-March 1993
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