WASHINGTON - Alarmed by the increased dangers of nuclear warfare in the post-Sept. 11 world, Representative Edward J. Markey and a group of veteran antinuclear activists are seeking to revive an old initiative - the movement for a nuclear freeze - to reinvigorate a worldwide campaign against the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons.
In a news conference yesterday, Markey urged President Bush to renounce proposals that the US adjust its strategic doctrine to allow the first use of nuclear weapons, and said the United States should agree to a permanent end to the testing of nuclear warheads.
''The Bush administration is leading the country in the wrong direction in almost every aspect of nuclear policy,'' Markey said.
Markey has introduced a joint resolution that calls for an end to the development, testing, and production of nuclear weapons, the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and greater efforts to stop the proliferation of nuclear technologies to rogue regimes such as North Korea and Iran.
The resolution is being offered 20 years after Markey played a major role in the nuclear freeze movement. Jonathan Schell, a leader in the original movement and a cofounder of Urgent Call to end nuclear danger, said the world faces ''a second nuclear age,'' with dangers that are ''springing up all over.''
[Markey also said yesterday that radioactive materials for a ''dirty bomb'' can be found in almost every state at hundreds of medical and commercial facilities, the Associated Press reported. He said some facilities have more than a million curies of radioactive material that could be a target of terrorist theft or sabotage. A requirement to track the material by serial numbers was scrapped in 1985, and in many cases monitoring has been left to state health officials, he said. ''We need to make sure these materials are secure,'' he added.]
Conservatives dismissed the efforts of Urgent Call and Markey as holdovers from another era.
''Every criticism Markey has is predicated on the attempt to avert nuclear war between Russia and the US,'' said Jack Spencer, senior analyst for national security at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank. ''We have to move totally away from that sort of thinking.''
But Schell said the Bush administration's policies actually heighten the nuclear danger by sending the wrong message to rogue nations. Among the more troublesome positions, Schell said, are plans for nuclear ''bunker-busting'' bombs for use in preemptive strikes.
''Neither the United States nor any nuclear power can go before the world with the message, `We have these weapons but you can't, and if you try to get them, we'll blow you to kingdom come with ours,''' Schell said.
Adding to the risk, said Cambridge activist Randall Forsberg, is Bush's withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The change takes effect tomorrow.
House members - 30 Democrats and one Independent - filed suit against President Bush yesterday in an effort to block the president from withdrawing from the 1972 treaty, the Associated Press reported.
Representative Dennis J. Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio and the lead plaintiff, said the president does not have the authority to withdraw unilaterally from a treaty and should first seek the consent of Congress. The lawsuit, filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia, also names Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell as defendants.
The lawsuit states that while the Constitution does not address the role of Congress in treaty terminations, treaties have the status of ''supreme law of the land'' equivalent to federal laws. Laws can be repealed only by Congress, the suit says.
Forsberg also cited Bush's refusal to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the administration's inability to negotiate a test ban on North Korea.
Forsberg's perception of the increasing nuclear threat has prompted her, Schell, and others to help found Urgent Call, a new organization dedicated to reducing nuclear dangers. Eventually Forsberg and Schell hope to gain support at levels seen in 1982, when nearly one million people gathered in Central Park to call for reductions in nuclear arsenals.
''Nuclear danger is back, but we're back, too,'' Schell said. ''And we're not going away.''
Markey's resolution, submitted to the House yesterday, has 11 sponsors.
He said he expects that number to grow and hopes that it surpasses the 172 votes he obtained on a recently failed amendment to remove funding for the bunker-busting bomb from a defense authorization bill.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company