On September 21, 2023, Dr. Ivana Hughes, NAPF President, joined Rachel Bronson (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists) and Dr. Jim Walsh (MIT) to discuss the dangers of the nuclear threat at Tufts University.
Precedence for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
Dr. Hughes stressed the importance of the global ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) by pointing to past international bans on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) as a viable precedent. She shared, “The countries leading the efforts to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) recognize the danger of nuclear weapons…They also recognize we have successfully banned other WMDs, such as chemical weapons.” Referring to the success of the Chemical Weapons Convention (1993), Dr. Hughes noted that the U.S. Department of Defense destroyed 90% of their original chemical weapons stockpile by January, with the remainder destroyed by July 7, 2023.
90 Seconds to Midnight
The panel also addressed aspects of the nuclear threat, notably Rachel Bronson’s observation of the Doomsday Clock, currently set at 90 seconds to midnight. With the ongoing Ukraine War, Bronson voiced concerns about the world being closer than ever to global catastrophe. She underscored the dangers of nuclear escalation and the increasing reliance of states on nuclear weapons for security. Dr. Walsh discussed the certainty of a nuclear winter if nuclear weapons were ever deployed, regardless of whether they were strategic (like intercontinental ballistic missiles or submarine-launched ballistic missiles) or non-strategic (shorter-range and lower-yield). In the event of a nuclear conflict, Dr. Hughes pointed out that even with a third of the world’s nuclear arsenal in play, most of the global population would suffer from immediate and long-term radiation effects. She emphasized the catastrophic impact of nuclear war on the climate, including a drop in global temperatures by up to 10-15 °C (18-27 °F), leading to widespread crop failures and ultimately, famine.
Public Discourse on Nuclear
Dr. Walsh shared an inspiring vision for global youth in their quest for a world without nuclear weapons. With the recent release of “Oppenheimer” (2023) by filmmaker Christopher Nolan, he hopes to rekindle public discourse on the nuclear issue. Dr. Walsh reminded us that not too long ago, during the Cold War of the second half of the 20th century, the world lived in constant fear of nuclear attacks until the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He noted that the public has become too comfortable with the promises of nuclear deterrence and called upon the next generation to remind the world of the horrors of nuclear weapons and their ultimate obsolescence as tools for peace. The message is clear: nuclear weapons should never be used, under any circumstances.