July 1, 1968 – The U.S., U.K., the Soviet Union and 58 other nations signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which entered into force on March 5, 1970.  The Preamble of the agreement, which today includes 191 state parties, but not key nonparticipants like nuclear weapon states Israel (with at least 80 and possibly as many as hundreds of warheads), India (130 warheads), Pakistan (140 warheads), and North Korea (which used Article X of the NPT to withdraw from the treaty several years ago), referred explicitly to the need for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which 50 years later has still not been realized due to the U.S. Senate’s unwillingness to ratify the treaty (as evidenced by that body’s rejection of the CTBT on Oct. 13, 1999 by a vote of 51-48) and the embrace of a renewed nuclear arms race by President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress that includes the possibility of more U.S. nuclear testing.  Comments: While the NPT’s focus on preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons has been only marginally successful, the other original impetus for the treaty, under Article VI, to seek negotiations in good faith to end the nuclear arms race and achieve nuclear disarmament, represents merely a rhetorical support column constructed by the Nuclear Club to justify their denial of nuclear weapons to all other nations.  Evidently, they do not take Article VI seriously, because when push came to shove in July of last year when over 120 nations signed the new U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), the Nuclear Club members not only refused to participate in those treaty negotiations, in fact they spent and continue to spend quite a bit of political capital in a continuing campaign to convince supporting nations not to sign or ratify the TPNW.  It is fortunate that the nuclear weapons states now represent a very small but obviously powerful minority.  Global citizenry are working even harder for the Nuclear Club to conform to the language their leaders embraced half a century ago to “undertake to pursue…effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at any early date and to nuclear disarmament…and complete disarmament.”  The longer We the People of this Pale Blue Dot have to wait for the Nuclear Club to relent and do the right thing, the more likely it is that the nuclear threshold will be crossed again – with extremely dire consequences.  Time is of the essence. (Sources:  Jack Mendelsohn and David Grahame, editors. “Arms Control Chronology.”  Washington, DC:  Center for Defense Information, 2002, pp. 10-11, 22 and other mainstream and alternative sources such as the Federation of American Scientists and SIPRI.)

July 7, 2017 – Despite decades of failure in countless United Nations’ disarmament negotiating sessions, in many cases due to sabotage by the nuclear weapons states led by the U.S., on this date as a culmination of a multi-year effort by the General Assembly, a United Nations’ Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was approved by an affirmative vote of 122 nations with the Netherlands voting against the resolution and Singapore abstaining.  The treaty was opened for signature at U.N. Headquarters in New York on September 20, 2017 and will remain open indefinitely.  The Preamble of the TPNW emphasized an extensive list of rationales for banning nuclear weapons to include humanitarian, legal, ethical, pragmatic (focusing on the global risks posed by accident, miscalculation, and the unintentional use of these doomsday devices) and historical factors, the latter of which is seen in the following excerpt, “Recalling also the first resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations, adopted 24 January 1946 and subsequent negotiations which call for the elimination of nuclear weapons.”  Predictably, all nine nuclear weapons states opposed participating in the TPNW negotiations and the U.S., U.K., and France led this attack on sanity by stating, “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it…This initiative clearly disregards the realities of the international security environment.”  Nevertheless, dozens of global governmental and private civil society organizations led the way in defeating the status quo ante of the Nuclear Club in a series of conferences after the Dec. 23, 2016 adoption of U.N. General Assembly Resolution A/RES/71/258 initiated by a core group of six nations (Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria, and South Africa).  Non-state actors like the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and its partnering organizations pushed the U.N., its governments and leaders to achieve this essential treaty and accordingly won the Nobel Peace Prize for its incredible work.  Comments:  The vast majority of the human species is hopeful that, despite a continuing uphill struggle against the nuclear weapons interests and supporters, the TPNW truly represents the beginning of the end of the nuclear threat.  The only flawed part of the treaty, in this writer’s opinion, is the language embracing, “…the inalienable right of its States Parties to develop research, production, and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes…”  Civilian nuclear energy is not only cost ineffective (as compared to solar, wind, geothermal and other green sources of energy) but also inaccurately described as a global warming solution.  The mining of uranium and the construction of extensive nuclear plant infrastructure adds tremendously to global warming as does the costly effort to decommission and dismantle these power plants, and transport a large volume of low, medium, and highly radioactive materials (to include routine day-to-day equipment as well as the reactor cores and components) to permanent, stable, long-term storage sites that have yet to be established.  Nuclear energy directly increases the risk of proliferation and plant infrastructure must include a hugely expensive security component to protect against terrorist attack, seizure, or purposeful exposure of the reactor cores.  Civilian power plants (with the exception of smaller, more secure reactors that provide critical medical isotopes) represent short- and long-term threats to not only human health and well-being but to global ecosystems and countless species of flora and fauna.  (Sources:  International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. “U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (full text).” May 2018 http://www.icanw.org/status-of-the-treaty-on-the-prohibition-of-nuclear-weapons/ and David Krieger. “U.S., U.K., and France Denounce Nuclear Ban Treaty.” July 13, 2017 https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/07/13/u-s-uk-and-france-denounce-nuclear-ban-treaty/ both accessed May 8, 2018.)

July 9, 2002 – A New York Times article, “Senate Approves Nuclear Waste Site in Nevada Mountain,” by Alison Mitchell noted that a 60-39 procedural vote allowed Senators by a voice vote to approve the establishment of a nuclear waste repository for civilian nuclear power waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, located 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.  The article mentioned that high-level radioactive waste shipments of up to 77,000 tons from 100 civilian reactors would begin being shipped to the facility by 2010.  After technical delays and increased political opposition from the public, Native Americans living near the site, and numerous politicians, the Obama Administration cut off federal funding and closed the site in 2011.  Meanwhile, the continuing and growing problem of nuclear waste has led U.S. nuclear power plants to resort to indefinite on-site dry cask storage of waste in vulnerable, far from secure, concrete containers.  A report produced in July 2011 by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, chaired by former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton and Brent Scowcroft, a retired U.S. Air Force general who served two presidents as national security advisor, recommended finding a central storage site that would be studied much more extensively than Yucca Mountain.  But not all the report’s recommendations were applauded.  Dr. Arjun Makhijani of the Institute of Energy and Environmental Research and other nongovernmental experts criticized one of the committee’s recommendations to store spent nuclear fuel in reactor site fuel ponds, which would be more vulnerable to terrorist attack.  Comments:  President Trump, as part of his campaign to forsake the consensus of environmentalists and policy experts and build more nuclear bombs and power plants, tried to restore the so-called Yucca Mountain solution but Nevada state officials authorized $5 million to fight the president’s proposal.  The nuclear waste problem is obviously an international conundrum that affects many nations in the European Union – Sweden, Finland, Germany, France, and the U.K. – and elsewhere around the world.  Although one-third of Europe’s operating nuclear plants will be shut down by 2025, funding for radioactive and related toxic waste disposal can’t be zeroed out.  In France, Britain, and the U.S., a temporary fix of maintaining swimming pool-size tanks of dangerously unstable high-level waste is a risky proposition.  The privatization of the nuclear waste equation through the building of nongovernmental for-profit nuclear dumps in Texas and other U.S. states is an even more problematical way to address the problem.  Injection of wastes into deep sea vents or the eventual launching of such wastes into space are long-term but also possibly prohibitively expensive and potentially dangerous solutions to this ever-growing problem. (Sources:  Paul Brown. “Mountains of Nuclear Waste Just Keep Growing.” Truthdig.com. March 7, 2018, www.truthdig.com/articles/nuclear-waste-mountains-keep-growing, Sacred Land Film Project. “Yucca Mountain.”  April 1, 2010, http://sacredland.org/yucca-mountain-united-states/ and Matthew L. Wald. “How to Pick a Site for Nuclear Waste Dump.” New York Times.  July 29, 2011, http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/29/how-to-pick-a-site-for-a-nuclear-waste-dump all of which were accessed on June 11, 2018.)

July 13, 1950 – According to a declassified report, “DOD Mishaps,” released by the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute in March of 1986, on this date, a U.S. Air Force B-50 Superfortress bomber, on a training mission from Biggs Air Force Base, Texas and carrying a nuclear weapon, crashed near Lebanon, Ohio killing all 16 crew members. Although the nuclear bomb did not contain a nuclear capsule (plutonium pit), the conventional high explosives surrounding the empty core of the warhead detonated on impact, creating a huge fireball.  Comments:  This incident represents yet another example of thousands of nuclear accidents, near-misses, and “Broken Arrows,” only some of which the United States and other members of the Nuclear Club have formally acknowledged.  The fact that such accidents continue to occur and could possibly result in an inadvertent nuclear explosion misinterpreted as a First Strike or an incident of nuclear terrorism leading to nuclear threats and even counter nuclear strikes is all the more reason to redouble global efforts to eliminate these doomsday weapons.  (Source: “Broken Arrow Nuclear Weapons Accidents.” Aerospaceweb.org. www.aerospaceweb.org/question/weapons/q0268shtml accessed June 11, 2018.)

July 20, 2017 – In an important briefing for Donald Trump by the highest ranking U.S. military officials, the President reacted strongly to a slide that showed a reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the 1960s by indicating that he wanted a bigger arsenal, not a reduced one.  President Trump stated that he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal!  The military officials who provided the briefing explained the legal and practical barriers to such a buildup and later informed the press that no such expansion was planned.  Soon after the meeting broke up, then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly characterized the nuclear-mad Trump as a “moron.”  Comments:  The 45th President of the U.S. has gone even beyond the rhetoric and actions of his predecessor Barack Obama (who spoke of nuclear elimination but ultimately advocated modernizing and expanding the U.S. arsenal by proposing a trillion dollar investment over the next generation) in accelerating the nuclear arms race along with his partners, the other Nuclear Club member nations, despite the irrational risks and dangers that such a strategy entails.  A seventy-plus year fixation on myths like ‘more is better’ and ‘nuclear weapons have kept the peace’ have virtually insured that another reckless round of nuclear arms racing is in humanity’s future.  Although the following quote by President John Kennedy was not in reference to the nuclear arms race, it seems most appropriate here, “As every past generation has had to disenthrall itself from an inheritance of truisms and stereotypes, so in our time, for the greatest enemy of the truth, is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived, and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.  Here the myths are legion.  And the truths are defined.”  The truth is that our species is doomed unless we finally eradicate these nuclear myths and misperceptions forever.  (Sources:  Peter and Nick Davis, Writers-Producers and Tom Haneke, Editor-Co-Producer.  Jack: The Last Kennedy Film. CBS, Inc., 1993 and Courtney Kube, Kristen Welker, Carol E. Lee, and Savannah Guthrie.  “Trump Wanted Ten Fold Increase in Nuclear Arsenal, Surprising Military.”  NBC News. October 11, 2017, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/all/trump-wanted-dramatic-increase-nuclear-arsenal-meeting-military-leaders-n809701 accessed June 11, 2018.)

July 27, 1943 – Some say that the Age of Nuclear Terror that the world has suffered through since nuclear weapons were first invented began on this date with the first purposeful firebombing by air of a predominantly civilian target during the Second World War.  The British Royal Air Force’s nighttime raid on Hamburg, Germany, conducted in revenge for earlier Nazi military air strikes on Coventry and other British towns, aimed for the maximum amount of civilian casualties by creating a massive city-wide conflagration.  Specially designed instruments of death, incendiary magnesium-thermite bombs, were dropped that night in a pattern designed to create a firestorm and for the first-time in the war with Hitler, success was achieved.  The entire urban area of Hamburg was converted into a blast furnace fed by 150 mile-per-hour winds and 1,500 degree Fahrenheit temperatures that killed 40,000 infants, children, women and men – noncombatant civilians.  Most victims died from asphyxiation and bodies found in underground shelters were discovered to be lying in a thick greasy black mass of melted fat tissue or in some cases large piles of ash.  The U.S. Army Air Force conducted its first successful firebombing of Dresden, Germany on Feb. 13, 1945 with similar devastatingly inhuman results as 25,000 died in that attack.  Comments:  Over the centuries, the terror of the butchering of enemy soldiers and entire villages, towns, and cities of innocent noncombatants went on bloody year after bloody year until modern industrial technology made the massacres more acceptable, especially when the perpetrators were flying tens of thousands of feet above the firestorm or in today’s terms, thousands of miles away as when a remotely-controlled Predator or Reaper drone unleashes a Hellfire missile on suspected terrorist or insurgent forces, but unfortunately also an appreciable number of noncombatants as well in a seemingly inordinate number of cases.  In the nuclear era, the dirty little question that no military leader ever wants to consider as representing a legitimate doubt in the mind of a soldier is ‘Should a human being push a nuclear button that will annihilate untold thousands or millions of people, all in the name of national security, patriotism and/or vengeance?’  Our species must evolve beyond war or it is likely that a global nuclear catastrophe is humanity’s fate.  (Sources:   Daniel Ellsberg.  “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.”  New York: Bloomsbury, 2017, pp. 247-249 and John Horgan. “The End of War.”  San Francisco:  McSweeney’s Books, 2012, and other works.)


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