Issue #240 – July 2017
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Probability of Nuclear War
Most people go about their lives giving minimal thought to the consequences or probability of nuclear war. The consequences are generally understood to be catastrophic and, as a result, the probability of nuclear war is thought to be extremely low. But is this actually the case? Should people feel safe from nuclear war on the basis of a perceived low probability of occurrence?
Since the consequences of nuclear war could be as high as human extinction, the probability of such an outcome would preferably be zero, but this is clearly not the case. Nuclear weapons have been used twice in the past 72 years, at a time when only one country possessed these weapons. Today, nine countries possess nuclear weapons, and there are nearly 15,000 of them in the world.
To read more, click here.
Introductory remarks by David Krieger: The Russell-Einstein Manifesto, issued in London on July 9, 1955, is one of the greatest documents of the 20th century. It remains a critical warning to humanity in the 21st century. As we approach the 62nd anniversary of the Manifesto, it is worthwhile to read it again (or for the first time) and reflect on its message to humanity. It addresses the choices before us: “continual progress in happiness, knowledge and wisdom” or “the risk of universal death.” It was the last public statement Einstein signed before his death. Of its 9 signers in addition to Russell and Einstein, two were members of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Advisory Council, Linus Pauling and Sir Joseph Rotblat. Pauling was a great scientist and two-time Nobel Laureate. Rotblat was the only scientist to leave the Manhattan Project as a matter of conscience. He was a founder of the Pugwash Conferences and received the Nobel Peace Prize 50 years after the tragic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At NAPF, we carry on the commitment of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. We accept its advice: “Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.”
To read the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, click here.
Nuclear Diplomacy with North Korea: The Real Story
The media tell us that nuclear diplomacy with North Korea is a waste of time, as do most high officials from every recent U.S. administration. But easily verifiable facts show otherwise. The most important data point: North Korea did not do its first nuclear test until four years after President Bush tore up our nuclear agreement with the North, known as the 1994 Agreed Framework.
Our tearing up the Agreed Framework played a major role in North Korea becoming the nuclear-armed menace it is today. That history lesson is very applicable to current calls to tear up our nuclear deal with Iran. Why do we think this time would be different?
To read more, click here.
U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy
Los Alamos Lab Under Scrutiny After Numerous Safety Violations
The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) has published the results of a year-long investigation into Los Alamos National Lab’s reported “climate of impunity” around nuclear safety violations. The investigation was spurred by a 2011 incident involving the careless placement of plutonium rods too close together — a mistake that could have caused a deadly criticality incident.
CPI’s report reveals many instances of a lax safety culture leading to accidents that put workers and the public at risk. Click here to read a summary by NAPF Summer Intern Megan Cox.
Peter Cary, Patrick Malone, and R. Jeffrey Smith, “These Workers’ Lives Are Endangered While Contractors Running Nuclear Weapons Plants Make Millions,” USA Today, June 26, 2017.
U.S. Conference of Mayors Supports Nuclear Disarmament
In late June, mayors from across the United States assembled in Miami for the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ 85th Annual Meeting. Many resolutions were passed during this time, including one that extensively addressed United States nuclear policy.
The resolution called upon President Trump to lower nuclear tensions by engaging in “intense diplomatic efforts” with nuclear-armed states and their allies. The mayors also commended the nuclear ban treaty negotiations at the UN, and expressed strong disapproval of U.S. refusal to participate in the talks.
It was also noted that the U.S. government should move forward with the proposed Restricting First Use Of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017, a bill that NAPF and many other organizations have passionately pushed forward while lobbying on Capitol Hill. If passed, it would prevent the president from conducting a nuclear first-strike without the approval of Congress.
Lastly, the resolution requested that the U.S. “reverse its federal spending priorities” by transferring nuclear weapons funds to causes more intimately related to the public’s well-being. Examples of such concerns include the restoration of funding for Community Block Development Grants and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Andrea Germanos, “U.S. Mayors: Instead of War, Spend Big on ‘Human and Environmental Needs’,” Common Dreams, June 26, 2017.
Hibakusha Push for Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty
During the negotiations for the first-ever treaty banning nuclear weapons in June, two Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors, Masao Tomonaga and Masako Wada, pressed the countries participating to help achieve their dream of seeing the treaty text adopted in July. The survivors, called hibakusha in Japanese, aim to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
As representatives of non-governmental organizations, Tomonaga and Wada delivered remarks at the UN conference. Tomonaga believes that a “nuclear ban treaty is essential in order to further strengthen the will of mankind.” Masako Wada said, “The nuclear weapon is created by humans, used by humans, and therefore has to be abolished by humans.”
The second draft of the nuclear ban treaty contains a preambular paragraph highlighting the role of hibakusha: “Mindful of the unacceptable suffering of and harm caused to the victims of the use of nuclear weapons (Hibakusha) as well as of those affected by the testing of nuclear weapons.”
“A-Bomb Survivors Press for Weapon Ban, to Make Nagasaki Nuclear Bombing World’s Last,” Kyodo, June 32, 2017.
Missile Defense Test Fails
In a test exercise on June 21, the U.S. launched a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawai’i. The U.S.S. John Paul Jones, armed with a SM-3 guided missile, tracked the MRBM and fired the guided missile for interception and destruction. Though designed to take down medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), the SM-3 missed the target. This was the fourth flight test of the SM-3 and the second intercept test; the first intercept test in February was claimed to be a success.
The U.S. and Japan have collaborated on the development of missile defense system technology as North Korea continues to test missiles and nuclear warheads. Meanwhile, North Korea claims that its continued nuclear weapons development is provoked by U.S. military presence in Japan and South Korea. Japan and South Korea could be targeted by MRBMs and IRBMS, falling within the defensive range of the recently tested SM-3 missile.
Courtney Kube, “U.S. Fails to Shoot Down Ballistic Missile in Test,” NBC News, June 22, 2017.
War and Peace
Nuclear Crisis Group Issues Recommendations
On June 28, a group of former military officials and experts known as the Nuclear Crisis Group published a series of recommendations for avoiding nuclear war, in a report commissioned by Global Zero. The group, composed of leaders from the U.S., Russia, China, India, and Pakistan, advised the Trump administration to establish direct talks with North Korea, emphasized the need for the U.S., Russia, and NATO to enable direct communication between their militaries, and urged India and Pakistan to set up a nuclear hotline.
The group’s advice on North Korea coincided with a bipartisan letter sent to Trump the same day by former top U.S. officials—including former Secretaries of State, Defense, and Energy—also advising him to initiate direct talks with Kim Jong-un. As the Nuclear Crisis Group concludes in its report, “The risk of nuclear weapons use, intended or otherwise, is unacceptably high.”
Bryan Bender, “Ex-nuke Commanders: Talk to North Korea, Open NATO-Russia Dialogue,” Politico, June 28, 2017.
North Korea Offers to Halt Tests if U.S. and South Korea Stop Military Exercises
North Korea’s ambassador to India, Kye Chun Yong, stated in an interview on June 21 that his country would consider “temporarily” halting nuclear and missile tests if the U.S. and South Korea halt their joint military exercises near the Korean Peninsula. Kye’s comments about a “moratorium” came days after an advisor to newly-elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in unexpectedly suggested a similar compromise in a speech from Washington.
Some argue North Korea is “intent on driving a wedge” in the U.S.-South Korea relationship, and offered this compromise as a means of aggravating policy disagreements between the Trump administration and the new South Korean administration, which has expressed support of “inter-Korean dialogue” over military demonstrations. Kye asserted that Kim Jong-un is open to meeting with Moon and conversing with the U.S., while also insisting that “possessing nuclear weapons is inevitable.”
Yuji Kuronuma, “North Korean Diplomat Offers Compromise to Halt Nuclear Tests,” Nikkei, June 23, 2017.
U.S. General Wants “Modernization” Efforts Accelerated
Gen. John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command, believes that the United States should be moving faster in its efforts to build new nuclear warheads and delivery systems. Gen. Hyten said that the schedules for designing and producing new bomber aircraft, nuclear-armed submarines, and land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles are too drawn out.
Many of the so-called “modernization” programs are scheduled to take place simultaneously in the 2020s, leading to many unanswered questions about the government’s ability to fund the new nuclear arsenal.
Pat Host, “U.S. Gen. Hyten Wants Pentagon Nuclear Modernization Efforts Accelerated,” IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, June 21, 2017.
Nuclear Energy and Waste
U.S. Sailors Can Sue Japan and TEPCO in U.S. Court
A federal appeals court ruled on June 22 that members of the U.S. Navy can sue Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and the Japanese government from U.S. courts rather than Japanese courts for radiation exposure following the March 11, 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. Naval forces were stationed off the coast of Fukushima to provide humanitarian aid in the wake of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami.
The plaintiffs assert that TEPCO and the Japanese government conspired to keep the extent of the radiation leak and exposure risks a secret.
“U.S. Court: Sailors Can Sue in U.S. Over Japanese Nuclear Disaster,” The Mainichi, June 23, 2017.
This Month in Nuclear Threat History
History chronicles many instances when humans have been threatened by nuclear weapons. In this article, Jeffrey Mason outlines some of the threats that have taken place in the month of July, including the July 16, 1945 Trinity nuclear bomb test, the world’s first-ever nuclear weapon explosion.
To read Mason’s full article, click here.
For more information on the history of the Nuclear Age, visit NAPF’s Nuclear Files website.
Understanding Nuclear Weapon Risks
A recent study by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) examines the many factors that increase the risk of a nuclear detonation. According to the authors, “The lack of nuclear weapons use since Hiroshima and Nagasaki cannot on its own be interpreted as evidence that the likelihood of a detonation event is minimal.”
The authors continue, “The lack of in-depth information concerning the precise nature of nuclear risk is especially problematic in the contemporary global environment. Rising tensions involving nuclear-armed and other States, lower thresholds in nuclear use driven by technological developments, growing automation in command and control and weapons systems, and new threats in terms of both actors and crises are prominent features of the current international security situation. Detailing the overall risk “picture” is a critical first step to any mitigation effort.”
To download a copy of UNIDIR’s “Understanding Nuclear Weapon Risks” report, click here.
Nuclear Ban Daily
As the majority of the world’s nations near the conclusion of negotiations at the United Nations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, new developments are happening every day. Reaching Critical Will, a project of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, publishes a daily summary of the negotiations, along with opinion and analysis from some of the world’s top advocates for nuclear disarmament.
Nuclear Ban Daily is distributed to all delegations attending the negotiations, and is available to read online here.
NAPF Statement and Working Paper at the Nuclear Ban Treaty Negotiations
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation submitted a Working Paper to the UN conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading to their total elimination. The paper, entitled “The Dangers of Nuclear Deterrence, and the Threat of Use of Nuclear Weapons: Important Elements to Include in a Legally Binding Instrument,” lays out the Foundation’s views on the importance of delegitimizing the concept of nuclear deterrence.
NAPF’s Director of Programs, Rick Wayman, delivered a statement at the June 16 negotiating session about nuclear deterrence and the threat of use of nuclear weapons. A transcript and video of the statement is here.
23rd Annual Sadako Peace Day
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will host the 23rd Annual Sadako Peace Day on August 9 at La Casa de Maria in Santa Barbara, California. The event will feature music, poetry and reflection to remember the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, and all innocent victims of war.
For more information on the Foundation’s annual Sadako Peace Day event, click here.
Building Peace Literacy Curriculum
“A Year of Peace Literacy” began with NAPF Peace Leadership Director Paul K. Chappell’s talk at the Whiteside Theatre in Corvallis, Oregon last November at the invitation of an alum of Chappell’s summer workshop in 2013, Professor Linda Richards from Oregon State University (OSU). It built momentum with a quick return visit in March that saw OSU Professor Shari Clough and high school principal Eric Wright added to the team, and continued this June with “Building Peace Literacy Curriculum,” Chappell’s workshop for public school teachers and administrators held at Crescent Valley High School in Corvallis. Participants included more than 18 teachers, from every grade level at schools from Corvallis, Eugene, and Salem, as well as vice principals and principals.
Professor Clough said, “There are already a number of amazing educators around the US and Canada working on incorporating Chappell’s Peace Literacy curriculum in the classroom. The goal is for OSU to become an organizational hub that can provide resources for educators in Peace Literacy. This is more than a selection of new lesson plans. Peace Literacy is the start of an international movement.”
To read more about the extensive efforts in Corvallis, Oregon, click here.
Evening for Peace: A Prescription for a Nuclear-Free World
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 34th Annual Evening for Peace will take place on Sunday, October 22, in Santa Barbara, California. The theme of this year’s event is “A Prescription for a Nuclear-Free World.” The Foundation will honor Dr. Ira Helfand and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War with the Distinguished Peace Leadership Award.
For more information, including sponsorship opportunities and tickets, click here.
Cards for Humanity: Earth to Nikki Haley
More than 130 countries have participated in negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons. The United States government has actively boycotted the negotiations. Just as negotiations began in March, United States Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley staged a protest right outside the door. “There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons,” she stated. “But we have to be realistic.”
At the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, we believe that a nuclear-free world is not only realistic — it’s essential. We want to send a message to Ambassador Haley, and we need your help. Buy a $1 postcard in our online store and we’ll mail it directly to Ambassador Haley’s office. This is part of a new campaign, Cards for Humanity: Earth to Nikki Haley, focused on educating our communities and empowering our actions for nuclear disarmament.
Click on this link to send a postcard to Ambassador Haley.
“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
— Albert Einstein. This quote appears in the book Speaking of Peace: Quotations to Inspire Action. The revised 4th edition of this book will be released in the next few weeks. Pre-order copies today in the NAPF Peace Store at a 25% discount.
“The abolition of nuclear weapons will not be possible so long as nuclear deterrence holds sway as an alleged means of defense and ensuring peace and security.”
— John Burroughs, Executive Director of Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, in an op-ed for Reaching Critical Will’s Nuclear Ban Daily.
“Young women and men are the future, and trust me…we’ve got this.”
— Leah Murphy, a 23-year-old from Ireland, in an article about her recent work with the Amplify Youth Network advocating for a nuclear weapons ban treaty at the United Nations.