The chilling announcement that our government is preparing to replace our entire nuclear arsenal with new hydrogen bombs comes on the heels of a call for nuclear abolition by no less a peace activist than Henry Kissinger, joined by old cold warriors Sam Nunn, George Schultz, and William Perry in a recent Wall Street Journal Editorial.
We’ve been pushing our luck for more than 60 years since the first and only two atomic bombs to be used in war were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than 214,000 people in the initial days, and causing numerous cases of cancers, mutations and birth defects in their radioactive aftermath, new incidences of which are still being documented today. During these sixty years of the nuclear age, every site worldwide, involved in the mining, milling, production and fabrication of uranium, for either war or for “peace”, has left a lethal legacy of radioactive waste, illness, and damage to our very genetic heritage. Bomb and reactor-created plutonium stays toxic for more than 250,000 years and we still haven’t figured out how to safely contain it.
For the world to have a real chance to deal with nuclear proliferation and avoid a tragic repetition of Hiroshima, it’s clear that we must eliminate the bombs as well as the nuclear power reactors that too often serve as bomb factories for metastasizing nuclear weapons states. On the 20th Anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, Gorbachev called for the phasing out of nuclear power and the establishment of a $50 billion solar fund.
There are nine nuclear weapons states in the world today. The original five, the US, UK, Russia, China, and France, in the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) promised to give up their nuclear weapons in return for a promise from all the other countries of the world not to acquire them. To sweeten the deal, the NPT promised all the other countries an “inalienable right” to “peaceful” nuclear technology, which Iran is now relying on as a member of the treaty. Only India, Pakistan and Israel, refused to go along, India arguing that the treaty was discriminatory. Since the NPT was signed, India, Pakistan, Israel, and now North Korea, have joined the nuclear club. It has been noted by several distinguished Commissions that so long as any one country has nuclear weapons, others will want them.
There are 27,000 nuclear bombs on the planet today, 26,000 of which are in the US and Russia, with the remaining 1,000 located in the seven other nuclear weapons states. To make progress on nuclear abolition, the US and Russia will have to cut their enormous stockpiles and then call all the other nations to the table to negotiate a treaty for nuclear disarmament. They are all on record as willing to enter disarmament negotiations if the US and Russia get serious. There is an offer on the table from Russia to the US to discuss further cuts in the US-Russian arsenals. Putin called, several years ago, for cuts to 1,500 or even less nuclear weapons each, which would be a signal to the seven other nuclear weapons states to join the talks. Gorbachev tried to convince Reagan to abolish all nuclear weapons but rescinded his offer because Reagan wouldn’t agree to give up his Star Wars program and keep weapons out of space. China, repeatedly calls in the UN for negotiations to begin on a treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons. In June, 2006, Putin called again for negotiations on new reductions.
The silence from the US has been deafening. Rather, it is has rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, while pressing to plant our missiles right under Russia’s nose in Poland and the Czech Republic, despite promises given to Gorbachev when the wall came down, that if he didn’t object to a reunified Germany entering NATO, we would not expand NATO. This fall, the US was the only country in the world to have voted against negotiations for a treaty banning weapons in space, as we adhere to our brazen space mission to “dominate and control the military use of space to protect US interests and investments”. The newly announced hydrogen bomb to replace the entire nuclear arsenal is the product of an $8 billion annual program for the development of new nuclear weapons, and we have revised our nuclear weapons policy to include the right to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear attacks.
A Plan for Avoiding Nuclear Proliferation
Civil Society has produced a Model Nuclear Weapons Convention, drafted by lawyers, scientists and policy makers in the Abolition 2000 Global Network for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, which is now an official UN document. It lays out all the steps for disarmament, including how to proceed with dismantlement, verification, guarding and monitoring the disassembled arsenals and missiles to insure that we will all be secure from nuclear break-out. It’s not as if we don’t know how to do it! Congresswoman Lynne Woolsey has proposed a resolution calling on the president to negotiate a treaty to ban the bomb.
So here’s the plan.
- The US must honor its own NPT agreement for nuclear disarmament by putting a halt to all new weapons development and taking up Putin’s offer to negotiate for deeper US-Russian cuts..
- Once the US and Russia agree to go below 1,000 bombs, take up China’s offer to negotiate a treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons and call all the nuclear weapons states to the table..
- As part of the negotiation, agree to Russia and China’s annual proposal in the UN to ban all weapons in space. Other countries will not be willing to give up their nuclear “deterrent” so long as the US continues its massive military buildup to achieve “full spectrum dominance” of the planet through space..
- Call for a global moratorium on any further uranium mining and nuclear materials production..
- Close the Nevada test site just as France and China have closed their sites in the South Pacific and Gobi Desert.
- Restrict the role of the nuclear-industry dominated International Atomic Energy Agency to only monitoring and verifying compliance with nuclear disarmament measures, and prohibit any further commercial activity to promote “peaceful” nuclear technology.
- Establish an International Sustainable Energy, which would supercede the NPT’s promise of an “inalienable right” to “peaceful” nuclear technology as we phase out nuclear power. Since every one of the earth’s 442 nuclear power reactors is a potential bomb factory, we wouldn’t be dealing with a full deck if we thought we could eliminate nuclear weapons, without dealing with their evil twins, nuclear reactors.
- Fund the International Sustainable Energy with the $250 billion in tax breaks and subsidies now going to the fossil, nuclear, and industrial biomass industries, and jump-start a 21st Century sustainable energy future.
- Reject plans for international “control” of the civilian nuclear fuel cycle. It’s just so 20th Century– a top-down, centralized model, to be run by preferred members of the nuclear club which will set up another hierarchical and discriminatory regime of nuclear “haves and have nots”, contribute to more radioactive pollution and health and terrorism hazards, and is doomed to fail. Egypt, Saudia Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates recently indicated they are trying to get in under the wire and develop their “peaceful” nuclear technology before the US and its colonial old boys network establishes another discriminatory regime of nuclear apartheid. To prevent proliferation and the possibility of nuclear war as well as fossil-fuel driven climate catastrophes equal to nuclear war in destructive power, sensible folks know we must deal holistically by eliminating nuclear weapons as we phase out nuclear power and mobilize for safe, clean, sustainable energy–negotiating an end to the nuclear age.
- Establish the Bronx Project to clean up the mess created by the Manhattan Project, by isolating nuclear materials from the environment and providing a rational containment system during the eons their radioactivity will co-exist with us on earth.
Alice Slater is the New York Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and a founder of the Abolition 2000 Global Network for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.