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Mourning the lives lost in the atomic bombing, we pledge to convey the truth of this tragedy throughout Japan and the world, pass it on to the future, learn the lessons of history, and build a peaceful world free from nuclear weapons.—from the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims in Hiroshima, Japan
On August 6, 1945 the United States became the first and only country to use the atomic bomb against another country when it dropped an atomic bomb with the power of 20,000 tons of dynamite on Hiroshima, Japan, killing 66,000 people and injuring 69,000. Three days later, on August 9, the United States dropped its second atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki, killing 39,000 people and injuring 25,000.1 Many historians mark this period as the beginning of the “Atomic Age.”2 With the beginning of the Atomic Age and the Cold War shortly after, began the period of nuclear proliferation, or the development and spread of nuclear weapons. “Today there are some 30,000 nuclear weapons still in the arsenals of the major powers…”3 The existence of these weapons threatens our very being. Realizing the threat of nuclear weapons, nations have been working towards the elimination of these weapons, but much still needs to be done.
On August 5, 2000 more than 1,800 women met in Hiroshima, Japan to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Japanese women attending the meeting stated, “On opening the door of the 21st century, we the women of Japan make a sincere appeal for women and peoples around the world to unite in efforts to abolish nuclear weapons to save the human race from destruction.”4 These were women who knew first hand the devastating effects of a nuclear bomb and who appealed to the world community to stop the possibility of such a tragedy of ever happening again. In 2004, the threat still remains. Today, of the 30,000 nuclear weapons in existence, “about 5,000 nuclear weapons are thought to be on hair-trigger alert, intended for launch within minutes of notification of incoming missile attacks.”5 In addition, some nations have been developing nuclear weapons programs, adding to the number of nations who currently possess nuclear weapons.
In 1945, only one nation possessed a nuclear bomb. Today there are five recognized nuclear-weapon states and three nuclear-weapon capable states.6 Realizing the power and danger of nuclear weapons, in 1968 nations began to work together to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a landmark treaty to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. Its “objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.”7 A total of 187 countries have signed the Treaty, including the five nuclear-weapons states, or countries possessing nuclear weapons, which include the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France and China. The five nuclear-weapon states, by signing the treaty have agreed to eliminate their nuclear weapons while the non-nuclear weapons states have pledged not to develop any nuclear weapons.8 There are certain nations who have not signed the NPT who are believed to possess nuclear weapons. These nations are India, Pakistan and Israel. In May of 1998, after announcing they had completed five nuclear tests, “India and Pakistan declared themselves to be nuclear powers.”9 It also believed that Israel possess nuclear weapons. “Israel’s official policy since 1961 has been known as ‘nuclear ambiguity.’”10
Not all nuclear technology is used for the creation of weapons. Nuclear technology is also used to create such things as energy and electricity. The NPT allows nations to have access to peaceful nuclear technology. The Treaty authorizes the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an agency within the UN system, to establish a safeguards system to verify compliance with the Treaty through inspections conducted by the IAEA to make sure that the transfer of peaceful nuclear technology is not used to develop weapons.11
According to a Brookings Institute study, the United States spent nearly $5.5 trillion on nuclear weapons and weapons related programs from 1940 through 1996.12 The costs of developing nuclear weapons do not stop once the weapons are created. Maintaining and securing nuclear weapons may cost as much as producing them. “The high and unavoidable costs of disarmament pale in comparison to the cost of nuclear weapons: the United States is now spending $30 billion per year to maintain its stocks.”13 These costs take away from funding that is desperately needed for areas such as education, health and the eradication of poverty.
The efforts made through the NPT and other treaties have had some positive results in reducing nuclear stockpiles. “There are fewer nuclear weapons in the world and fewer nations with nuclear weapon programs than there were twenty years ago.”14
Although there have been successful efforts to reduce nuclear stockpiles and prevent new ones from developing, many serious threats still exist. “The continuing development of technology, and the education and experience of scientists worldwide (who can move freely), combined with the readily available access to a wide range of information have resulted in the increased risk that a country intent on nuclear proliferation might be successful in developing the necessary capabilities without early detection.”15 There is also increased risk because of the wide availability of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium, the materials that form the cores of nuclear weapons.16 Although the NPT is the cornerstone to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, “…the vast majority of countries feel that the five original nuclear-weapon states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) do not intend to fulfill their end of the NPT ‘bargain’—to pledge to eliminate nuclear weapons.”17 In addition, the NPT requires non-nuclear states to conclude comprehensive safeguard agreements with the IAEA once becoming a party to the Treaty. According to the IAEA, as of September 2003, around 45 states had not yet concluded such safeguard agreements long after joining the NPT.18 Also, like the case of NPT member, Iran, a country may enrich, legally, under IAEA inspection and rules, enough uranium to make nuclear power. The concern is that the technology used to enrich uranium for nuclear power may also be used to develop nuclear weapons.19
The United States can help lead the effort in the elimination of all nuclear stockpiles. In 1992 Congress halted U.S. nuclear weapons testing. In September of 1996 President Bill Clinton signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which bans all nuclear test explosions in all environments for all time.20 Unfortunately, the U.S. Senate did not ratify the CTBT, by a vote of 51 to 48 in October 1999.21 Although there have been no tests conducted since 1992, there is no guarantee that they will not be conducted in the near future.
Threats of nuclear disaster will continue as long as nuclear weapons are in existence. The U.S. and the international community must work together to secure nuclear materials from erroneous use. The elimination of nuclear weapons could increase resources available to expand free universal education and implement poverty reduction programs. By working with international partners the U.S. can create pathways to a more just and peaceful world.
May there be peace in the higher realms; may there be peace in the firmament; may there be peace on earth.
May the waters flow peacefully; may the herbs and plants grow peacefully; may all the divine powers bring unto us peace.
The Supreme Lord is peace. May we all be in peace, peace, and only peace; and may that peace come unto each of us.-Hindu Prayer of Peace
Welcome your Congressional Senators to the start of their 109th Session in January by sending them a card and telling them your vision of a world without nuclear weapons. Write to your Senators and ask them to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as a step towards eliminating nuclear weapons. Ask your Senator to tell you how they voted in 2004 to create peace on earth.
Read Book of Resolutions 2000 #15, Nuclear Safety in the United States, pp. 108 – 114.
1 The Avalon Project at Yale Law School. http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/abomb/mpmenu.htm
2 NOW with Bill Moyers. Nuclear Treaty History. http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/nucleartreaties.html
3 Menon, Bhaskar. Disarmament: A Basic Guide. United Nations, New York, 2001.
4 The Department of Disarmament Affairs of the UN in collaboration with the Office of the Special Advisor on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women. Gender Perspective on Weapons of Mass Destruction. Briefing Note 1. March 2001.sp;
5 Menon, Bhaskar. Disarmament: A Basic Guide. United Nations, New York, 2001.
6 United Nations Department for Disarmament Affairs, 2002. Peace and Security through Disarmament.
8 Menon, Bhaskar. Disarmament: A Basic Guide. United Nations, New York, 2001.
9 Arms Control Association. Fact Sheets. The State of the Nuclear Proliferation 2001. http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/statefct.asp?print;
12 Schwartz, Stephen I. The Hidden Costs of Our Nuclear Arsenal: “Overview of Project Findings.” June 30, 1998
13 Menon, Bhaskar. Disarmament: A Basic Guide. United Nations, New York, 2001.
14 Perkovich, George, Joseph Circincione, Rose Gottemoeller, Jon B. Wolfsthal and Jessica T. Mathews. Universal Compliance: A Strategy for Nuclear Security. Draft. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. June 2004.
15 Goldschmidt, Pierre. The Increasing Risk of Nuclear Proliferation: Lessons Learned. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Bulletin 45/2. December 2003.
16 Perkovich, George, Joseph Circincione, Rose Gottemoeller, Jon B. Wolfsthal and Jessica T. Mathews. Universal Compliance: A Strategy for Nuclear Security. Draft. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. June 2004.
18Goldschmidt, Pierre. The Increasing Risk of Nuclear Proliferation: Lessons Learned. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Bulletin 45/2. December 2003.
19 BBC News website. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4031603.stm
21 Friends Committee on National Legislation Perspectives. U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policies: The Choice Before Us. Number 8. February 2004.
Dec 20, 2004