30th Anniversary of the Day the World Nearly Ended?
Day of the High Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament at the UN?
It's a wonderful day for a nuclear missile Test!
THURS 26 SEPTEMBER 2013
PEOPLE FOR NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT/CPACS HUMAN SURVIVAL PROJECT
26 SEPT 2013-26SEPT 1983 - THE DAY THE WORLD NEARLY ENDED
US TO LAUNCH NUCLEAR MISSILES ON DAY OF UNITED NATIONS HIGH LEVEL MEETING ON NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT
In a development that's almost as bizarre as it is outrageous, the
United States plans to launch a nuclear-capable Minuteman-III
missile from Vandenberg Airforce Base in California, to Kwajelien
Athol, on what is both the day of the United Nations
High–Level-Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament, and the exact 30th anniversary of 'The Day the World Nearly Ended', an event of half-past midnight Moscow time in which Colonel Stanislav Petrov
narrowly averted the launch of over 10,000 nuclear warheads at the US
during the tensest and most perilous part of the Cold War. Colonel
Petrov is now the hero of the film 'The Man who Saved the World', due
for release in October in NY.
According to John Hallam of the Human Survival Project, (a joint project of
PND and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies):
“The High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament was the result of an
overwhelming General Assembly vote in 2012, and the idea is for the
very highest levels of national decision-makers – heads of state
and ministers – to be involved in a global discussion on nuclear
It has so happened that it takes place on the exact 30th anniversary of an event that, had decisions been made slightly
differently from the way they were in fact made, could have all too easily resulted in the destruction of civilisation and possibly of humans as a species.”
“The launching of 10,000 nuclear warheads by the USSR, which believed it
was under attack by the US, would certainly have resulted in
retaliation at a similar level. The ultimate use of between 20 and
30,000 large nuclear warheads on the cities of the US, Russia, China,
Japan, and NATO, would give an immediate body-count in the hundreds
of millions to billions, and would have created what we now know
would be a long-lasting nuclear winter.”
“There could hardly be a more appropriate day for a high-level meeting on
nuclear disarmament – or a more utterly and crassly INAPPROPRIATE
day for a Minuteman-III missile test!”
“So utterly and crassly inappropriate is the timing for this test – and
the US has already done one within hours of the ending of the
International Day of Peace on 21Sept – that one is forced to wonder
if there is not some perverse deliberateness to the timing.
Certainly, the US is thumbing its nose at the rest of the world.”
“If this had been a North Korean missile test we'd be talking about UN
Security Council resolutions of condemnation and sanctions. But for
this there is just embarrassed silence.”
A memo has been circulated to the entire General Assembly concerning
'The Day the World Nearly Ended', which is attached. The memo was
written before the announcement of the Minuteman-III test.
TO ALL PARTICIPANTS IN THE SEPT26 2013 HIGH-LEVEL MEETING ON NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT
PND/CPACS HUMAN SURVIVAL PROJECT
Sept26 1983-Sept26 2013
30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE 'DAY THE WORLD NEARLY ENDED'
HIGH-LEVEL MEETING ON NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT
THE HIGH – LEVEL MEETING ON NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT TAKES PLACE ON THE
PRECISE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE SERPUKHOV-15 INCIDENT OF 26 SEPTEMBER
1983, 'THE DAY THE WORLD NEARLY ENDED'.
Exactly 30 years before Sept 26 2013, September 26 1983, half-past midnight
Moscow time, saw an event in which, had slightly different decisions
been made, or had decisions been made by different people, would have
seen the launch of over 10,000 nuclear warheads by the then USSR at
the US and its allies. That event, with retaliation by the US, could
have led to the destruction of civilisation and of most humans, and
many other species.
That this did not happen is due entirely to the wise judgement of Colonel
Stanislav Petrov, about whom the film, 'The Man Who Saved the World',
has been made. Colonel Stanislav Petrov it seems, would not normally
have been on watch at Serpukhov-15 early warning centre that night.
He was, as he modestly puts it in the film, 'at the right place at
the right time'.
That the exact 30thanniversary of that date has been made the date for the High Level
Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament is extraordinarily appropriate. The
lessons from that 'near miss' of September 1983 should be a priority
subject for consideration at the High Level Meeting of 30 years
WHAT HAPPENED ON SEPT 26th 1983?
At half-past midnight on the 26th at Serpukhov-15, outside Moscow,
sirens wailed and a bright red sign reading 'START' lit up as the M10
computer and satellite surveillance system indicated that the US had
launched first one missile, and then five, at the USSR.
The expectation was that, at this point, Colonel Petrov would pick up a
red phone and report a massive attack on the USSR by the US, and that
his superiors would then launch approximately 10,000 warheads at the
US and its allies, who would then respond in kind, incinerating most
of the populations of the US, the USSR, eastern and western Europe,
Japan, and Australia.
The180 million tonnes of smoke from burning cities would then have
drastically lowered temperatures globally, for at least a decade, to
levels lower than the last ice age. Given that agriculture would have
been essentially impossible for the next decade, human survival
itself might have been in doubt, and most humans would certainly have perished.
WHAT IS THE SITUATION ON 26th SEPT 2013?
Moving forward from that narrowly averted apocalypse 30 years ago, to 26 September 2013:
--The US and Russia continue to maintain at least 1800 warheads between
them (plus submarine-launched warheads on only slightly lower alert)
on launch-ready, high alert status, in spite of repeated resolutions
in the UN General Assembly urging a lowering of alert status. The UK
and France maintain at least 130 submarine-based warheads on a
slightly lower alert status.
--Peer-reviewed calculations done in 2006, together with ongoing work, reveal that
even at levels of only 1800 warheads (or even just half that number),
an event such as that of 26 September 1983 could result, (depending
on details of targeting), in 'prompt' casualties of over a billion
people and in subsequent victims of starvation, exposure, irradiation
and neglect that would be numbered in billions.
--A nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan would result, according
to the most recent research, in prompt casualties between 50 and 150
million people in South Asia, and, according to Ira Helfand of
Physicians for Social Responsibility, up to a billion deaths
worldwide later from famine induced by crop failure.
--The realisation of all this at the level of the UN has prompted a growing
dialogue and multi-government statements, most recently one signed by
80 governments at the May 2013 Geneva Prepcom of the Non
Proliferation Treaty on the 'Catastrophic Humanitarian Consequences'
of a nuclear war. Already there has been an inter-governmental
meeting on the subject in Oslo, and one is planned for February 2014
in Mexico. The dialogue on 'catastrophic consequences' is rightly
seen as a potential game-changer, though the idea that large-scale
use of nuclear weapons is an existential threat to humans as a
species is not at all new.
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN ON 26th SEPT 2013?
On this 30thanniversary of 'The Day the World Nearly Ended' a number of
priorities for governments are clear, both for those that are not
nuclear weapon states and for those who, at the other extreme, retain
as the US and Russia do, 90-95% of the world’s nuclear warheads and
who cling to their unique ability to end civilisation and much else
within an hour by computer error or miscalculation.
1) The US and Russia need, as a number of General Assembly resolutions
over the years have urged, to lower the operational readiness of
their strategic weapon systems and to abandon the doctrine of launch-on-warning.
Doing so will radically increase real strategic stability and will increase
decision-making time so that presidents and senior military have more
than zero to eight minutes to decide on whether or not to unleash a
potential apocalypse. Such a step can only result in vastly increasedsecurity for all, more than fulfilling the requirement of
'undiminished security for all'.
The dialogue on catastrophic humanitarian consequences needs to be
carried out in the context of, not only the effects of a single
nuclear detonation on one city, but in terms of the catastrophic
global climatic consequences of the most credible multi-warhead
accidental nuclear war scenarios. Useful though modelling of a single
warheads effects may be as a case-study in illustrating the power and
horror of nuclear use, a single warhead scenario is not necessarily
the most probable scenario for actual nuclear weapon use.
Multi-warhead scenarios involving the core strategic inventories of
nuclear weapons possessing states are arguably MORE probable than
single warhead scenarios, and their potential effects are, in a
worst-case scenario, civilisation-ending or possibly even species-ending.
Whether this turns out actually to be so is of course not an experiment we should make,
and depends on how dark, how cold, for how long.
The Mexico meeting should invite experts on global climatic consequences
of nuclear weapons use such as Professors Brian Toon and Alan Robock
and PSR's Ira Helfand and others to discuss catastrophic global
climatic consequences at the official intergovernmental session. The
Mexico session should also outline potential most-credible accidental
nuclear war scenarios and the effects on their likelihood of changes
in alert status, with experts on nuclear command and control such as
Bruce Blair, Martin Hellman, Seth Baum, and others.
3) There must be immediate steps leading sooner rather than later to the
complete elimination of all nuclear weapons as a pressing human
survival priority, to be implemented through a nuclear weapons
convention or framework of agreements.
4)And Colonel Stanislav Petrov should be accorded the honour that is truly
his for having saved civilisation and possibly humanity for 30 years of continued existence.
John Hallam, People for Nuclear Disarmament/Human Survival Project, Surry
Peter King, Human Survival Project, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia.
Steven Starr, Senior Scientist, Physicians for Social Responsibility,(PSR)
Aaron Tovish, International Director, Mayors for Peace 2020 Vision
Campaign, Klosterneuburg Austria,
Alyn Ware, World Future Council,Lond UK, Wellington NZ, Basel, Switzerland.
David Krieger, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Santa Barbara, Calif, USA.
For information on this statement cum memo contact:
John Hallam People for Nuclear Disarmament / Human Survival Project, 499
Elizabeth St Surry Hills (Sydney) NSW Australia 2010