• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home Articles Flashpoints Nuclear Security Summit: Why not a Nuclear Abolition Summit?

Nuclear Security Summit: Why not a Nuclear Abolition Summit?

E-mail Print PDF


As foreign ministers and heads of government or state meet in Washington Thursday March 31 to discuss nuclear security, the question on the lips of many in the disarmament community is:

Why a summit purely limited to keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists, and not one whose mandate extends to the complete abolition of nuclear weapons?

After all, the best way to ensure nuclear weapons are kept out of terrorist hands would be to ensure that there are none.

Global Zero, the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (PNND) and the Arms Control Association, have called for a Nuclear Disarmament Summit.

PND and the Human Survival Project join them.

In May at the UN in Geneva, an Open-Ended Working Group of Governments and NGOs is meeting to chart a way to the abolition of nuclear weapons and to nuclear risk reduction. PND and the Human Survival Project will be there.

A nuclear abolition/disarmament summit would not be unprecedented: One has already taken place, in NY on Sept 26 2013, the exact 30th anniversary of the Sept26th 1983 incident at Serpukhov-15 in which Colonel Stan Petrov managed by cool judgment to prevent the use of some 15,000 nuclear warheads. That event is the subject of the movie 'The Man Who Saved the World', and Sept26th has become the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

Nuclear security is of course of vital importance: If ISIS had possessed nuclear weapons the body-count for the Brussels bombings would be in the hundreds of thousands, not just 34. If downtown Islamabad, New Delhi, Bangalore, Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, Moscow, or New York were one day to disappear in a bright flash, it would likely take the global financial system and much or our current way of life with it, including civil liberties and moral standards that we take for granted.

Nonetheless, awful, even apocalyptic, as such an event might be, it would not, literally, be the end of the world. That takes (quite) a few more warheads.

The US and Russia, right now, maintain just under 2000 nuclear warheads between them in silos and on mobile launchers (in Russia), that can be launched in 'a few dozens of seconds'. A much larger number of warheads on submarines can be launched in minutes.

There have been almost a dozen occasions (including the Sept26 Colonel Petrov one) in which one side or another has come literally within minutes or seconds of launching not one, not two, but thousands, of megaton-sized warheads at each other. Practice-tapes for the apocalypse, showers of meteors, and malfunctioning microchips have on too many occasions, bought us to the brink of catastrophe.

Such an event sequence would make the rubble bounce in the US, Russia, Europe, Japan, and Australia, with an immediate body-count already over a billion.

The smoke from burning cities would dim the sun for those humans left in Patagonia, Tasmania, and the South Island of New Zealand, making agriculture – and thus the growing of food – difficult or impossible for a number of decades.

Civilization as we know it, and possibly humans as a species, would be finished.

A number of blue-ribbon international commissions have said unequivocally that the existence of nuclear weapons is the greatest immediate to medium term threat to civilization and human survival.

Current nuclear dangers – which means the danger of large scale nuclear weapons use rather than nuclear terrorism – stand, according to the Nobel-studded advisory board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (set up by Einstein and others after the bombing of Hiroshima) – at 3 minutes to 'midnight', midnight being a nuclear apocalypse. The Bulletin decided to keep it at 3 minutes last January as an expression of its 'dismay' at lack of action toward abolition/disarmament by nuclear-armed governments.

It is way way past time for a nuclear disarmament/abolition summit.

John Hallam, Human Survival Project/People for Nuclear Disarmament
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ,
61-2-9810-2598 61-2-9319-4296
Prof. Peter King, Human Survival Project
Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 March 2016 16:12