Nuclear Disarmament

Nuclear weapon test Romeo on Bikini Atoll, 1954. Photo courtesy of the US Dept. of Energy

The existence of nuclear weapons poses the single greatest threat to humanity today. The stockpiles held by the United States, Russia, France, the U.K., China, India, Pakistan and Israel have the capacity to destroy the Earth hundreds of times over. As well, approximately 40 member-state parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty have legally acquired nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and also therefore have the capability to develop nuclear weapons.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons and the threat of terrorists seeking to acquire them heightens the existing dangers.

The U.S., Russia, the U.K., France and China possessed nuclear weapons when the Treaty went into force, and committed to eliminate their arsenals.

Though the numbers have been reduced, much more must be done to achieve total prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons. The pace is slow and some of these states are upgrading their stockpiles and asserting that nuclear weapons are essential to their security strategies.

There is no ban on nuclear weapons, though they are indiscriminate weapons and their use would constitute a violation of International Humanitarian Law. It is not currently illegal to manufacture them, stockpile them or target a city deemed of military interest. According to the Advisory Opinion on the Legality of Nuclear Weapons, if it is believed that the survival of the state is at risk, it is not illegal to threaten to use and to use nuclear weapons. However, any use would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences and would contravene International Humanitarian Law.

Despite the end of the Cold War and better relations between Russia and the United States, the two countries still have thousands of nuclear weapons, on continuous high-alert status, targeted on each other. Thus, the risk of accidents, accidental launch, terrorist acquisition and attacks remains.

Cities are at risk. The design and purpose for nuclear weapons is to target the most densely populated areas, to kill the maximum number of civilians and to destroy their habitats. Military installations do not require the massive destructive power of a nuclear weapon. 

 

Nuclear Disarmament Content

By Paul Meyer
Published in the Simons Papers in Security and Development (copyright Paul Meyer, 2011)
School for International Studies,
Simon Fraser University
July 2011

Paul Meyer is a Fellow in International Security at the Centre for Dialogue,Simon Fraser University, and Senior Fellow, The Simons Foundation.



 

By Paul Meyer
Published in the Canadian International Council's International Journal, Summer 2011

"Countdown to Zero" traces the history of the atomic bomb from its origins to the current dangers posed by nuclear weapons including accident

Global Zero calls on nuclear nations - for the first time in history - to begin negotiations on multilateral nuclear arms reductions.

By Paul Meyer
Published in the Canadian International Council's International Journal
Summer 2011

Paul Meyer is a Fellow in International Security at the Centre for Dialogue, Simon Fraser University, and Senior Fellow, The Simons Foundation.

The Simons Symposium on European Security and Nuclear Disarmament was held during the 59th Pugwash Conference on Science & World Affairs: European Contributions to Nuclear Disarmament & Conflict Resolution in Berlin, Germany on July 1-4, 2011.