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

Ramesh Thakur and Gareth Evans, eds., 
(Canberra: Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, 2013)
All rights reserved.  © 2013 Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament
Crawford School of Public Policy
The Australian National University
Canberra, ACT 0200 Australia

"By the end of 2009 hopes were higher than for many years that the world was at last seriously headed towards nuclear disarmament.  President Obama had promised “to put an end to Cold War thinking” by reducing the role of nuclear weapons in US national security strategy, Russia and the United States had renewed nuclear arms reduction negotiations, and the next Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference seemed likely to advance both the disarmament and non-proliferation agendas.

By the end of 2012, however, much of this sense of optimism had evaporated.  The New START Treaty was concluded, but it left stockpiles intact and disagreements about missile defence and conventional arms imbalances unresolved. The push for a conference on a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East had stalled; and the challenges posed by North Korea and Iran were no closer to resolution.  While nuclear weapons numbers had fallen overall, they were growing in Asia.

This report, the first in a proposed series, describes the progress – or lack of it – on the commitments and recommendations of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the 2010 and 2012 Nuclear Security Summits, and the 2009 report of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND).

It provides an authoritative analysis and advocacy tool for governments, organizations and individuals committed to achieving a safer and saner nuclear-weapon-free world."

For more information and to download the complete report, please visit the CNND website here: Nuclear Weapons: The State of Play.

Jennifer Allen Simons, C.M., Ph.D., LL.D., Founder and President of The Simons Foundation, is a member of the International Advisory Board of the Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.  The Hon. Gareth Evans, A.C., Q.C., is the Board's Chair and co-editor of this report, Chancellor of the Australian National University, and one of The Simons Foundation's Peace Leaders.

Commentary by Paul Meyer
Senior Fellow, The Simons Foundation
Adjunct Professor of International Studies, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University
Fellow in International Security, Centre for Dialogue, Simon Fraser University
Published by
February 28, 2013 

Commentary by Amb (Ret'd) Paul Meyer
Senior Fellow, The Simons Foundation
Published by Embassy - Canada's Foreign Policy Newspaper
December 12, 2012

Briefings to Australian Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Canberra, Australia
November 28, 2012

Opinion by Amb (Ret'd) Paul Meyer
Senior Fellow, The Simons Foundation
Published by
November 28, 2012

Public Seminar by Jennifer Allen Simons, C.M., Ph.D., LL.D.
Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament
Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University College of Asia and the Pacific
Australian National University
Canberra, Australia
November 26, 2012

Opinion by Amb (Ret'd) Paul Meyer
Senior Fellow, The Simons Foundation
Published by
November 15, 2012

Remarks by Jennifer Allen Simons, C.M., Ph.D., LL.D.
Global Zero Institute
Brussels, Belgium
November 13, 2012