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

Visit the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament at the following link for this Policy Brief by Paul Meyer, Senior Fellow at The Simons Foundation, which traces the evolution of the "Humanitarian Initiative" that led to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons adopted by the UN General Assembly on July 7, 2017.
See The Simons Foundation's Nuclear Disarmament Briefing Papers for occasional papers focussing on nuclear disarmament issues.

By John Burroughs, J.D., Ph.D.
The Simons Foundation Fellow
Published by Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy
February 3, 2018 
 

Canadian Defence Policy Briefing Paper
by Ernie Regehr, O.C.
Senior Fellow in Arctic Security and Defence
The Simons Foundation
January 18, 2018

See The Simons Foundation's page on Canadian Defence Policy for briefing papers by Ernie Regehr, O.C., Senior Fellow in Arctic Security and Defence at The Simons Foundation.
Visit Arms Control Today at the link below for this analysis on options for reforming presidential nuclear launch authority by Dr. Bruce Blair, a member of the Princeton University research faculty, Co-founder of Global Zero, a former Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile launch officer, and a Peace Leader with The Simons Foundation.

New analysis by Bruce G. Blair, Ph.D.
Published by Arms Control Today
January/February 2018

 

Visit the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists for this article by Paul Meyer, Senior Fellow, which counters the anti-arms control agreement narrative that is currently dominant in the USA.