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

Commentary by The Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C.
Published by The Hill Times (subscription required)
November 20, 2023

Visit the CIPS Blog at the link below for this commentary by Ernie Regehr, O.C., The Simons Foundation Canada's Senior Fellow in Arctic Security and Defence.

CIPS Blog analysis by Ernie Regehr, O.C.
Senior Fellow in Arctic Security and Defence
Published by Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS)
University of Ottawa
November 10, 2023

Visit the Globe and Mail at the link below for this important commentary by our colleague John C. Polanyi, University of Toronto Professor Emeritus, Founder and former Chair of Canadian Pugwash Group, world-renowned scientist and Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry.

Opinion by John C. Polanyi
Published by The Globe and Mail (subscription required)
November 6, 2023

Please visit The Guardian at the link below for this article featuring Professor the Hon. Gareth Evans who is one of The Simons Foundation Canada's Peace Shapers.
Given the relevance of the motion picture "Oppenheimer", The Simons Foundation Canada wishes to share this important poem written in 1995 by our colleague David Krieger, Ph.D., Founder and President Emeritus of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
Visit DownToEarth for this article by M.V. Ramana, Ph.D., the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security and Professor at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, The University of British Columbia.