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

Please see the link below to visit Bulletin for the Atomic Scientists for this article by Amb. Alexander Kmentt, Director of the Disarmament, Arms Control and Nonproliferation Department at the Austrian Foreign Ministry and President of the First Meeting of States Parties of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in June 2022. As a recipient of The Simons Foundation Award for Distinguished Global Leadership in the Service of Peace and Disarmament, he is also one of The Simons Foundation Canada's Peace Shapers.

Opinion by The Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C.
Published by The Hill Times (subscription required)
December 15, 2022

This paper by Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, sponsored by The Simons Foundation Canada, explores the increasing challenges posed by climate change and nuclear weapons. "Nuclear weapon possessors are modernizing their arsenals and in some cases increasing them. US-Russian nuclear arms control negotiations have stalled, and multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations are non-existent. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the strong international reaction against it has severely disrupted already tenuous cooperation among major powers on matters of peace and disarmament. And, of course, climate change has grown impossible to ignore. A recent IPCC report cites an all-but-unavoidable increase in global temperatures, sparking worldwide climate disasters we are already seeing: raging fires, harsher hurricanes, flash flooding, and more."

Produced by Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy
Contributing authors: Ariana Smith, Executive Director; John Burroughs, Senior Analyst; Danielle Samler, Research Officer (former) and Co-Coordinator of Reverse The Trend: Save Our Planet; and Isaac J.R. Alston-Voyticky, CUNY School of Law and CCNY Colin Powell School Student
Sponsored by The Simons Foundation Canada
November 2022

Commentary by The Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C.
Published by The Hill Times (subscription required)
October 31, 2022

See the link below to visit The Hill Times (subscription required) for this tribute to Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director of Project Ploughshares, by The Hon. Douglas Roche, a Peace Leader at The Simons Foundation Canada.
"In a nuclear war, tens to hundreds of millions of people would die instantly from detonations alone. As horrific as that is, the first injuries and deaths would only be the beginnings of a catastrophe that would eventually envelope the entire world."  Visit the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists for more on the effects of one explosion, a nuclear war, and the long-term impacts that will leave most of humanity with nowhere to hide.

Address by Jennifer Allen Simons, C.M., Ph.D., LL.D.
Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs: Restoring a Strained Global Security Architecture
Waterloo, Ontario
October 20-21, 2022

Please visit The Hill Times at the link below for this commentary by The Hon. Douglas Roche, a Peace Leader at The Simons Foundation Canada.

Commentary by The Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C.
Published by The Hill Times (subscription required)
October 12, 2022