1. All states owning or hosting nuclear weapons shall immediately de-alert them and commit to no-first-use

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Rapporteur: Barbara Birkett

Where We Are: “Two Minutes to Midnight”! –see The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists Doomsday Clock, 2019.)

According to the Federation of American Scientists(1), the world has 14,485 nuclear weapons, about 9335 of them in military stockpiles, ready for use, the rest awaiting dismantlement. Some 93% are owned by the US and Russia, with each having about 4,000 warheads in their stockpiles. Many of these are thirty or fifty or more times as lethal as the weapons that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki!

About 3,750 are with operational forces; 1,940 US, Russian, British, and French warheads are on high alert.

No-First-Use (NFU) has been declared as a policy by China and India; in 1993 the latter country stated that it would respond massively to any size of nuclear attack and changed the wording to “no first use against non-nuclear armed weapons states” in 2010.

France, Pakistan, Russia, the UK, and the USA say they will use nuclear weapons against nuclear or non-nuclear states only in the case of invasion or other attack against their territories or against one of their allies. In 2017 the UK stated it would use nuclear weapons in a pre-emptive strike “in the most extreme circumstances.”

Pakistan, although it has a no-first-attack policy, refuses to have a NFU doctrine. The USA does not have a NFU policy, although attempts have been made to require congressional approval for a pre-emptive strike or to adopt a NFU rule. NATO has refused to adopt a no-first-use policy. Israel has not stated its stance. North Korea has stated different policies at various times.(2)

The Problems

Major concerns are the rising tensions between the US and Russia, nuclear developments in North Korea, climate change, other international conflicts, and possible cyber attacks leading to release or loss of control of nuclear weapons. Current US threats of withdrawal from the INF treaty (and previous leaving of the ABM treaty) with subsequent loss of contact and verification abilities, may further risk accidental, mistaken, or deliberate launches.

Given that US and Russian Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) can reach the other’s countries within about 30 minutes, a US President or Russian leader might have only about 12 minutes to decide whether to order an attack or response to an attack. Is it a comfort that any single human being should have to make such decision, and so quickly? Or should such a decision ever be made at all?

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Adam Wynne

This is an interesting, yet exceptionally alarming article (opinion piece) by Dr. Bruce G. Blair – one of the co-founders of Global Zero. I am cross-posting it to the Overview: Cyber-Security/Cyber-Threats Section and Overview: War and Weapons due to its intersectional relevance. It is alarming to consider how vulnerable the nuclear weapons systems have – and continue to be – and how even more vulnerabilities could be created via upgrading the nuclear weapons systems to newer computer systems. Title: Why Our Nuclear Weapons Can Be Hacked Author: Blair, Bruce G. Publication(s): New York Times Date: 14 March 2017 Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/14/opinion/why-our-nuclear-weapons-can-be-hacked.html… Read more »

Jeremy Littlewood

Does Turkey want nuclear weapons? This is from Newsweek. TURKEY HAS U.S. NUCLEAR WEAPONS, NOW IT SAYS IT SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO HAVE SOME OF ITS OWN BY TOM O’CONNOR ON 9/4/19 AT 6:13 PM EDT Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has argued that his country should be allowed to develop nuclear weapons as other major powers have. Addressing the Central Anatolian Economic Forum in the central province of Sivas, Erdogan lauded the expansion of the Turkish defense industry, especially recent conversations with the United States and Russia, while hinting at future talks with China. He then recalled how “some… Read more »

Adam Wynne

I read online that for a while – in the late 1990s and early 2000s – old radioactive materials from the former USSR countries (Georgia, etc.) were being sent to a site in Turkey for decommissioning. These included items like old RTGs, etc. Is there a risk of the fissile materials in these products being used to construct a “dirty bomb” or other improvised nuclear / radioactive explosive device?

Adam Wynne

Hi Jeremy – Additionally following up on this – do you know when Turkey received the current batch of missiles as part of the NATO Agreement(s)? I thought the presence of “Jupiter’ missiles in Italy and Turkey was a significant negotiating factor in the Cuban Missile Crisis – with these eventually being removed. Have there been missiles continuously in this region since the 1960s?

John Postman

While of course we don’t want Erdogan to get nuclear weapons, he has as much right to them as anyone else, doesn’t he? The nuclear weapons states keep claiming they have a right and nobody else does. No they don’t!

Adam Wynne

An alarming summary of Project Pluto – a Cold War Era program that would use a ramjet engine to create a nuclear-reactor powered nuclear missile. It had the nuclear payload of 15+ hydrogen bombs. “…a locomotive-size missile that would travel at near-treetop level at three times the speed of sound, tossing out hydrogen bombs as it roared overhead. Pluto’s designers calculated that its shock wave alone might kill people on the ground. Then there was the problem of fallout. In addition to gamma and neutron radiation from the unshielded reactor, Pluto’s nuclear ramjet would spew fission fragments out in its… Read more »

Adam Wynne
Adam Wynne

Correction to my previous post: Fogbank may be an aerogel composition, rather than an aerosol. It is interesting as the chemical composition of it is classified, though the building site it was manufactured at (9404-11 / Y12 National Security Complex, Oak Ridges) is allegedly not classified . It is alarming that governments owning nuclear weapons have lost critical details around the maintenance and manufacturing of critical warhead components, such as intermediate incendiary components.

Adam Wynne

I think it is important to consider the implications of the “modernization” of nuclear weapons. Several states which own nuclear weapons have indicated desires to upgrade the technology both around and in nuclear missiles, such as intermediate explosives, launch protocols, and yield calculations. A few years ago, several articles were published in relation to “fogbank” – a critical aerosol component within certain models of nuclear warheads. The production of this aerosol component of warheads was extremely classified and thus repair and/or re-manufacturing of it has been difficult, as many of those who worked on it in the Cold War era… Read more »

David Axe

China: We Won’t Use Nuclear Weapons First in a War by David Axe . July 24, 2019 China has reaffirmed its policy of never being the first in a conflict to use nuclear weapons. Experts refer to this policy as “no first use,” or NFU. The NFU policy reaffirmation, contained in Beijing’s July 2019 strategic white paper, surprised some observers who expected a more expansive and aggressive nuclear posture from the rising power. Notably, the United States does not have a no-first-use policy. “Retaining a degree of ambiguity and refraining from a no first use policy creates uncertainty in the… Read more »

Robin Collins

The government also suggested that “in view of the increasing tensions and imminent arms race, identify opportunities together with allies to achieve the withdrawal of all Russian and American sub-strategic nuclear weapons from all over Europe – from the Atlantic to the Urals.” https://natowatch.org/default/2019/dutch-government-sets-qualified-timeline-end-nuclear-task Dutch government sets a (qualified) timeline to end the nuclear task Susi Snyder, project lead for the PAX No Nukes project, The Netherlands 16 July 2019 This article was first published on the PAX website on 8 July 2019 and is reproduced with the kind permission of the author. The Dutch government published its response to… Read more »

Lori King

Who will be the owner of all those new fighter planes——the Netherlands? The 20 nuclear bombs presumably are officially owned by th US, right? The Dutch are just “hosting “ them and can send them home if they want to. But why do they want so many fighter planes?

Carol Wells

A replica of the “Gadget” and tower in New Mexico.comment image

Adam Wynne

Did you hear during the initial Trinity test set up Los Alamos had a scientist climb up to the top of this tower (the original, that is) and “guard” the bomb while measurement equipment was installed, etc. Unfortunately, there was subsequently a lightning storm over the desert. It is very likely the bomb would have exploded prematurely if the tower was struck.

Adam Wynne

Apparently the scientist was still on the tower during the lightning storm. Terrifying!

Metta Spencer

Yes! The House of Commons wants this government to ”to take a leadership role within NATO in beginning the work necessary for achieving the NATO goal of creating the conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons.” Why isn’t it happening? (And isn’t it a nice room? Not always so nice during Question period when the members get rowdy, but pretty while they are absent.)

Adam Wynne

How often are nuclear weapons mentioned in the House of Commons (Canada). It would be interesting to see an analysis of this over the years – as well as comparison between the municipal, provincial, and federal level of government. The only municipal example that I can think of re: Toronto would be the commitment to being a nuclear weapons free city. How does Canada’s House of Commons compare to other countries – such as the United Kingdom, United States, etc. – in regards to the topics of nuclear weapons coming up in discussions?

Adam Wynne

How often are nuclear weapons mentioned in the House of Commons (Canada)? (Correction: this should be a question, not a statement)