Nuclear Weapons

Beyond Nuclear advocates for the elimination of all nuclear weapons and argues that removing them can only make us safer, not more vulnerable. The expansion of commercial nuclear power across the globe only increases the chance that more nuclear weapons will be built and is counterproductive to disarmament.



Beyond Nuclear letter to the editor in the Washington Post: The looming danger of nuclear weapons

Letter to the Editor, Washington Post:

While the United States and Russia possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, the fact that seven other nations have nuclear weapons, albeit in smaller quantities, is highly significant.  

The report “Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People at Risk?” by Ira Helfand warns that even “a limited, regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan would cause significant climate disruption worldwide.” The resulting global cooling would significantly affect “agriculture, food supplies, and human nutrition” and could result in billions of deaths.

Even North Korea’s handful of nuclear weapons is dangerously destabilizing [“Former U.S. officials plan talks with N. Koreans,” front page, Feb. 20]. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock is at two and a half minutes to midnight, due in large part to President Trump’s provocative statements. It’s high time to take President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 warning to heart: “The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.”

Kevin Kamps, Takoma Park

The writer is a radioactive waste specialist for Beyond Nuclear.


Civil rights icon Coretta Scott King was an anti-nuclear activist too!

The civil rights hero Coretta Scott King, an equal partner in the world betterment work of her husband the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is in the news. As reported by Democracy Now!, in segments entitled "Made Me Feel We Were Back in the 1950s: Coretta Scott King Memoirist on Silencing of Elizabeth Warren," and "Sen. Elizabeth Warren Silenced by GOP for Reading Coretta Scott King's Letter about Jeff Sessions," Coretta Scott King's words written 31 years ago were considered too hot for the U.S. Senate floor by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican-Kentucky), so Sen. Warren (Democrat-Massachusetts) was "red carded" -- blocked from speaking any more about Sen. Jeff Sessions' (Republican-Alabama) nomination by President Donald J. Trump for Attorney General.

(See also New York Times coverage, including a link to Sen. Warren's Facebook Live reading of Coretta Scott King's letter (done just moments after Sen. Warren was silenced by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor), and the written text of the 1986 letter, as well as the full congressional testimony -- all of which, Democracy Now! has reported, arch-segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC, Chair of the Judicicary Committee overseeing Sessions' nomination for a federal judgeship in 1986), almost certainly intentionally (that is, it was not a mistake or clerical error), did not include in the official Congressional Record at the time.)

Less known than her civil rights activism is that Coretta Scott King was also an anti-nuclear weapons activist. A photo, displayed at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Non-violent Social Change, shows Coretta Scott King marching with Women's Strike for Peace. Her placard reads "Let's Make Our Earth A Nuclear-Free Zone."


It is now 2.5 minutes to midnight. Words matter when Trump speaks of nuclear weapons, climate.

Thank you to Scott Stapf of the Hastings Group's Tweet, calling attention to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' (BAS) historic announcement regarding its iconic Dooms Day Clock -- by setting the Clock at two and a half minutes to midnight, BAS has pegged the current danger to people and the planet -- from nuclear weapons, climate change, and other technological threats such as cyber attacks -- at the same level as 1953, when the U.S. and U.S.S.R. first began exchanging hydrogen bomb test blasts, in the earliest days of the Cold War nuclear arms race.

Watch the BAS press conference, held today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Note that one BAS speaker pointed to cyber attacks impacting the grid -- and highlighting the potentially catastrophic risks to nuclear power plants as a case in point (atomic reactors, and their high-level radioactive waste storage pools, depend on the electric grid for its primary source of electricity to run safety and cooling systems), another BAS speaker gave nuclear power as a hopeful example of positive technological development that could make the world a better place. Beyond Nuclear very much disagrees with the latter assertion, of course.

The Washington Post has reported on this story. Two of the BAS speakers at the press conference above, Lawrence M. Krauss and David Titley, have published an op-ed at the New York Times entitled "Thanks to Trump, the Doomsday Clock Advances toward Midnight."


Senator Markey and Rep. Lieu Introduce the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act

As posted on the website of U.S. Senator Ed Markey (Democrat-Massachusetts):

Today, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Congressman Ted W. Lieu (CA-33) introduced the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017. This legislation would prohibit the President from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. The crucial issue of nuclear “first use” is more urgent than ever now that President Donald Trump has the power to launch a nuclear war at a moment’s notice.

“Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival,” said Senator Markey. “Yet, President Trump has suggested that he would consider launching nuclear attacks against terrorists. Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, U.S. policy provides him with that power. In a crisis with another nuclear-armed country, this policy drastically increases the risk of unintended nuclear escalation. Neither President Trump, nor any other president, should be allowed to use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack. By restricting the first use of nuclear weapons, this legislation enshrines that simple principle into law. I thank Rep. Lieu for his partnership on this common-sense bill during this critical time in our nation’s history.”

“It is a frightening reality that the U.S. now has a Commander-in-Chief who has demonstrated ignorance of the nuclear triad, stated his desire to be ‘unpredictable’ with nuclear weapons, and as President-elect was making sweeping statements about U.S. nuclear policy over Twitter,” said Rep. Lieu. “Congress must act to preserve global stability by restricting the circumstances under which the U.S. would be the first nation to use a nuclear weapon. Our Founders created a system of checks and balances, and it is essential for that standard to be applied to the potentially civilization-ending threat of nuclear war. I am proud to introduce the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017 with Sen. Markey to realign our nation’s nuclear weapons launch policy with the Constitution and work towards a safer world.”

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.

[The posted press release also includes statements of support for the bill, including from the Ploughshares Fund, Global Zero, Women's Action for New Directions, and Physicians for Social Responsibility.]


As Trump takes control of nukes, Hiroshima’s ex-mayor urges him to meet atomic-bomb survivors