Nuclear Weapons



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Nuclear Weapons

“For the first time in history, the physical survival of the human race depends on a radical change of the human heart.” Erich Fromm

“Although contemporary man believes that he can change himself without limit, the astounding or rather terrifying fact remains that despite civilisation and the influence of religions, he is still, morally, as much in bondage to his instincts as an animal, and can therefore fall victim at any moment to the beast within.”C.G. Jung

For a summary of the nuclear threat and our failure to take action listen to Noam Chomsky April 2nd 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TK0R_06zOOY

‘To drop a nuclear bomb, in any circumstances whatever ‘...would be the final iniquity, final in the sense that no more abominable iniquity is possibly conceivable by the mind of man: sheer, unqualified evil. For what else would it be than the ultimate rejection of spirit, a total abandonment, by the men who did it, of any last vestige of sympathy with their fellow-creatures, and the conversion of their own beings as a matter of deliberate choice, into instruments for the unspeakable torture of millions upon millions?

 Victor Gollancz, ‘The Devil’s Repertoire’

Twenty years ago, General Lee Butler, former head of the U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom) which controls nuclear weapons and strategy, wrote this: "By what authority do succeeding generations of leaders in the nuclear-weapons states usurp the power to dictate the odds of continued life on our planet? Most urgently, why does such breathtaking audacity persist at a moment when we should stand trembling in the face of our folly and united in our commitment to abolish its most deadly manifestations?" quoted in Noam Chomsky's book (2016) : Who Rules the World?

“Somehow we must transform the dynamics of the world power struggle from the negative nuclear arms race which no one can win to a positive contest to harness man’s creative genius for the purpose of making peace and prosperity a reality for all of the nations of the world. In short, we must shift the arms race into a ‘peace race.’ If we have the will and determination to mount such a peace offensive, we will unlock hitherto tightly sealed doors and transform our imminent cosmic elegy into a psalm of creative fulfillment.” Martin Luther King

April 5th 2017
Over 3,600 scientists have signed an open letter urging the United Nations to complete negotiations on a new treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. The open letter, which includes signatures of 28 Nobel laureates, states, "We scientists bear a special responsibility for nuclear weapons, since it was scientists who invented them and discovered that their effects are even more horrific than first thought."

The open letter was organized by the Future of Life Institute, and was presented to Her Excellency Ms. Elayne Whyte Gómez of Costa Rica, President of the negotiations at the United Nations.

Message from Pope Francis to the same Conference

To Her Excellency Elayne Whyte Gómez
President of the
United Nations Conference
to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons,
Leading Towards their Total Elimination

I extend cordial greetings to you, Madam President, and to all the representatives of the various nations and international organizations, and of civil society participating in this Conference.  I wish to encourage you to work with determination in order to promote the conditions necessary for a world without nuclear weapons.

On 25 September 2015, before the General Assembly of the United Nations, I emphasized what the Preamble and first Article of the United Nations Charter indicate as the foundations of the international juridical framework: peace, the pacific solution of disputes and the development of friendly relations between nations.  An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are contradictory to the very spirit of the United Nations.  We must therefore commit ourselves to a world without nuclear weapons, by fully implementing the Non-Proliferation Treaty, both in letter and spirit (cf. Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, 25 September 2015).

But why give ourselves this demanding and forward-looking goal in the present international context characterized by an unstable climate of conflict, which is both cause and indication of the difficulties encountered in advancing and strengthening the process of nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation?

If we take into consideration the principal threats to peace and security with their many dimensions in this multipolar world of the twenty-first century as, for example, terrorism, asymmetrical conflicts, cybersecurity, environmental problems, poverty, not a few doubts arise regarding the inadequacy of nuclear deterrence as an effective response to such challenges.  These concerns are even greater when we consider the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences that would follow from any use of nuclear weapons, with devastating, indiscriminate and uncontainable effects, over time and space.  Similar cause for concern arises when examining the waste of resources spent on nuclear issues for military purposes, which could instead be used for worthy priorities like the promotion of peace and integral human development, as well as the fight against poverty, and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

We need also to ask ourselves how sustainable is a stability based on fear, when it actually increases fear and undermines relationships of trust between peoples.

International peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power.  Peace must be built on justice, on integral human development, on respect for fundamental human rights, on the protection of creation, on the participation of all in public life, on trust between peoples, on the support of peaceful institutions, on access to education and health, on dialogue and solidarity.  From this perspective, we need to go beyond nuclear deterrence: the international community is called upon to adopt forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability and to avoid short-sighted approaches to the problems surrounding national and international security.

In this context, the ultimate goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons becomes both a challenge and a moral and humanitarian imperative.  A concrete approach should promote a reflection on an ethics of peace and multilateral and cooperative security that goes beyond the fear and isolationism that prevail in many debates today.  Achieving a world without nuclear weapons involves a long-term process, based on the awareness that “everything is connected” within the perspective of an integral ecology (cf. Laudato Si’, 117, 138).  The common destiny of mankind demands the pragmatic strengthening of dialogue and the building and consolidating of mechanisms of trust and cooperation, capable of creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.

Growing interdependence and globalization mean that any response to the threat of nuclear weapons should be collective and concerted, based on mutual trust.  This trust can be built only through dialogue that is truly directed to the common good and not to the protection of veiled or particular interests; such dialogue, as far as possible, should include all: nuclear states, countries which do not possess nuclear weapons, the military and private sectors, religious communities, civil societies, and international organizations.  And in this endeavour we must avoid those forms of mutual recrimination and polarization which hinder dialogue rather than encourage it.  Humanity has the ability to work together in building up our common home; we have the freedom, intelligence and capacity to lead and direct technology, to place limits on our power, and to put all this at the service of another type of progress: one that is more human, social and integral (cf. ibid., 13, 78, 112; Message for the 22nd Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Agreement on Climate Change (COP22), 10 November 2016).

This Conference intends to negotiate a Treaty inspired by ethical and moral arguments.  It is an exercise in hope and it is my wish that it may also constitute a decisive step along the road towards a world without nuclear weapons.  Although this is a significantly complex and long-term goal, it is not beyond our reach.

Madam President, I sincerely wish that the efforts of this Conference may be fruitful and provide an effective contribution to advancing an ethic of peace and of multilateral and cooperative security, which humanity very much needs today.  Upon all those gathered at this important meeting, and upon the citizens of the countries you represent, I invoke the blessings of the Almighty.



April 5th, 2017
In contrast to the wise words of Pope Francis above, I am utterly horrified by the idea mentioned below and was interested to see the letter by Rick Wayman published in the New York Times March 15th 2017 about it:

In Europe, there is talk of forming a joint nuclear deterrent in the event the Trump administration withdraws American protection. Credit Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters

To the Editor, the New York Times:

Those in Europe arguing in favor of a continental nuclear arsenal (“Fearing U.S. Withdrawal, Europe Considers Its Own Nuclear Deterrent,” The Interpreter, March 7) are heavy on politics, but glaringly light on law and humanity.

Some Western nations like to squarely blame North Korea’s 2003 withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty or Iran’s program to enrich nuclear fuel for undermining the global nonproliferation regime. Without condoning the actions of North Korea or Iran, it is still plain to see that the creation of a European nuclear weapon alliance would violate both the spirit and the letter of the Nonproliferation Treaty.

Any use of even “smaller, shorter-range tactical weapons” would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences.

The majority of the world’s nations will gather at the United Nations in New York at the end of March to begin negotiating a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons. Such a treaty is urgently needed and long overdue.

Those advocating European nuclear weapons say they are seeking an “insurance policy.” Insurance policies pay out only when something goes wrong, which, in the realm of nuclear weapons, means it’s too late. The only way to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used is to abolish them. The world will begin an important step toward that goal this month.

RICK WAYMAN
SANTA BARBARA, CALIF.

The writer is director of programs for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
to see the website where this letter was reported and other articles, see www.wagingpeace.org/sunflower-newsletter-april-2017

 

February 2017
The Doomsday Clock has now moved closer to midnight according to the recent Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) and Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) have introduced legislation in the Senate and House of Representatives entitled the “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017.” This legislation would prohibit the President of the United States from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress.

The non-nuclear states, exasperated by the recalcitrant 9 nuclear ones, are taking matters into their own hands via the UN. In March this year they are convening an international conference with a view to declaring the use of nuclear weapons illegal, as are, already, the other weapons of mass destruction; chemical and biological weapons.

On 27 October 2016 The United Nations made the decision to launch negotiations in 2017 with a view to creating a treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons. The First Committee of the UN General Assembly deals with disarmament and international security matters and it was at a meeting of this committee that 123 nations voted in favour of this course of action (the resolution was adopted in a landslide. A total of 57 nations were co-sponsors, with Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa taking the lead in drafting the resolution).

The UN conference will be open to all members and will proceed with a view to negotiate a ‘legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination’. By this means the majority of nations will bypass the small number of states, including the UK, who refuse to give up these weapons of mass destruction. This is a major step forward and gives new hope to those who want to secure a safe future for their children and generations to come. It is highly desirable that this conference is given maximum publicity. Although the madness continues as far as the UK and the other 8 nuclear states are concerned, the conference is a major step forward. It is highly desirable that this conference gets maximum publicity and that citizens encourage their governments to be fully engaged on the side of sanity, backing total abolition. (from an article by Jim McCluskey sent to the magazine Truthout and on Facebook).

 

Professor Chris Busby, one of the world experts on the effects of ionising radiation, now living in Latvia, is warning about the catastrophic effects of nuclear radiation. In a recent talk in Latvia in a video in the url below, he says that even a limited nuclear exchange between the US and Russia would have these effects. "We know from the nuclear test effects of radiation on the veterans exposed to the fall-out from them that the damage to the human genome and the genome of all species on earth will be terminal." People exposed to radiation will become infertile and their children with be genetically damaged and this includes the millions of cancers that will also be part of these effects. He says that generals such as General Shirreff, a former head of NATO, who has written a book published in 2016 with the title 2017 War with Russia, are not aware of the catastrophic long-term effects of nuclear radiation. They don't understand that nuclear radiation contaminates a huge area of ground, rendering the people and animals living on it infertile or genetically damaged. Constantly ramping up the threat of Russia to the West, they themselves constitute one of the major dangers confronting us.

https://www.rt.com/op-edge/375500-doomsday-clock-world-end/

Professor Busby exposes the fallacy behind the currently accepted model of exposure hazard adopted by governments and the nuclear industry since the 1950's. He says the ICRP (International Commission on Radiological Protection) is in error by about 1,000 times. Through nuclear testing (over 2,000, see below) and the accidents at Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, the world has been increasingly bathed with radioactivity since 1945. We are now seeing the result in a virtual epidemic of cancer in many parts of the world. These cannot all be set at the door of lifestyle and diet or genetic inheritance. In the 1950's one in nine people developed cancer. In the 1990's it was one in five. In the last few years it is one in three and in 2020 it is estimated by WHO that it will be one in two. The chief underlying cause of this increase in cancers is, according to Professor Busby, ionising radiation. All this is not known to the general public.

see Caduceus magazine issue 93, Spring 2016 for the source of these facts and further information.

2053 nuclear explosions took place between 1945 and 1998:
USA 1032
USSR 715
France 210
GB 45
other nations 53

Chernobyl
see book: Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment (New York Academy of Sciences Publication) gives the true picture of the fall-out from the explosion there. as a result of the Chernobyl catastrophe, 40% of the European landmass is radioactive with elements of strontium 90 (bone cancer and leukemia) and plutonium (lymphoma). It will remain radioactive for 100’s and even 1000’s of years.The Soviet Union did not supply its population with iodine tablets and the result was many thyroid cancers, particularly in children in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. There were over a million excess deaths in the period 1986 (date of explosion) to 2004. Poland did supply its population and did not have an increase in thyroid cancers as a result of this protective act.

WHO and the IAEA have not investigated the extent of the radiation in food and genetic defects in the aftermath of Chernobyl. (this confirms what Professor Busby has said). The same effects on the health of the population will manifest in Japan as a result of Fukushima.

February 2016   
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has announced that it is keeping its "Doomsday Clock" at three minutes to midnight, unchanged from last year. The clock is a metaphor for how close humanity is to destroying the planet.

"Three minutes (to midnight) is too close. Far too close," the Bulletin said in a statement. "We, the members of the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, want to be clear about our decision not to move the hands of the Doomsday Clock in 2016: That decision is not good news, but an expression of dismay that world leaders continue to fail to focus their efforts and the world's attention on reducing the extreme danger posed by nuclear weapons and climate change.

"When we call these dangers existential, that is exactly what we mean: They threaten the very existence of civilization and therefore should be the first order of business for leaders who care about their constituents and their countries."                                                                                                     

January 2016
The Pentagon plans to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years on a new generation of nuclear bombs, bombers, missiles and submarines, including a dozen submarines carrying more than a 1,000 warheads. Obama has ordered 200 new nuclear bombs to be deployed in Europe. Russia has revealed plans for a new kind of weapon – a hydrogen bomb torpedo – that can traverse 6,000 miles of ocean just as a missile would in the sky. On impact, the bomb would create a “radioactive tsunami” designed to kill millions along a country’s coast.

www.wagingpeace.org/sunflower-newsletter-january-2016 This website offers various articles on the current nuclear situation, among them the information above published recently in the Washington Post.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, has just announced (January 6th) that North Korea has detonated a hydrogen bomb, (which is 1000 times more powerful than the atom bomb). This is being verified by experts in this field. What is so depressing about this announcement is the stupid adolescent tone of it, boasting that N.K. can now stand proudly with the other nations who have develooped this and other obscene weapon. The primary goal of the nuclear state leaders is not to protect their people, as the people naively believe, but to enhance their power and status on the world stage.

All this acceleration of the weapons race is not seen as terrorism, but as national defence. Millions of people will go along with it, thinking that these weapons will protect them, not recognizing the amorality and extreme danger of their existence. Inevitably, there will be an accident or an act of terrorism that will release one onto helpless civilians.

December 2015. For the first time in the history of the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the "Alternative Nobel Prize," the award was given to the people of an entire nation. The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), an island nation of 70,000 people in the Pacific, and RMI Foreign Minister Tony de Brum, received the award "in recognition of their vision and courage to take legal action against the nuclear powers for failing to honor their disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law."

Speaking about the Nuclear Zero Lawsuits In his acceptance speech at the Swedish Parliament, Tony de Brum said:

"This is not just an issue of treaty commitments or international law, though it is that, and not just an issue of ethics or morality, though it is that too, but this is an issue of common sense – how could any one common person walking down the street ever permit the possession or use of such weapons?"

                                                                                 *******

The 6th of August 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. One of the survivors of that terrible day is a woman called Yukiko Nakabushi who was five years old and in her kindergarten when the bomb struck her city. Somehow she survived although her mother died shortly afterwards of severe burns. Now 76, she is one of the remaining 183,519 survivors of that day and recently spoke to The Sunday Times. "At first I was reluctant to share my experiences because I did not want to remember the horrific images. But people have told me that their perspective of war has absolutely changed after hearing me talk... I do not wish to reminisce, knowing that no one in this world should go through something like that. It goes without saying that atomic weapons are absolute evil. War takes innocent vfictims on both sides. Being at peace is the happiest and most precious thing for humankind."

Everyone should know what happened and everyone should know that we must do everything in our power to rid the earth and our human species from the continued presence of these horrendous weapons we have created. The US has apparently just committed nearly a trillion dollars over the next 30 years to "modernise" its nuclear arsenal.

There are now 17,000 nuclear weapons in the world today (2015), with Russia, the US and North Korea arming themselves for the future and other "rogue" states seeking to acquire nuclear bombs.

Below is a letter sent to the Guardian newspaper yesterday (5th August) by a friend called Jim McCluskey:

"Your editorial is right to urge us to be ‘clear-eyed’ about what should be done about the existence of nuclear weapons (‘Today, the atomic bomb haunts our world as much as ever’, 6.8.15). There are 193 states in the United Nations. Only 9 have nuclear weapons. The 9 with nuclear weapons put the populations of the other 184 states in danger by risking a nuclear war which would affect the entire planet. If the nuclear states ‘need’ them for their security why then do not all the other states need them? The 9 states who have nuclear weapons do not have them because it is the wish of their citizens. It is because the leaders believe it gives them kudos and influence in the world. The wishes of the world citizens should be honoured and all nuclear weapons be made illegal as has been done with chemical and biological weapons. All that prevents this is the will of the leaders (and the passivity of us citizens)."
                                                                                               

On the 22rd January, 2015 The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists hosted a conference to announce that the world was closer to catastrophe than at any time since 1953 because of climate change and the growing threat of nuclear war.

"Unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernisation of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity. World leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe."

The scientists called on voters to demand action from their leaders to curb pollution and stop developing nuclear weapons. The decision was taken to move the clock hands to three minutes to midnight (two minutes closer than it was in 2012) was made by the Bulletin's board and 18 Nobel laureates. (report The Times 23/1/15)

 

 

I have been re-reading the lecture given by Dr. Albert Schweitzer (November 4th, 1954) on his being awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Entitled "The Problem of Peace", he addressed the problem of our moral immaturity in relation to the "superman" power of our technology and our weapons:

"The superman suffers from a fatal flaw. He has failed to rise to the level of superhuman reason to match that of his superhuman strength. He requires such reason to put this vast power to solely reasonable and useful ends and not to destructive and murderous ones. Because he lacks it, the conquests of science and technology become a mortal danger to him rather than a blessing. The essential fact which we should have acknowledged a long time ago, is that we are becoming inhuman to the extent that we become supermen. We have learned to tolerate the facts of war: that men are killed en masse – that whole cities and their inhabitants are annihilated by the atomic bomb, that men are turned into living torches by incendiary bombs... When we do admit to ourselves that such acts are the results of inhuman conduct, our admission is accompanied by the thought that the very fact of war itself leaves us no option but to accept them. In resigning ourselves to our fate without a struggle, we are guilty of inhumanity... It is my profound conviction that the solution lies in our rejecting war for an ethical reason; namely, that war makes us guilty of the crime of inhumanity."

In the light of this speech, what do we feel when we hear that the Federation of American scientists estimates that there are 17,000 nuclear warheads in the world as of 2012 with 4,300 of them considered 'operational', ready for use. (source Wikipedia) Do we recognise our inhumanity?

Eric Schlosser's book "Command and Control" (2013) clearly sets out the danger of a nuclear "accident". Through telling the story of a long-forgotten accident, his book aims to shed light on a larger theme: the mixture of human fallibility and technological complexity that can lead to an unforeseen disaster. The recent catastrophe of a co-pilot deliberately crashing an Airbus into the French Alps, killing all on board, should warn us of human fallibility.

At the time of his publishing this book, he writes that the United States has approximately 4,650 nuclear weapons. About 300 are assigned to long-range bombers, 500 are deployed atop Minuteman III missiles, and 1,150 are carried by Trident submarines. An additional 200 or so hydrogen bombs are stored in Turkey, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands for use by NATO aircraft. About 2,500 nuclear weapons are held in reserve, mainly at the Kirtland Underground Munitions Maintenance and Storage Complex near Albuquerque, New Mexico...The United States plans to spend as much as $180 billion over the next twenty years, to maintain its nuclear weapons, run its weapon laboratories, and upgrade its uranium-processing facilities... The United States and Russia still have thousands of missiles on alert, ready to be launched within minutes. China is thought to have about 240 nuclear weapons and is building new cruise missiles, long-range missiles, and submarines to carry them. With regard to India and Pakistan, where the flight time of a missile from one to the other may be as little as four or five minutes, there is also great danger of an inadvertent launch of a first strike or a launch in response to a terrorist attack, like the one on Mumbai in November 2008. Pakistan now has 100 nuclear weapons stored in the lawless region near the border with Afghanistan. As ISIS attempts to gain a foothold in that country, the danger of infiltration or attack increases. Schlosser ends his book with these words: "Right now thousands of missiles are hidden away, literally out of sight, topped with warheads and ready to go, awaiting the right electrical signal. They are a collective death wish, barely suppressed. Every one of them is an accident waiting to happen, a potential act of mass murder. They are out there, waiting, soulless and mechanical, sustained by our denial—and they work."

 

 

On 7th July, 2014, the World Council of Churches issued a ‘Statement towards a Nuclear –Free World’. Included in the statement are the following paragraphs:

‘Nuclear weapons cannot ...  be reconciled with real peace. They inflict unspeakable suffering with blast, heat and radiation.... Their power is indiscriminate ....As long as nuclear weapons exist, they pose a threat to humanity.’

‘Nuclear strategy... demands an unequivocal commitment to use the weapons and nuclear history is rife with accidents, miscalculations and near-disasters.... even one nuclear detonation would overwhelm the emergency services of any country in the world. The only way to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again is to eliminate the weapons themselves.’

The problem of governments continuing to hold nuclear weapons is that they cannot perceive the amorality of having them in the first place. There is always the belief that being unprepared in case of an enemy attack is worse than the act of holding these weapons. CND has existed for decades but has had virtually no effect on influencing government in the UK. I don't know how the world will ever move from national perspectives to a planetary one, where respect for the planet and the life it embraces overrides national ambitions and survival interests. Once again (February 2015), we hear rumblings of preparations for war in response to the threat from ISIS and from Putin and an increasingly belligerent and excited tone in the newspapers. This is a description of our nuclear weapon:

A Trident submarine is on patrol at all times, armed with an estimated eight missiles, each of which can carry up to five warheads. In total, that makes 40 warheads, each with an explosive power of up to 100 kilotons of conventional high explosive—eight times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 which killed an estimated 240,000 people from blast and radiation. One nuclear submarine can incinerate more than 40 million human beings. This capacity for mass murder is presented as essential for our defence but it begs the question: ‘How many people are we prepared to exterminate to ensure our security?’ We would have no protection against a reciprocally fired nuclear missile directed at us.

As we contemplate creating a memorial in this country to the Holocaust can we not see that, in the continued existence of Trident and indeed, all nuclear weapons, we are inviting an act of equally unspeakable evil? What an example Britain would offer the other nuclear nations if we decided to get rid of this truly demonic weapon. And how can we call ourselves a democracy when the choice to renew Trident is left in the hands of political parties rather than offered to the people in a referendum?

I have included below an article from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
by Steven Starr, Lynn Eden and Theodore A. Postol, published 25/2/15

What would happen if an 800-kiloton nuclear warhead detonated above midtown Manhattan?

Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles are believed to carry a total of approximately 1,000 strategic nuclear warheads that can hit the US less than 30 minutes after being launched. Of this total, about 700 warheads are rated at 800 kilotons; that is, each has the explosive power of 800,000 tons of TNT. What follows is a description of the consequences of the detonation of a single such warhead over midtown Manhattan, in the heart of New York City.

The initial fireball. The warhead would probably be detonated slightly more than a mile above the city, to maximize the damage created by its blast wave. Within a few tenths of millionths of a second after detonation, the center of the warhead would reach a temperature of roughly 200 million degrees Fahrenheit (about 100 million degrees Celsius), or about four to five times the temperature at the center of the sun. 

A ball of superheated air would form, initially expanding outward at millions of miles per hour. It would act like a fast-moving piston on the surrounding air, compressing it at the edge of the fireball and creating a shockwave of vast size and power.

After one second, the fireball would be roughly a mile in diameter. It would have cooled from its initial temperature of many millions of degrees to about 16,000 degrees Fahrenheit, roughly 4,000 degrees hotter than the surface of the sun. 

On a clear day with average weather conditions, the enormous heat and light from the fireball would almost instantly ignite fires over a total area of about 100 square miles.  

Hurricane of fire. Within seconds after the detonation, fires set within a few miles of the fireball would burn violently. These fires would force gigantic masses of heated air to rise, drawing cooler air from surrounding areas toward the center of the fire zone from all directions.

As the massive winds drove flames into areas where fires had not yet fully developed, the fires set by the detonation would begin to merge. Within tens of minutes of the detonation, fires from near and far would join to form a single, gigantic fire. The energy released by this mass fire would be 15 to 50 times greater than the energy produced by the nuclear detonation.

The mass fire, or firestorm, would quickly increase in intensity, heating enormous volumes of air that would rise at speeds approaching 300 miles per hour. This chimney effect would pull cool air from outside the fire zone towards the center of the fire at speeds of hundreds of miles per hour. These superheated ground winds of more than hurricane force would further intensify the fire. At the edge of the fire zone, the winds would be powerful enough to uproot trees three feet in diameter and suck people from outside the fire into it.

The inrushing winds would drive the flames from burning buildings horizontally along the ground, filling city streets with flames and firebrands, breaking in doors and windows, and causing the fire to jump, sometimes hundreds of feet, swallowing anything not already violently combusting.

These above-hurricane-force ground winds would have average air temperatures well above the boiling point of water. The targeted area would be transformed into a huge hurricane of fire, producing a lethal environment throughout the entire fire zone.

Ground zero: Midtown Manhattan. The fireball would vaporize the structures directly below it and produce an immense blast wave and high-speed winds, crushing even heavily built concrete structures within a couple miles of ground zero. The blast would tear apart high-rise buildings and expose their contents to the solar temperatures; it would spread fires by exposing ignitable surfaces, releasing flammable materials, and dispersing burning materials.

At the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, the Chrysler Building, and St. Patrick's Cathedral, about one half to three quarters of a mile from ground zero, light from the fireball would melt asphalt in the streets, burn paint off walls, and melt metal surfaces within a half second of the detonation. Roughly one second later, the blast wave and 750-mile-per-hour winds would arrive, flattening buildings and tossing burning cars into the air like leaves in a windstorm. Throughout Midtown, the interiors of vehicles and buildings in line of sight of the fireball would explode into flames. 

Slightly more than a mile from ground zero are the neighborhoods of Chelsea, Midtown East, and Lenox Hill, as well as the United Nations; at this distance, for a split second the fireball would shine 10,000 times brighter than a desert sun at noon.  All combustible materials illuminated by the fireball would spew fire and black smoke.

Grass, vegetation, and leaves on trees would explode into flames; the surface of the ground would explode into superheated dust. Any flammable material inside buildings (paper, curtains, upholstery) that was directly exposed to the fireball would burst into flame. The surfaces of the bronze statues in front of the UN would melt; marble surfaces exposed to the fireball would crack, pop, and possibly evaporate.

At this distance from the fireball, it would take about four seconds for the blast wave to arrive. As it passed over, the blast wave would engulf all structures and crush them; it would generate ferocious winds of 400 to 500 miles per hour that would persist for a few seconds

The high winds would tear structural elements from buildings and cause them to disintegrate explosively into smaller pieces. Some of these pieces would become destructive projectiles, causing further damage. The superheated, dust-laden winds would be strong enough to overturn trucks and buses.

Two miles from ground zero, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with all its magnificent historical treasures, would be obliterated. Two and half miles from ground zero, in Lower Manhattan, the East Village, and Stuyvesant Town, the fireball would appear 2,700 times brighter than a desert sun at noon. There, thermal radiation would melt and warp aluminum surfaces, ignite the tires of autos, and turn exposed skin to charcoal, before the blast wave arrived and ripped apart the buildings.

Three to nine miles from ground zero. Midtown is bordered by the relatively wide Hudson and East rivers, and fires would start simultaneously in large areas on both sides of these waterways (that is, in Queens and Brooklyn as well as Jersey City and West New York).  Although the direction of the fiery winds in regions near the river would be modified by the water, the overall wind pattern from these huge neighboring fire zones would be similar to that of a single mass fire, with its center at Midtown, Manhattan.

Three miles from ground zero, in Union City, New Jersey, and Astoria, Queens, the fireball would be as bright as 1,900 suns and deliver more than five times the thermal energy deposited at the perimeter of the mass fire at Hiroshima. In Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and in the Civic Center of Lower Manhattan, clothes worn by people in the direct line of sight of the fireball would burst into flames or melt, and uncovered skin would be charred, causing third-degree and fourth-degree burns.

It would take 12 to 14 seconds for the blast wave to travel three miles after the fireball's initial flash of light.  At this distance, the blast wave would last for about three seconds and be accompanied by winds of 200 to 300 miles per hour. Residential structures would be destroyed; high-rises would be at least heavily damaged.

Fires would rage everywhere within five miles of ground zero. At a distance of 5.35 miles from the detonation, the light flash from the fireball would deliver twice the thermal energy experienced at the edge of the mass fire at Hiroshima. In Jersey City and Cliffside Park, and in Woodside in Queens, on Governors Island and in Harlem, the light and heat to surfaces would approximate that created by 600 desert suns at noon.

Wind speed at this distance would be 70 to 100 miles per hour. Buildings of heavy construction would suffer little structural damage, but all exterior windows would be shattered, and non-supporting interior walls and doors would be severely damaged or blown down. Black smoke would effuse from wood houses as paint burned off surfaces and furnishings ignited.

Six to seven miles from ground zero, from Moonachie, New Jersey, to Crown Heights, Brooklyn, from Yankee Stadium to Corona, Queens and Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the fireball would appear 300 times brighter than the desert sun at noon. Anyone in the direct light of the fireball would suffer third degree burns to their exposed skin. The firestorm could engulf neighborhoods as far as seven miles away from ground zero, since these outlying areas would receive the same amount of heat as did the areas at the edge of the mass fire at Hiroshima. 

Nine miles from ground zero, in Hackensack, Bayonne, and Englewood, New Jersey, as well as in Richmond Hill, Queens, and Flatlands, Brooklyn, the fireball would be about 100 times brighter than the sun, bright enough to cause first- and second-degree burns to those in line of sight. About 36 seconds after the fireball, the shockwave would arrive and knock out all the windows, along with many interior building walls and some doors.

No survivors. Within tens of minutes, everything within approximately five to seven miles of Midtown Manhattan would be engulfed by a gigantic firestorm. The fire zone would cover a total area of 90 to 152 square miles (230 to 389 square kilometers). The firestorm would rage for three to six hours. Air temperatures in the fire zone would likely average 400 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (200 to 260 Celsius). 

After the fire burned out, the street pavement would be so hot that even tracked vehicles could not pass over it for days. Buried, unburned material from collapsed buildings throughout the fire zone could burst into flames when exposed to air—months after the firestorm had ended.  

Those who tried to escape through the streets would have been incinerated by the hurricane-force winds filled with firebrands and flames. Even those able to find shelter in the lower-level sub-basements of massive buildings would likely suffocate from fire-generated gases or be cooked alive as their shelters heated to oven-like conditions.

The fire would extinguish all life and destroy almost everything else. Tens of miles downwind of the area of immediate destruction, radioactive fallout would begin to arrive within a few hours of the detonation.

But that is another story.

Editor's note: This article is adapted from “City on Fire” by Lynn Eden, originally published in the January 2004 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.


This is the weapon that we, the human species has, to our shame, created. In my view, the presence of these weapons and their possible use, pollutes not only the planet but the human soul.


I include here a second Extract from the Nuclear Information Service Newsletter
June 2015 http://nuclearinfo.org

The month-long review conference for the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has ended in disarray (May 24th, 2015) after governments represented at the conference were unable to reach agreement on the wording of a final document outlining the conference's conclusions.

However, despite the disappointment at the formal outcome, the conference demonstrated widespread concern among a majority of nations about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use, adding to momentum for a new process to negotiate a global treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

A group of 159 states endorsed a conference statement saying that it "is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances", and 107  states have endorsed the "Humanitarian Pledge", a document prepared by Austria which calls on states "to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons."  Signatories have also pledged to “cooperate with all relevant stakeholders, States, international organisations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements, parliamentarians and civil society, in efforts to stigmatise, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks.”

Campaign organisations described the pledge as 'the real outcome from the conference' and it is expected that the it will now become the basis for a new process to develop a global treaty banning nuclear weapons, outside the NPT process.

 

The Third International Conference on the Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons (December 2014)
ended with a pledge to press for the abolition of nuclear weapons at next year's Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference (see above for the conclusion to this conference).  

More than 150 governments were represented at the conference, which took place in Vienna on December 8 and 9.  Delegations from four of the nine countries with nuclear weapons - the USA, UK, India and Pakistan – attended and delegates from 45 governments explicitly called for further multilateral negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons.

The conference summary, prepared by the Austrian government, warned that the impact of a nuclear weapon detonation, irrespective of the cause, “would not be constrained by national borders and could have regional and even global consequences”, including long-term damage to the environment, climate, and social order, and “could even threaten the survival of humankind”.  

The report concluded that as long as nuclear weapons exist, there remains the possibility of a nuclear explosion and that “even if the probability is considered low, given the catastrophic consequences of a nuclear weapon detonation, the risk is unacceptable”.

New evidence that has emerged over the last two years about the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons “casts further doubt on whether these weapons could ever be used in conformity with international humanitarian law”  

The report noted that many delegates expressed concern about the limited progress in nuclear disarmament and stressed the view that humanitarian considerations should no longer be ignored but “be at the core of all nuclear disarmament deliberations”.

The conference re-stated the political imperative to abolish nuclear weapons and indicated that a legally binding agreement would be required to establish a nuclear-weapon-free world.  This task was referred on to the next NPT Review Conference which will take place in April – May 2015 in New York.

The Austrian government, hosting the conference, made a special pledge to take the new impetus for nuclear abolition to the NPT.  In the pledge, Austria called on all parties to the NPT to “renew their commitment to the urgent and full implementation of existing obligations under Article VI, and to this end, to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons”. The pledge commits Austria to cooperate with all stakeholders to achieve this goal.

Pope Francis used the conference to issue a statement revising the Catholic Church's position on the morality of nuclear deterrence for the first time in many years.

In his message to the conference, the Pope reminded delegates that military codes and international law have “long banned peoples from inflicting unnecessary suffering”.  “If such suffering is banned in the waging of conventional war, then it should all the more be banned in nuclear conflict”, he said.

Spending on nuclear weapons “squanders the wealth of nations” and is “a mistake and a misallocation of resources which would be far better invested in the areas of integral human development, education, health and the fight against extreme poverty”.

The Pope argued that a world without nuclear weapons is “a goal shared by all nations and echoed by world leaders, as well as the aspiration of millions of men and women”.  

“The future and survival of the human family hinges on moving beyond this ideal and ensuring that it becomes a reality”, he said.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that previous conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons had “compelled us to keep in mind the horrific consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons” and expressed his wish that “all participants come away with new resolve to pursue effective measures for the achievement of nuclear disarmament”.

Both the USA and the UK attended the conference, but both nations rejected calls for a ban on nuclear weapons and a timetable for their elimination.  In its statement to the conference the UK asserted that this approach “fails to take account of, and therefore jeopardises, the stability and security which nuclear weapons can help to ensure”.

The UK said that it would retain its nuclear weapons “for as long as it is necessary” and that “a declaratory ban, or a timetable not underpinned by the necessary trust, confidence and verification measures, would jeopardise strategic stability.  None of us would gain from a loss of that stability”.  Instead, a step-by-step approach through the NPT was “the only way” to combine the imperatives of disarmament and global stability.

Speaking after the conference, Robert Wood, the USA's special representative to the Conference on Disarmament told the Geneva Centre for Security Policy that the US “cannot and will not support efforts to move to a nuclear weapons convention or the false hope of a fixed timeline for the elimination of all nuclear weapons”. The US “cannot support and will oppose any effort to move to an international legal ban on nuclear weapons”. [what a enlightened statement!]

In a letter to Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz before the conference, a global group of political and military figures warned that the risks posed by nuclear weapons are “under-estimated” and that action to prevent an accidental or deliberate nuclear attack is “insufficient”.

The letter cautioned that “too many nuclear weapons in the world remain ready to launch on short notice, greatly increasing the chances of an accident” and urged all states to “redouble efforts to work toward a world without nuclear weapons”.

Co-ordinated by the European Leadership Network and Nuclear Threat Initiative, the letter was signed by 118 former ministers, generals, and diplomats from 46 counties, including 6 former Prime Ministers and a former NATO Secretary-General.  British signatories included former defence secretaries Lord Des Browne and Lord Tom King, and former foreign secretaries Margaret Beckett and Lord David Owen.


I have included Desmond Tutu's article in this posting because it is as relevant in 2015 as it was in 2011.

Desmond Tutu: Ending Nuclear Evil
Sunday 3 July 2011 Cape Town
Eliminating nuclear weapons is the democratic wish of the world’s people. Yet no nuclear-armed country currently appears to be preparing for a future without these terrifying devices. In fact, all are squandering billions of dollars on modernization of their nuclear forces, making a mockery of United Nations disarmament pledges. If we allow this madness to continue, the eventual use of these instruments of terror seems all but inevitable.

The nuclear power crisis at Japan’s Fukushima power plant has served as a dreadful reminder that events thought unlikely can and do happen. It has taken a tragedy of great proportions to prompt some leaders to act to avoid similar calamities at nuclear reactors elsewhere in the world. But it must not take another Hiroshima or Nagasaki – or an even greater disaster – before they finally wake up and recognize the urgent necessity of nuclear disarmament.

This week, the foreign ministers of five nuclear-armed countries – the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China – will meet in Paris to discuss progress in implementing the nuclear-disarmament commitments that they made at last year’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference. It will be a test of their resolve to transform the vision of a future free of nuclear arms into reality.

If they are serious about preventing the spread of these monstrous weapons – and averting their use – they will work energetically and expeditiously to eliminate them completely. One standard must apply to all countries: zero. Nuclear arms are wicked, regardless of who possesses them. The unspeakable human suffering that they inflict is the same whatever flag they may bear. So long as these weapons exist, the threat of their use – either by accident or through an act of sheer madness – will remain.

We must not tolerate a system of nuclear apartheid, in which it is considered legitimate for some states to possess nuclear arms but patently unacceptable for others to seek to acquire them. Such a double standard is no basis for peace and security in the world. The NPT is not a license for the five original nuclear powers to cling to these weapons indefinitely. The International Court of Justice has affirmed that they are legally obliged to negotiate in good faith for the complete elimination of their nuclear forces.

The New START agreement between the US and Russia, while a step in the right direction, will only skim the surface off the former Cold War foes’ bloated nuclear arsenals – which account for 95% of the global total. Furthermore, these and other countries’ modernization activities cannot be reconciled with their professed support for a world free of nuclear weapons.

It is deeply troubling that the US has allocated $185 billion to augment its nuclear stockpile over the next decade, on top of the ordinary annual nuclear-weapons budget of more than $50 billion. Just as unsettling is the Pentagon’s push for the development of nuclear-armed drones – H-bombs deliverable by remote control.

Russia, too, has unveiled a massive nuclear-weapons modernization plan, which includes the deployment of various new delivery systems. British politicians, meanwhile, are seeking to renew their navy’s aging fleet of Trident submarines – at an estimated cost of £76 billion ($121 billion). In doing so, they are passing up an historic opportunity to take the lead on nuclear disarmament.

Every dollar invested in bolstering a country’s nuclear arsenal is a diversion of resources from its schools, hospitals, and other social services, and a theft from the millions around the globe who go hungry or are denied access to basic medicines. Instead of investing in weapons of mass annihilation, governments must allocate resources towards meeting human needs.

The only obstacle we face in abolishing nuclear weapons is a lack of political will, which can – and must – be overcome. Two-thirds of UN member states have called for a nuclear-weapons convention similar to existing treaties banning other categories of particularly inhumane and indiscriminate weapons, from biological and chemical arms to anti-personnel land mines and cluster munitions. Such a treaty is feasible and must be urgently pursued.

It is true that nuclear weapons cannot be uninvented, but that does not mean that nuclear disarmament is an impossible dream. My own country, South Africa, gave up its nuclear arsenal in the 1990’s, realizing it was better off without these weapons. Around the same time, the newly independent states of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine voluntarily relinquished their nuclear arms, and then joined the NPT. Other countries have abandoned nuclear-weapons programs, recognizing that nothing good could possibly come from them. Global stockpiles have dropped from 68,000 warheads at the height of the Cold War to 20,000 today.

In time, every government will come to accept the basic inhumanity of threatening to obliterate entire cities with nuclear weapons. They will work to achieve a world in which such weapons are no more – where the rule of law, not the rule of force, reigns supreme, and cooperation is seen as the best guarantor of international peace. But such a world will be possible only if people everywhere rise up and challenge the nuclear madness.

Desmond Tutu is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and supporter of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (www.icanw.org).
Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.
www.project-syndicate.org

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