“What is not forbidden, is compulsory.” So said Enrico Fermi, the Italian physicist and who is considered by many to be one of the “fathers of the atomic bomb”. The same can be said about a nuclear accident or miscalculated nuclear launch. The resulting loss of life following such an event would be catastrophic. Secondary consequences might include a complete disruption of our economic and political systems. In short, our lives and planet would change in ways we can’t even comprehend.
Hope is not lost. There is much we can do today to ensure that a nuclear accident or detonation never takes place. Young people need to demand that our government moves towards complete elimination of all nuclear weapons. Read on for more information on the risks and what you can do to eliminate them.
Nuclear weapons: the dinosaurs of the defense industry
The Cold War is over. However, the weapons of the Cold War, namely nuclear weapons, continue to exist. The dangers posed by nuclear weapons are clear. An intentional detonation of a bomb would cause catastrophe. Nuclear terrorism, accidents and miscalculations are even greater threats. Extremist groups like Al-Qaeda are doing their best to either build, buy or steal a nuclear weapon. Dozens of nuclear accidents have occurred in the last half century. High-profile miscalculations have almost resulted in tragedy, for example when the Russians misinterpreted the nature of US research rockets studying the Northern Lights in the 1990s. In short, nuclear weapons present one of the greatest threats to all of humanity.
The threat of miscalculations
One of the greatest threats today comes not from intentional nuclear attack, but from human error. For example, in 1979 a training tape was accidentally slipped into a computer at NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) where it simulated a full-scale nuclear attack upon the US, throwing NORAD into a panicked frenzy to prepare and respond to this perceived aggression. Luckily, the mistake was discovered before full preparations had been made.
The threat of accidents
Although most nuclear arsenals are kept safe through advanced security systems, the sophistication of these systems can also add a level of unreliability. For example, there were 32 nuclear accidents in the US between 1950-1980.
The threat of nuclear terrorism
Extremist groups like Al-Qaeda have been trying for years to acquire nuclear weapons. These groups want to actually use a nuclear weapon on their enemies, not only hold them as pawns in larger security games. Osama bin Laden has stated his interest in killing 4 million Americans, which would take weapons more powerful than planes.
The only solution to these threats is to eliminate nuclear weapons entirely. Presidents Obama, Kennedy and Reagan have supported this same solution. President Obama recently vocalized his commitment to this cause in his landmark speech in Prague, when he said: “I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
There are several important moments on the horizon:
- The New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was ratified in December of 2010. But there remains much to do, including:
- The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) will ban further nuclear tests, which create instability and environmental harm. The Obama Administration hopes to bring CTBT before the US Senate for ratification in 2011.
- The Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) will prevent the creation of new highly enriched uranium and plutonium, essential ingredients for a nuclear weapon. The Obama Administration hopes to negotiate the FMCT in 2011.
What you can do
- Join our network of young people all across the U.S. who have an intellectual foundation in regards to nuclear weapons and who are acting on behalf of their elimination.
- We are actively supporting the ratification of the New START agreement as soon as possible. Write to your Senator and urge them to ratify New START today
- Show a movie discussing the issue. Check out our film library for a list of free films you can borrow from AIDemocracy. Films come with discussion guides and free shipping. It couldn’t be any easier!
- Organize an event on your campus. Bring in a speaker. Organize a debate. Stand up and demand change. Check out our event database for some great ideas to get you started.
- Request a mini-grant to make your film or event a success. We provide small grants to help pay for materials, food and speakers. Contact us to discuss.
- Speak out to the network. Write a blog for our site. Post something on our Facebook group. Share photos or video with us on YouTube. Share your opinions with other concerned students like you. Here’s how to submit materials.
- Ask for advice and support. Not sure how to get started? Need to talk through ideas for your event? AIDemocracy staff and student leaders are here to help
- And more…