Nuclear proliferation and nuclear abolishment

2012-08-24

in Bombs and rockets, Politics, Security

The Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons was assembled by the Australian prime minister in 1995, with a mandate to consider nuclear proliferation and the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Their final report is well worth a look. It opens with a concise statement that lays out the situation:

The destructiveness of nuclear weapons is immense. Any use would be catastrophic.

Nuclear weapons pose an intolerable threat to all humanity and its habitat, yet tens of thousands remain in arsenals built up at an extraordinary time of deep antagonism. That time has passed, yet assertions of their utility continue.

These facts are obvious but their implications have been blurred. There is no doubt that, if the peoples of the world were more fully aware of the inherent danger of nuclear weapons and the consequences of their use, they would reject them, and not permit their continued possession or acquisition on their behalf by their governments, even for an alleged need for self-defence.

Nuclear weapons are held by a handful of states which insist that these weapons provide unique security benefits, and yet reserve uniquely to themselves the right to own them. This situation is highly discriminatory and thus unstable; it cannot be sustained. The possession of nuclear weapons by any state is a constant stimulus to other states to acquire them.

Personally, I don’t have a great deal of hope that we will avoid the use of nuclear weapons during my lifetime. I suspect that regional rivalries will drive large numbers of states to acquire the weapons and that eventually some miscalculation, lapse in control, or security breach will result in the use of a bomb, possibly followed by nuclear retaliation.

If that is to be prevented, states with access to sophisticated nuclear technology and the means to produce bomb-grade uranium and plutonium need to become a lot more serious about non-proliferation. The recent behaviour of countries including the United States suggests this is unlikely.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Byron Smith August 24, 2012 at 8:51 am

Australia has a legislative ban on nuclear power (or weapons, though that is already covered by our being a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons), yet is the world’s third largest (second until recently) uranium exporter after Canada and Kazakhstan.

In the last few months, the Australian government has approved the export of uranium to India, despite its being one of only three states to have not signed and ratified (or acceded to) the NPT (with North Korea also having withdrawn).

Milan August 24, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Do you think India should have been ‘let out of the doghouse’ so quickly after testing nuclear weapons? From what I have read, the access they have recently gained to uranium from abroad will let them increase the size of their nuclear arsenal.

. August 27, 2012 at 5:26 pm
oleh August 29, 2012 at 11:33 pm

The video was quite interesting. It was a good visual representation of nuclear proliferation . I did feel some confort in that from 1974 to 1998, only one country (Pakiston in 1992) joined the nuclear powers and that the reate of nuclear explosions dropped dramatically after 1990. Is there any source for nuclear explosions since 1998 when htis time lapse model ends.

Milan August 29, 2012 at 11:41 pm

I think that video misses a fair bit – notably, the South African and Israeli nuclear programs.

Possible joint Israeli-South African test:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vela_incident

. July 26, 2016 at 11:18 pm

It is generally believed that Beijing provided Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan with blueprints for the uranium implosion device that China detonated on October 27, 1966 (the so- called CHIC-4 test/design). It is also sus- pected that on May 26, 1990 China tested a Pakistani derivative of the CHIC-4 at its Lop Nor test site, with a yield in the 10 to 12 kiloton (kt) range.3 That yield estimate accords with recorded yields of PakistanÕs 1998 nuclear tests, which are somewhere between 5 and 12 kt. Refinements in boost- ing and efficient plutonium use are the normal next steps in weapon improve- ment, along with miniaturization of the warheads to fit into smaller and lighter reentry vehicles. Pakistan is probably undertaking all of these improvements to arm its cruise and ballistic missiles with lighter payloads.

http://fas.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Nov-Dec-Pakistan-FINAL.pdf

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