Can the Impossible become Possible?

The first nuclear weapon exploded over the city of Hiroshima, Japan.  According to one report, the weapon killed 150,000 people and wounded an additional 75,000.  Other estimates are lower than this.  No one is absolutely sure of the “body count.”  According to another report, some of the victims simply vanished.  The temperature in the vicinity of the blast has been estimated at approximately 7000 degrees farenheit.  The radius of total destruction was estimated at one mile, which would represent an area of 3.14 (pi) square miles.  A second estimate increased this area of total destruction to approximately six square miles.  The bomb used on Hiroshima was described as not very efficient.  The energy release was estimated at 16 kilotons of TNT.  This is 16 thousand tons or 32 million pounds of destructive force.

It is estimated that the number of nuclear weapons in the world is 14,900.  Using an estimate of 200 kilotons per weapon and using a linear extrapolation of the destructive power, we can estimate the destructive power of the total nuclear arsenal.  The Hiroshima bomb destroyed approximately 6 square miles with a destructive force of 16 kilotons.  A 200 kiloton bomb would then be capable of destroying approximately 75 square miles.  The sum of the world’s approximately 14,900 weapons would then be capable of destroying approximately 1,116,500 square miles.  As an area of square shape, this would be approximately 1000 miles on each side.

If we give our leaders credit for any intelligence, we should admit that they do not want to become engaged in the use of nuclear weapons.  However, our leaders have to deal with other elements in the world.  These other elements may or may not be disinclined to use nuclear weapons.  The following countries are reported to be nuclear armed:

  • Country                       Population
  • The United States.   327 million
  • Russia.                        142 million
  • Great Britain.             65 million
  • France.                        67 million
  • Israel.                             9 million
  • Pakistan.                    208 million
  • India.                        1297 million
  • China.                       1385 million
  • North Korea.                25 million

The population of the countries with nuclear armaments is approximately 3.3 billion people.  The total population is estimated at 7.6 billion people.  The population of the nuclear armed countries is approximately 43% of the total population.

There are some in our community who consider opposition to nuclear weaponry “hopelessly idealistic.”  “Sure”, they say, “we’d all love to live in peace, but it’s a crazy world out there and we need nuclear weapons to be safe.”  As long as the weaponry remains a deterrent, we may be safe.  We have to consider, however, what we are deterring.  The obvious answer will be:  we are deterring someone who has an axe to grind.  Rather than “beating our swords into plowshares” (Isaiah 2:4), we seem to be “building so many swords that none can handle them.”

  • And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4).

Moses, when giving the Law to the Israelites, told them:  The law is on your lips and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out (Deuteronomy – Chapter 30). As we know from our history, the Israelites were not always faithful to the task of carrying it out.  This failure to “carry it out” has continued through human history and is with us today with the nuclear standoff (mutually assured destruction).


The Treaty – adopted on 7 July this year at a UN conference in New York by a vote of 122 in favor to one against (Netherlands), with one abstention (Singapore) – prohibits a full range of nuclear-weapon-related activities, such as undertaking to develop, test, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, as well as the use or threat of use of these weapons. 

However, nuclear-armed States and most of their allies stayed out of the negotiations. Immediately following its adoption, the United States, the United Kingdom and France issued a joint press statement saying that they “have not taken part in the negotiation of the treaty… and do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.”

The Treaty will enter into force 90 days after it has been ratified by at least 50 countries.

At today’s ceremony, chaired by UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu, 42 countries signed the Treaty, with more expected later in the day. The Holy See and Thailand not only signed but also ratified it.

The President of the General Assembly, Miroslav Lajčák, noted at the ceremony that the Treaty demonstrates the will of Member States to bring about change.
“It will raise public awareness about the risks of nuclear weapons. It will keep us on track for achieving our goal of a world in which nuclear weapons exist only in movies or books. But we need to do more to get the whole way there.”

.What follows is the existing page.  What is above is an attempt to use more objective language.  It takes time to work things through on this thought.

There are some in our community who call nuclear weapons opponents “hopeless idealists” or “dreamers.” “Sure”, they say, “we’d all love to live in peace, but it’s a crazy world out there and we need nuclear weapons to be safe.” But does the US status as a nuclear superpower really make us safer? Or does it make us all more vulnerable to being destroyed in a conflict that could spiral out of control into all-out nuclear war? As the world watches, the US is spending $1 trillion to create a new generation of nuclear armaments. In turn, we now see ramped-up nuclear proliferation and the ratcheting-up of political and military tensions from Moscow to Pyongyang to Beijing. How does this race towards doomsday keep the American people safe? By accepting the so-called inevitability of nuclear weapons, avoiding the ugly consequences of the nuclear arms race and the grave threat it poses to civilian populations around the globe, it is easy to assume an “ostrich-in-the sand” position and simply get on with our busy lives. But by ignoring the issue, are we not undermining our own power and potential to envision a nuclear-weapons-free sustainable world? After all, imagining something is the first step toward challenging the status quo and making a change. Of course, such a transformation may not happen overnight, but the first step is to dream the impossible as possible. For example, on July 7, 2017 the United Nations adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Under Article 6 of the Treaty, states are prohibited from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing, stockpiling, transferring, deploying, stationing, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons under any circumstances. Although the US, Russia and other nuclear states boycotted this Treaty, it was adopted by 122 states and passed overwhelmingly. Even in the face of the US-led boycott, this UN Treaty signals the clear resolve of civil society to embark on a path leading to a nuclear weapons-free world. Someday in the future, when survivors of a nuclear war ask the United States and other nuclear-armed states, “What did you do to keep our planet safe when it was under attack?” — what will be our response be? We invite you to join us in taking a stand for a peaceful, nuclear-free world for the sake of our future generations. Join us at our August event commemorating the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Dare to Dream!

Ground Zero Center for Non Violence

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