The Urgency of Nuclear Disarmament

Few things show how uniquely unfit humanity is to be the custodian of planet Earth as our insatiable need for the production and use of all forms of weapons of destruction. Humanity’s insanely destructive character is epitomised by the nuclear bomb. The global nuclear arsenal that exists today is capable of destroying all life on earth many times over – seriously, more than one time! Who exactly is going to be around to count the second time? We have been conditioned to accept this state of affairs without blinking an eyelid. It is time to get our heads out of the sand and wake up to the reality of the world we have created.

A 23 kiloton nuclear device fired on April 18, 1953 at the Nevada Test Site

 

Let us together understand this subject of nuclear weapons. The atom is the smallest particle of a chemical element that can exist. At the centre of the atom there is a nucleus. A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from the splitting (fission) and/or combining (fusion) of the nucleus of the atoms of Uranium-235 and Plutonium-239 and the resulting chain reaction. All this happens in particles of matter that are not even visible to the naked eye. One can only stand in awe at what humanity is able to do. One also stands horrified at the absolute absence of any moral compass in the humans that think that nuclear weapons are justified.

The destructive power of a nuclear weapon is measured in kilotons or megatons. A one kiloton explosion is an explosion equivalent to 1000 tons of TNT (similar to dynamite). A megaton is the equivalent of 1 million tons of TNT. A nuclear warhead is similar to an atomic bomb except that it has a far greater destructive power.

The destructive power of a nuclear warhead comes as to 50% from the blast, 35% from thermal energy (burning) and 15% from nuclear radiation. A one megaton explosion would kill all life forms in the radius of 1km and 50% of life forms in the radius of 8km on impact, the rest dying soon after of radiation, burns or injuries from building collapse. The bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by America in August 1945 had a combined power of 35 kilotons. These bombs killed around 230,000 Japanese civilians.

Unclassified US government documents tell us that top US officials of the day stated that it was unnecessary to drop these bombs to end the war with Japan for reason that Japan had already proposed terms of surrender via allied countries. Top US military brass are on record as having shown a deep regret (a bit late) at this barbaric act committed by America that killed 230,000 innocent men, women and children. The general consensus is that the bombs were dropped in order to intimidate Russia. This is the world we live in.

If you search online ‘Hiroshima’ ‘Nagasaki’ ‘after atomic bomb’ ‘victims’ ‘images’, you will find many original photos. Warning: these images are not for the faint hearted.

There are 15,000 nuclear warheads (bombs) in the world with a combined destructive power of 6,900 megatons. This is 200,000 times the explosion unleashed on civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As can be seen from the chart about 92% of these are held more or less equally by the Russians and the Americans. Not all the warheads are available to be deployed at a moment’s notice, however a substantial number are. For example the US can, within minutes, deploy 4,000 warheads with 1,900 methods of delivery and having a combined destructive power of 547 megatons – that is 15,600 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs.

For the benefit of us, dispensable lesser mortals, I will explain that bombs are dropped from planes and warheads are attached to missiles and so warheads can be deployed from thousands of km away. This payload of death is delivered to its destination in a variety of ways: Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM); Bombers; Multiple Independent Targetable Re-entry Vehicle (MIRVed); and Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM).

Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea are not members of the 1968 UN Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty

 

The Soviet Union (Russians) carried out a nuclear bomb test in 1961 at Mityushikha Bay north of the Arctic Circle. The bomb had a destructive power of 50 megatons – just to put this in perspective a 100 megaton explosion would crack the tectonic plate of the planet causing massive earthquakes and tsunamis. This blast caused total destruction in a radius of 34 miles. At 100 miles people would have got 3rd degree burns. The temperature of the blast was hotter than the centre of the sun – 100 million degrees Celsius.

If one is not killed by the blast of a nuclear explosion, by collapsing buildings or carbonised on impact, then one is likely to die from exposure to radiation in the following 6 months. Radiation creates blood disorders (such as leukaemia) and malignant tumours and a myriad of complications. Children born to mothers exposed to radiation are likely to have abnormalities. Burns do not heal but form twisted mounds of flesh called keloids. Radioactive dust and ash from the explosion is propelled into the higher atmosphere and this literally falls out of the sky (fallout) over a much larger area contaminating all it touches. A nuclear radiation cloud blocks 90% of sunlight – you can see how one explosion would dramatically affect the climate in the region and multiple explosions would have an effect on the climate the whole world over.

I hope to have well portrayed the hellish destructive power we have created and recklessly play around with. There cannot be any justification for nuclear weapons.

In at least two instances the world was on the verge of a nuclear holocaust averted by the action of two individuals. The first was in 1962 when 2nd submarine captain, Vasili Arkhipov, stopped short the deployment of a 15 kiloton torpedo whilst being bombarded by American depth charges in Cuban waters. The second was in 1983 when Stanislav Petrov, mistaking a US military exercise on the Russian border for an attack, decided not to report it to higher authorities. One defensive or pre-emptive nuclear strike would unleash hell on earth within 4 minutes. There are many other instances when the clock ticked 3 minutes to midnight while we all lived our blissfully ignorant lives.

We have been led to believe that the nuclear deterrent promotes peace, as one strike would provoke a counter strike and as everybody loses, nobody would do it. This logic is both disingenuous and ridiculous. People are not rational. If people were rational we would not have nuclear weapons in the first place. Countries, such as America and North Korea, are simply playing poker with our lives.

Peace is not a game of brinkmanship but a choice born of wisdom and an understanding of life. Worldwide nuclear disarmament is the only answer and all governments, including our own, should urgently promote this cause.

Article published in the Sunday Times of Malta, 27th August 2017