Nuclear Weapons

Japan, US to issue statement on nuclear weapons free world

Update: The White House has the full joint statement available at this link.

President Obama has touched down in Japan. While some groups have been calling for Obama to become the first American President to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki — the only two cities to be attacked using nuclear weapons — there are reports that instead President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will issue a joint statement sometime today calling for a nuclear weapons free world. According to one report:

In the statement, tentatively entitled the US-Japan joint initiative for a nuclear-free world, they would welcome rising international momentum toward arms reduction and non-proliferation, the Yomiuri said Thursday.

In their joint effort, the United States would seek to raise the global momentum, while Japan would push the message from its perspective as the only country to have been hit with atomic bombs.

The statement would be based on the UN resolution adopted in September at a Security Council summit hosted by Obama, Jiji Press said.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is working furiously to negotiate a replacement treaty with Russia, as the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) is set to expire on December 5th. The new treaty is expected to modestly reduce both countries’ strategic nuclear weapons and is a good first step forward in showing renewed commitment to eliminating the risk posed by the more than 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world today. Once a new treaty is signed, it will have to be introduced for ratification by the Senate.

Additionally, there is growing momentum for US ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to ban all nuclear weapons test explosions as part of a comprehensive agenda to reduce the threat posed by nuclear weapons. By preventing states from testing nuclear weapons, the treaty helps stop new nuclear weapons states from emerging. It also prevents newer and deadlier weapons from being tested, helping to keep arms races from spiralling out of control.

At home in the US, the effects of nuclear weapons testing in Nevada are explored in an excellent article in the Los Angeles Times by Ralph Vartabedian. Underground nuclear weapons testing at the Nevada Test Site “polluted 1.6 trillion gallons of water. That is as much water as Nevada is allowed to withdraw from the Colorado River in 16 years — enough to fill a lake 300 miles long, a mile wide and 25 feet deep.” You can read the whole article at the link, but here’s another interesting excerpt:

Over 41 years, the federal government detonated 921 nuclear warheads underground at the Nevada Test Site, 75 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Each explosion deposited a toxic load of radioactivity into the ground and, in some cases, directly into aquifers.

When testing ended in 1992, the Energy Department estimated that more than 300 million curies of radiation had been left behind, making the site one of the most radioactively contaminated places in the nation.

During the era of weapons testing, Nevada embraced its role almost like a patriotic duty. There seemed to be no better use for an empty desert. But today, as Nevada faces a water crisis and a population boom, state officials are taking a new measure of the damage.