Rid world of nuclear tests
by Fern Katz, Southeast Michigan WAND membership chair and WAND Inc. Board member and treasurer
We celebrate the anniversary of our nation's founding and are grateful for the freedom we have. And while we're all out having fun in the sun, a solemn day is almost forgotten.
July 16 marks the 67th anniversary of the first nuclear test explosion in New Mexico, commonly known as “Trinity.” In the years that followed, the United States conducted 1,030 nuclear test explosions — more than any other country in the world. Radioactive fallout from nuclear testing has negatively impacted health all across America and the globe. A National Cancer Institute study showed that every county in the lower 48 states received some amount of fallout from nuclear tests.
With the negative effects that come from nuclear test explosions, how can our nation's leaders think that holding open the option of ever conducting these tests again is a good idea? Aren't they as concerned with the health and well-being of us here in Michigan as I am?
America should renew our commitment to achieve a permanent ban on nuclear weapons testing with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). U.S. ratification of the CTBT will enhance U.S. security by adding an essential tool to current efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. There are three significant ways that this treaty benefits U.S. security.
First, developing a nuclear arsenal under the best of conditions is expensive, time intensive, and technologically difficult. By eliminating the testing option for new or potential nuclear states, the global community throws a nearly insurmountable monkey wrench at their proliferation aspirations.
Second, a test ban would diminish the ability for countries with nuclear weapons, like China for example, to innovate smaller and deadlier nuclear weapons technology.
Third, American ratification of CTBT would support essential global efforts to curb nuclear proliferation. With the most sophisticated nuclear arsenal in the world, the United States is in a unique position to take on a leadership role. That said, pushing others to not test while refusing to commit to a permanent ban ourselves makes American leadership in nonproliferation look hypocritical. Ratification would enhance the U.S. credibility needed to push for greater world cooperation to more effectively isolate and thwart nuclear weapons development in countries like North Korea and Iran.
The CTBT creates an International Monitoring System (IMS) which uses technologies that measure four key areas used to detect nuclear testing — seismic, hydroacoustic, radio nuclide and infra sound. In addition, the United States maintains its own monitoring capabilities. A recent report published by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) found that both the U.S. and international systems have undergone significant advancements over the past decade. As a result, it is nearly impossible for any state to detonate any significant nuclear test explosion without being detected.
Likewise, the United States does not need to conduct explosive tests to maintain its significant arsenal. The NAS report found that, “the United States has the technical capabilities to maintain a safe, secure and reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons into the foreseeable future without nuclear-explosion testing.” It has been 20 years since President George H.W. Bush implemented a moratorium on nuclear testing. We have not conducted an explosive nuclear test since, and our arsenal remains safe, secure, and reliable.
The fact of the matter is that the United States does not plan or need to ever conduct nuclear test explosions to stay safe. We need to do our part to keep other countries from conducting nuclear tests and further developing nuclear arsenals. The CTBT is an essential tool for this security need.
We, as a nation, cannot allow this treaty to be brushed under the rug of Washington politics. We must continue to advocate for a world in which it is no longer acceptable for any country to conduct nuclear test explosions. We cannot wait any longer to ratify the CTBT. I encourage U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow to examine the NAS study and new evidence in support of the CTBT and urge colleagues to move forward Senate approval of this treaty for the safety of us all.
Fern Katz is a resident of Southfield, and the membership chair of Southeast Michigan Women's Action for New Directions. Katz also is a member of the Southfield school board.