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Globally, about 9,000 nuclear weapons, spread over nine nations, lie in wait, tucked in silos in the rural expanses of the USA and Russia, on submarines hidden deep in the ocean, and held at the ready on Air Force bases. Of these, about 2,000 weapons are on constant alert status, capable of launching within minutes when the order comes. Using just a small fraction of these nuclear weapons could raze cities, kill millions, and launch a global famine.
We, the physics community, helped create these weapons 75 years ago and quickly became a voice for caution and restraint in their use. Today, this history positions us uniquely to return the nation’s gaze to the immense threat of nuclear weapons, and to provide a guide for how we can remedy it.
Recent actions by nations that possess nuclear weapons have heightened our risk of nuclear catastrophe. The withdrawal from arms control treaties, new threats to nuclear weapons by cyber-attack, the increasingly complex web of relations and hostilities between nuclear weapons states, and the massive modernization of nuclear forces in the US and Russia, as well as China, are igniting a deadly new arms race. Together, we can reverse this trend.
There are numerous practical steps to reduce the nuclear threat. We can advocate for the importance of international nuclear weapons treaties, beginning with extending New START for another five years. We can teach how the Launch-On-Warning option risks accidental nuclear war. We can defend the expert consensus that the US should not and need not resume explosive nuclear testing. Finally, we can urge our country to commit to a No-First-Use policy, and more.
Join the Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction to learn more about the modern threat of nuclear weapons, to advocate for common-sense threat reduction policies, and to share your perspective with the public and our government.