September 26 is International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, a day designated by the United Nations to draw attention to one of its oldest goals: achieving global nuclear disarmament. Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) honors the occasion by calling once again for the total abolition of nuclear weapons. We are committed to working for a nuclear-free world, and we are proud to join our partners and allies in envisioning a better, safer future.
We’re not in this fight alone. In fact, a few champions in Congress have recently taken critical steps to prevent the outbreak of nuclear war. On September 18, Representatives Ted Lieu, Adam Smith, John Garamendi, Earl Blumenauer, and Senator Ed Markey introduced a bill called the Hold the LYNE—or Low-Yield Nuclear Explosive—Act. This legislation would “prohibit the research, development, production and deployment of a low-yield nuclear warheads for submarine-launched ballistic missiles.” So-called “low-yield” nuclear weapons actually lower the threshold for nuclear war and increase the risk that they may actually be used.
“There’s no such thing as a low-yield nuclear war,” said Rep. Lieu in the joint press release announcing the bill. “Use of any nuclear weapon, regardless of its killing power, could be catastrophically destabilizing. It opens the door for severe miscalculation and could drag the U.S. and our allies into a devastating nuclear conflict. That’s why Reps. Smith, Garamendi and Blumenauer, and Sen. Markey in the Senate, introduced the Hold the LYNE Act, to ensure we won’t lower our standards for launching a nuclear weapon.”
We have come very close to nuclear war in the past. On September 26, 1983, Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov made a split-second decision and deemed a supposed missile attack from the United States to be an error, refusing to carry out an order to counter-attack and thus averting a potential nuclear war. If Petrov hadn’t made that personal judgment, we might not even be here to advocate for a world free of nuclear weapons.
We must prevent what we cannot cure. We know that there is no truly adequate health or emergency response to a nuclear attack. We know the deadly consequences that will result--from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Chernobyl to Three Mile Island to Fukushima, we've seen enough disasters due to bombs, nuclear weapons and nuclear power to know that we cannot afford any more.
14,500 nuclear weapons remain. That’s enough to completely destroy the earth tens of thousands of times over. Future generations should not have to worry about the threat of a nuclear attack. We fight for a nuclear ban so future generations won't have to, so that their future isn't clouded by the looming danger of nuclear war.
Already, dozens of nations have taken critical steps to secure a nuclear free future. Over a year ago, the historic United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons officially opened for signature at the UN Headquarters in New York, after over 120 nations voted to approve the treaty. At the time, Elayne Whyte Gomez, the president of the UN conference to negotiate the treaty, said, “We have managed to sow the first seeds of a world free of nuclear weapons. We (are) ... saying to our children that, yes, it is possible to inherit a world free from nuclear weapons.”
That is a future worth fighting for. We call on all nations to sign or ratify the treaty and take a bold step toward a nuclear free world.
September 26 is International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Let’s make this the year when we finally abolish nuclear weapons for good.