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Hiroshima Day August 6, 2022

Hiroshima Day August 6, 2022

At this moment we are struggling with many critical issues, from war in Ukraine to Climate Change to inflation and growing gun violence.

But lurking far out of the publics attention is a danger so vast and inconceivable that most people just block it from entering their minds:

The increasing danger - accidentally or intentionally- of unleashing the inconceivable destructive force of nuclear weaponry.

President Putin of Russia has pushed the horrific use of ‘tactical nuclear weapons’ onto the immediate world agenda as his armed forces suffer unexpected and devastating losses in Ukraine.

So as August 6 approaches, a brief review of the Nuclear Threat is most needed.

It was seventy seven years ago on August 6, 1945, that the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later another device was detonated over Nagasaki, historically the most Christian of Japanese cities. It is not my purpose here to discuss the morality or necessity of these events. Between 120,000 and 220,000 people were killed, over half in the first few minutes, and the vast majority were non-combatant civilians.

The Hiroshima bomb had the explosive equivalent of 15,000 tons (15 kilotons) of TNT, or 30 MILLION pounds of explosive. Today it is consider a rather small weapon by the nuclear community’.

At one time the US had 23,317 nuclear weapons, and the Soviets had over 40,000. There have been a number of well documented near misses-- false alarms and near catastrophes, which in general the American public was blissfully unaware of. The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty II signed by Presidents Carter and Brezhnev, in spite of great controversy and accusations of cheating by both sides, led to the reduction of nukes down to the present levels of about 1500 active weapons in arsenals limited to about 6000 total weapons on each side. Every American city and military establishment is still multi-targeted for compete obliteration, as are those of the other side’s.

Enough to end ALL civilization as we know it.

Unfortunately, during the Trump administration, the US cancelled the Intermediate Nuclear Force (INF) Treaty with the Russians, which through the Carter and Reagan years up to 2018 kept the nuclear arms race in Europe somewhat under control.

The US also walked away from the Iran Nuclear treaty, so we really dont know to what extent the Iranians have restarted their program., but they apparently have. The former President also had a now forgotten photogenic love affair with the North Korean dictator who as of this writing is testing new long range missiles but has not given up one ounce of nuclear material (unlike the 24,000 pounds of enriched uranium given up by IRAN under the now abandoned treaty).

The 2010 New Start Treaty- the only remaining tool to verify the Russian nuclear arsenal and maintain consistent communication on nuclear issues, was due to expire in February 2021.Fortunately the Biden administration has agreed to extend this treaty with Russian agreement until 2026.

Current plans are to expand the US nuclear arsenal at a potential cost of 2 TRILLION dollars over the next decade. Russia and China will take note, as will Turkey, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Iran .

If with foolish and shortsighted leadership the US expands its nuclear capabilities, there will be little or no incentive for other countries not to do the same thing. They may do it anyway.

The authoritative Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, has come to the conclusion that both the US and the Russians violated the INF treaty, which did however greatly reduce the danger of a nuclear catastrophe in Europe. The Bulletin calls for the urgent renegotiation and restoration of provisions of this treaty. For an in-depth analysis of the current Nuclear threat see:

Nuclear war is unimaginable, yet it is not inconceivable. Arrogance, ignorance and impulsiveness could cause the world to stumble into a catastrophe that would, like the spiraling of events that led to World War I, accelerate out of control. This holds especially true in the era when leadership may have less than 30 minutes to decide if the incoming radar picture is a misplaced socket wrench, a flock of geese (both did happen!) or Russian/Chinese/N Korean missiles.

The memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should give us pause to reflect. Our leaders must bring wisdom, patience and determination to the negotiating table, and educate the public in the complexities of issues that may decide the fate of all of us and our children.

Stephen Wall MD

Dr.Wall joined Physicians for Social Responsibility in 1975 and was an active participant in its educational activities in Texas and Michigan. The 23,000 member PSR shared the Nobel Peace prize in 1985 with International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Dr. Walls opinion are his own and not necessarily those of PSR.

Mission Statement

PREVENTING WHAT WE CANNOT CURE: Physicians for Social Responsibility is the medical and public health voice working to prevent the use or spread of nuclear weapons and to slow, stop and reverse global warming and the toxic degradation of the environment.