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It is Time to Face Nuclear Dangers

Guest Columnist  
Asheville Citizen-Times 

It is Time to Face Nuclear Dangers

By Terrence Clark, MD

Recent stories of exam cheating and drug use among Air Force launch officers have exposed the dangers of America’s nuclear weapons enterprise. Reports from other nuclear armed countries make it clear that their arsenals are no more secure or better managed than our own. And so we find ourselves peering, once again, into the nuclear madness.

Yes, two decades after the end of the Cold War, nuclear bombs are still with us.  Nine countries possess 17,000 operational bombs, 95% of them in the US and Russia.  Though there is plenty of concern about the American stories, even more worrisome is the possibility of a nuclear war elsewhere in the world. The USA and Russia are unlikely to unleash their whole arsenals on each other, but what if Pakistan and India used 100 nuclear weapons against each other? Millions of people would perish immediately, according to a recent Physician’s for Social Responsibility (PSR) report, “Nuclear Famine: 2 Billion People at Risk”.  The report noted the probable agricultural consequences, and concluded that the soot produced would reduce crop production worldwide, including America’s breadbasket. The resulting "nuclear famine" could last a decade and put up to 2 billion people at risk of starvation.  This would be the result from only a half percent of the world’s nuclear arsenals.

We are at risk of a disaster beyond comprehension. We must wake up and act to prevent the use of nuclear weapons.

Recognizing this urgency, 129 nations met in Oslo, Norway in March, 2013 for the first Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear War conference.  In October, 125 nations issued a statement at the UN calling for the elimination of all nuclear weapons. And in November, the International Red Cross committed itself to a four-year plan of action to abolish nuclear weapons.
Ronald Reagan and every president since called for a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons. It is time for concrete actions that President Obama can promptly take:

Remove Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles from high alert which would decrease risk of accidental firing.

Provide leadership at the second Humanitarian Impacts conference February 14&15 in Mexico. The United States was unrepresented at the first conference. We must not abdicate responsibility.

Dramatically reduce spending requests for new missiles, bombers and submarines in next year’s budget.

Seek an agreement with Russia for reductions in nuclear weapons beyond the New START agreement.

Propose a UN Security Council resolution banning nuclear weapon tests worldwide.

Declare a “no first strike” policy.

We know what nuclear weapons can do. It is time to act.  

Terrence Clark, MD is a psychiatrist. He is the chairperson of The Western North Carolina Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The new PSR Report “Nuclear Famine: 2 Billion People at Risk?” is available as a pdf from

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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.