I was so excited when I saw on Democracy Now that ten days ago, TWO-THIRDS OF THE United Nations voted to adopt the nuclear weapons ban treaty. 122 of the 192 nations in the UN participated in the vote on July 7, 2017. The Treaty bans development, testing, production, manufacturing, stockpiling, use, or threats to use nuclear weapons according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Nations signing the Treaty also agree that nuclear weapons cannot be stationed or deployed on their land or transported through their territorial waters. The Treaty is legally binding on its signers and will be in force as soon as 50 nations sign it. According to Democracy Now, which reported the historic event last week, signing will begin on September 20, 2017.
Unfortunately the Treaty did not ban the use of small radioactive depleted “dirty” uranium bombs and bunker buster bombs, bullets, cannon ammunition, tank armor, or other DU weapons which have been used only by the U.S. and the U.K. in recent wars. Dirty uranium is discussed in a separate blog, but there is significant evidence for health effects like cancer and birth defects and environmental contamination that justify its future labelling as a “nuclear weapon”. Hopefully dirty uranium weapons can be added to the Treaty ban in the future.
Those supporting the Treaty believe that it will create pressure on nuclear-holding nations by challenging the idea that nuclear weapons are acceptable–just as the Treaties to ban chemical and biological weapons, landmines, and cluster bombs have made those types of weapons internationally despised, notes The New York Times.
The Obama and Trump administrations refused to participate in the early talks about the Treaty, notes Democracy Now. When the talks first began, the Obama administration contacted other NATO nations asking them to boycott the talks according to Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman. It is important to note that nuclear weapons were developed in the U.S. and in the former Soviet Union without the knowledge or consent of the people of either nation, (see my ebook, Conceiving a Peaceful World –There is signifiant discussion of nuclear weapons and power in Chapters 10 and 14).
The only NATO nation who attended the U.N. vote was the Netherlands, which voted against the Treaty. Singapore abstained. The Treaty allows nations to remain in military alliances with nations possessing nuclear weapons as long as it doesn’t involve giving support to nuclear weapons in any way, notes ICAN. The U.S. and Russia are believed to have the most nuclear weapons according to The New York Times. Other nations possessing nuclear weapons are Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea.
There have been more than 700 nuclear close calls and accidents since the 1950s–many of them in the U.S., (see my ebook Conceiving a Peaceful World at www.womenswisdom.tv). These events pose potentially catastrophic and unacceptable levels of risk to the general population.
Another important aspect of the Treaty involves providing services for victims of nuclear tests and weapons. Services include medical care, rehabilitation, psychological services, and inclusivity socially and economically, notes ICAN. The Treaty acknowledges the harm suffered by victims of nuclear weapons use and testing–and the fact that their use has impacted indigenous peoples, women and girls more so than other groups, notes ICAN. Uranium mining occurs mainly on indigenous land–70 percent comes from the lands of indigenous peoples, notes ICAN, adding that “No uranium mine anywhere in the world has been fully cleaned up after mining has finished.” In other words, radioactive materials are left and contaminate areas of these communities. Long-lasting radiation and chemical pollution is created by the large volumes of highly radioactive waste tailings involved in nuclear power and weapons production notes ICAN.
The radioactive materials created from uranium ore are weapons-usable for many militia and they are toxic adds ICAN. Jim Green describes numerous ways that nuclear power plants can supply materials for nuclear weapons production in Wise International.org. –For example, nuclear power plants can produce enriched uranium or plutonium that can be used in nuclear weapons production. One of the reasons nuclear power is “needed” by nuclear weapons nations is that reactors that process uranium for nuclear power can also process uranium for nuclear weapons. I remember in 1992 when I first looked at the U.S. Department of Energy Budget–I was shocked to see nuclear weapons production listed there–until I realized the absolute connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons production! This highlights another reason why nuclear power research and development was funded by the U.S. long before solar and wind–despite the gargantuan expense of building nuclear power plants and the health and safety risks posed by nuclear power plants and nuclear waste.
“Uranium, its radioactive decay products, and other substances released through uranium mining and processing can cause disease in mineworkers, nuclear industry workers and nearby inhabitants,” notes ICAN. There are studies in the U.S., Germany, and France that indicate higher levels of leukemia in children living within 50 km of nuclear power plants because of the radiation they put out into the air, water, and soil around them, notes ICAN. Petra Kelly, the founder of the Green Party in Germany also wrote about these studies in her book, Fighting for Hope, pages 87-92.
According to the nuclear weapons ban Treaty, areas experiencing environmental radioactive contamination from nuclear weapons use and testing must also be cleaned up, notes ICAN. Cleanup of nuclear radiation in the environment is complicated–which has been a significant issue in countries where dirty uranium weapons have been used by the U.S. and U.K. Cleanup is also difficult in nuclear accidents/disasters, testing, and use. Nuclear weapons have devastating effects on the natural environment. Radiation contamination affects not only people but also animals and plant life and can make it unsafe to grow food. Radiation can remain in the environment and contaminate soil, air, and water. The difficulties of nuclear cleanup are discussed in a Frontline article on PBS.org, “How Do You Clean Up After a Nuclear Disaster?”. The article also highlights the significant problem of what to do with radioactive nuclear waste once it is removed.
Nuclear radiation health affects on people can range from immediate death to multiple and rare cancers, to birth defects in newborns, as well as other effects on human health according to Rosalie Bertell, who was a Canadian scientist and Catholic nun. Her book No Immediate Danger? Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth (on Amazon, on Good Reads, on Google), is a good resource for learning about the dangers of nuclear radiation.
Frankly, there are NO safe levels of radiation–as she and others like Dr. John Gofman, Professor Emeritus at the University of California have stated in Truth-Out.org and other sources–discussing the Fukushima fallout. Articles such as one in the Christian Monitor state that Fukushima radiation found in December 2016 in seawater off the U.S. west coast is negligible, but scientists quoted in Truth-Out state that eating fish contaminated with radiation–is very different from radiation in a dental xray (which is the comparison used by the Christian Monitor‘s source). Radiation collects in the body over time, so every exposure increases a person’s risk for cancer. Radioactive Caesium-137 from the Fukushima accident, is now found in Pacific Ocean water off the coast of California and Alaska–and throughout the entire Pacific Ocean, according to Yuichiro Kumamoto, cited in Wikipedia. Radiation spreads more or less evenly throughout the human body, but particularly concentrates in soft tissue (like breasts and prostate). Radioactive particles emit radiation as long as they remain radioactive–which can be a very long time.
Many organizations in the U.S. have been working for decades for nuclear disarmament in the U.S. including the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, (WILPF) whose Call to Action supported the nuclear Treaty’s development. WILPF was a participating member of the Treaty efforts. Georgia WAND, Women’s Actions for New Directions has also worked tirelessly for nuclear disarmament and peace. WAND was started by a physician, Dr. Helen Caldicott, who also founded Physicians for Social Responsibility. She has written numerous books and lectured around the country about the dangers of nuclear weapons and nuclear power.
The Treaty On the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a major step toward universal disarmament of nuclear weapons! Congratulations and THANK YOU to all the organizations, nations, and individuals who have worked for decades and given of their lives to build the consensus that made this Treaty possible!