Eliminate Nuclear Weapons

From the Foundation's 1998 Annual Report

Nuclear weapons are much more difficult to eradicate than to create. Recognizing this, the Foundation has pursued a step-by-step strategy for eliminating the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. The ultimate objective is the elimination of all nuclear weapons, but in the meantime progress can be achieved halting their development, production, and testing; preventing proliferation; preventing the use of nuclear weapons; and safely dismantling existing arsenals.

In 1998 developments in India, Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea indicated that development, production, and testing of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems continues. China also continues to modernize and perhaps expand its nuclear arsenal. In 1998, the U.S., under its nuclear weapon "stockpile stewardship" program, spent more money on nuclear weapons research, development, testing and engineering than was spent annually during the Cold War. The U.S. also announced plans to use civilian nuclear reactors to replenish tritium supplies for weapons, breaking a decades-old wall between the civilian and military programs. This plan - which is intended to save money - will make it harder for the U.S. government to insist that other nations not divert civilian reactors to military purposes. Were the U.S. to abandon the "requirement" to maintain an arsenal of 7,000 long-range nuclear weapons, and instead accommodate Russian calls for lowering strategic forces to roughly 1,000 weapons by the year 2007, no new tritium would be needed for several decades.

1998 also brought indicators of problems in the nonproliferation regime. The practical collapse of the UNSCOM inspection regime in Iraq showed, among other things, the fragility of working relationships between the regime's enforcers, principally Russia, China, France, the U.S. and the U.K. Meanwhile, a meeting of Non-Proliferation Treaty parties in 1998 failed to reach any consensus on mechanisms to strengthen the treaty, in large part due to tensions over the pace of nuclear disarmament.

While the actual use of nuclear weapons might seem a remote possibility, the defense doctrines of nuclear weapons states continue to assume the opposite. The NATO alliance refuses to abandon the doctrine of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, despite overtures by Germany and Canada in late 1998 to change this policy. Meanwhile, Russia's nuclear command and control infrastructure continues to fray, increasing risks of the accidental use of nuclear weapons. The Foundation therefore supports efforts to change the "first-use" paradigm and strengthen measures that reduce the possibility that nuclear weapons will be used.

The Foundation will continue to support efforts to clarify and promulgate the technical, political, strategic, economic and moral challenges to achieving these objectives in as short a time as possible.

Link to Secure World Grants


Return to Earth & W. Alton Jones Foundation