Abolition 2000 – Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons

by Alice Slater


There have been recent calls by former cold war leaders, Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, Sam Nunn and William Perry, for the US to make new commitments for the elimination of nuclear weapons, as well as promising statements from leading Presidential candidates that the elimination of nuclear weapons is an issue they will address or commit to if elected. This Roadmap is designed to outline how we got to where we are today in the Nuclear Age and what would be required of a new Administration if the US was truly committed to the elimination of nuclear weapons. The Roadmap notes the offers on the table for nuclear disarmament that were spurned over the years by the US and the damaging effects of US plans to dominate and control the military use of space on prospects and possibilities for reaching agreement with Russia and China on nuclear abolition. Finally, the Roadmap addresses the undeniable momentum of nuclear proliferation as we promote so-called “peaceful” nuclear technology around our planet and argues that a genuine commitment to nuclear disarmament would require a world-wide phase out of nuclear power and support for clean, safe, sustainable energy.

Despite the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, nearly 20 years ago, there are still more than 26,000 nuclear weapons on our planet–25,000 of them in the US and Russia–with thousands of bombs in those countries poised at hair trigger alert-ready to fire in minutes–and arsenals numbering in the hundreds in the UK, France, China, and Israel-with something less than that number in India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Global stockpiles have been declining from a peak of 70,000 warheads in 1986, but it was the enactment of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) in 1972 that provided an opening for a series of verified arms control agreements–SALT I, SALT II, START I and START II– that put successively lower caps on the numbers of long-range “strategic” nuclear warheads in the US and Russian arsenals. (The START agreements do not address short-range “tactical” nuclear weapons, such as the estimated 150 to 240 tactical nuclear weapons currently deployed in five NATO states– Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey[i]-or inactive and retired warheads built for weapons systems now withdrawn from operational service.)

The ABM Treaty was enacted to prevent an ever-spiraling nuclear arms race. The two Cold War adversaries agreed that the deployment of a missile shield would only provoke the other side to build more nuclear-armed missiles in order to overcome the shield. The 1993 START II agreement, ratified by Congress in 1996, limited each side to 3,500 long range missiles and was ratified by Russia in April 2000. The Duma delayed its approval because of a series of provocative actions by the US –the expansion of NATO up to the Russian border, the unauthorized bombing of Iraq, the bombing of Yugoslavia without Security Council sanction–each event occurring on the eve of an anticipated Duma vote on the treaty.[ii] At the time Russia ratified START II it also ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which went down to ignominious defeat in the US Senate as our nuclear weapons scientists gave testimony against its passage, despite Clinton’s deal-sweetener to buy their support for an end to underground nuclear explosions with a “stockpile stewardship” program.

This benign sounding “stewardship” program funded our weapons designers with billions of dollars each year from the time full scale underground testing ended, which enabled them to develop new nuclear weapons with computer-simulated virtual reality testing coupled with so-called “sub-critical” nuclear tests in which plutonium is shattered in tunnels 1,000 feet below the desert floor at the Nevada test site, without causing a “critical” chain reaction. We’ve detonated over twenty four of them,[iii] under both Clinton and Bush, and Bush is now proposing to fund the weapons labs at $6.6 billion in 2009 for research, design, testing and nuclear weapons activities, with a total budget of some $54 billion for nuclear weapons.[iv] Bush is also proposing to replace the entire US nuclear arsenal with “reliable replacement warheads”, while planning to build a whole new bombmaking complex, not withstanding the estimated hundreds of billions of dollars that will be needed in our continuous struggle to contain the enormous waste and toxic contamination across America, plaguing our nation since the Manhattan Project began.

Putin announced in 2000, upon the ratification of START II and the CTBT in Russia, that he would like to begin START III talks and reduce the long-range missiles from 3,500 to 1,500 or even 1,000 instead of the original levels contemplated for START III of 2,500 warheads. [v]This forward-looking proposal was accompanied by a stern caveat that all Russian offers would be off the table, including the START II ratification, if the US proceeded with plans to build a National Missile Defense (NMD) in violation of the ABM Treaty. Astoundingly, US diplomatic “talking points” leaked by Russia to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists revealed that the Clinton Administration was urging the Russians that they had nothing to fear from our proposed NMD as long as they kept 2,500 weapons in their arsenal at launch-on-warning, hair-trigger alert. Despite Putin’s offer to cut to 1,500 warheads, or even less, we assured Russia that with 2,500 warheads they would be able to overcome our NMD shield and deliver an “annihilating counterattack.” [vi]

Bush came into office and simply withdrew from the ABM Treaty so that he could pursue US plans “to dominate and control the military use of space, to protect US interests and investments”, as set forth in the US Space Command’s Vision 2020 mission statement and in the Rumsfeld Commission report of 2000.[vii] He negotiated the Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty (SORT) with Putin, in 2002, [viii]but compared to previous U.S.-Russia nuclear reduction treaties it fell far short. The treaty limits deployed strategic warheads to 1,700-2,200, but it has no provisions for verification, no timeline for implementation, and it allows each side to take its weapons out of storage on the first day of 2013. SORT does not call for the elimination of any warheads or delivery vehicles and does not include short-range tactical weapons. It’s a “sort of” treaty. Meanwhile, Putin declared in 2002 that he would not be bound by the START II agreement, because of the US abrogation of the ABM Treaty.[ix]

Bush has offered to engage in negotiations for a treaty to regulate a cut-off in producing nuclear materials for weapons, but he is unwilling to have any verification or monitoring provisions for the treaty, rendering the US proposal worthless. Most egregiously, from 2005 to 2007, at the United Nations, the US has been the only country in the whole world to vote NO on a resolution to ban weapons in space. In 2006, Russia argued that if all states observe a prohibition on space weaponization, there will be no arms race. Russia and China submitted a draft treaty for a space ban, in October, 2007, which the US rejected out of hand, characterizing it as “a diplomatic ploy by the two nations to gain a military advantage.” [x]

There are 187 nations which have signed the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty(NPT) in which a deal was struck that the five nuclear weapons states–the US, Russia, UK, France, and China– would give up their nuclear weapons in return for a promise from the other nations not to acquire them. India refused to agree to this arrangement, arguing that it was discriminatory and that the better course would be to negotiate for all nations to abolish nuclear weapons. Pakistan and Israel, following India’s lead, also refused to sign. North Korea has since withdrawn. The NPT required that there be a review and extension conference, 25 years later, and in 1995 the five nuclear powers, who had promised to give up their weapons, pressured the rest of the world to extend the NPT indefinitely. To secure the indefinite extension, the nuclear weapons states pledged in 1995 to work for the “ultimate” elimination of nuclear weapons, to negotiate a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) for weapons purposes, a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, and to have a “strengthened” review process every five years, with interim meetings to prepare for the five year reviews.

In 1996, in an unprecedented break with the rules of consensus at the Commission on Disarmament in Geneva, the CTBT was brought to the UN General Assembly for signatures over India’s objections that there was no provision in the treaty to preclude the continued computer-simulated virtual reality testing of nuclear weapons or ban underground “sub-critical” tests.[xi] Thus it wasn’t comprehensive and it didn’t ban tests. And less than two years after the CTBT was signed, India went overtly nuclear, arguing that it didn’t want to be left behind while the current nuclear powers reserved the right to use advanced technology to develop new weapons without full scale underground tests. Pakistan followed swiftly on India’s heels to join the nuclear club.

In 1996 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) granted a request from the General Assembly to issue an Advisory Opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. The fourteen judges voted unanimously that under the NPT there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”

In May 2000 the NPT had its first five year review after the 1995 extension conference. The New Agenda Coalition (NAC), formed in 1998, with eight nations– Ireland, South Africa, Mexico, Sweden, Brazil, New Zealand, and Egypt (Slovenia, eager to join NATO, dropped out under US pressure)–had begun lobbying other nations to press the nuclear powers for more progress on disarmament in UN meetings. Together with civil society, particularly the Abolition 2000 Network, which had produced a Model Nuclear Weapons Convention, introduced into the General Assembly by Costa Rica,[xii] the NAC had a major impact on the NPT Review as the nuclear weapons states committed to “an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.”

The final statement of the NPT Review further asserts that “the total elimination of nuclear weapons is the only absolute guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.” Additional pledges were made for practical steps to demonstrate compliance with the NPT including:

· Further unilateral disarmament

· Increased transparency by the Nuclear Weapons States of their arsenals

· Further reduction of non-strategic nuclear weapons (those with a shorter range)

· Concrete measures to further reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons systems

· A diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies (providing a basis for challenging the nuclear doctrines of the nuclear weapon states and NATO which continue to promote reliance on nuclear weapons as the “cornerstone” of their security.)

· The engagement as soon as appropriate of all the nuclear-weapons states in the process leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

. The early entry into force and full implementation of START II and the conclusion of START III while preserving and strengthening the ABM Treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability.

These new NPT commitments were made by Clinton on May 19, 2000 as the weapons labs continued to perform sub-critical tests at Nevada, lobby for a new earth-penetrating bunker- busting nuclear weapon and more “usable” nuclear weapons, and as Star Wars proceeded in full swing with Administration lawyers making frivolous arguments about the meaning of the restrictions in the ABM treaty, which Clinton appeared to be violating.[xiii] At the close of the NPT, both Russia and China took exception to the final document without actually blocking consensus, warning that if the ABM treaty were to be abrogated, the promises made could not be fulfilled. China said none of the steps above would succeed unless a treaty to maintain space for peaceful uses was phased in simultaneously.

The 2005 Review of the NPT was a disaster as the Bush Administration haggled over the agenda for two weeks of the four week meeting, objecting to any mention of the promises made by the United States at the 2000 NPT review for “an unequivocal commitment to the total elimination of nuclear weapons”, and the other incremental steps including maintaining the ABM Treaty and ratifying the CTBT. The meeting broke up without any agreement on new steps for nuclear disarmament, while at the time a brutal war was being waged on Iraq based on the false assertions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and threatened the world with a “mushroom cloud”, and a new drumbeat of hostilities was sounded against Iran and North Korea over the issue of nuclear proliferation.


One of the ironies of the NPT is that to secure the promise of the non-nuclear weapons states not to acquire nuclear weapons, the nuclear weapons states promised them an “inalienable right” to the “peaceful uses” of nuclear technology, enabling the very nuclear weapons proliferation the treaty is designed to prevent. The drafters of the CTBT were well aware that by having a nuclear reactor, a nation had been given the keys to a bomb factory when they required the signatures of 44 “nuclear-capable” nations to be included in any effort to ban nuclear tests, regardless of whether they proclaimed any intention to develop weapons.[xiv] And former U.S. CIA Director, George Tenet, said, “The difference between producing low-enriched uranium and weapons-capable high-enriched uranium is only a matter of time and intent, not technology.”[xv]

There are now 440 “peaceful” reactors in 31 countries[xvi]—all producing deadly bomb materials with 272 research reactors in 56 countries, some producing highly enriched uranium.[xvii] There are about 270,000 tons of irradiated fuel containing plutonium and other radioactive elements in storage, much of it at reactor sites. The waste is currently increasing by about 12,000 tons each year.[xviii] There are 500 tons of weapons usable plutonium already separated out of reactor waste and 1,000 tons of highly enriched uranium making about 1.5 million kilograms of weapons usable fissile materials. It takes only 5 kilograms of plutonium or 17 kilograms of highly enriched uranium to make one nuclear bomb.[xix] The Bush Administration is planning to build 50 more reactors by 2020[xx]; there are now 34 new nuclear reactors under construction in 11 countries[xxi]—to churn out more irradiated waste; on tap for bomb-making, with no known solution to safely containing the tons of nuclear waste that will be generated over the unimaginable 240,000 years it will continue to threaten life on earth. [xxii] New projects are underway to mine uranium on every continent, mostly on indigenous lands, where first peoples have suffered inordinately from radiation poisoning.

Yet countless studies report higher incidences of birth defects, cancer, and genetic mutations in every situation where nuclear technology is employed—whether for war or for “peace.” A National Research Council (NRC) 2005 study reported that exposure to X-rays and gamma rays, even at low-dose levels, can cause cancer. The committee defined “low-dose” as a range from near zero up to about ten times that from a CT scan. “There appears to be no threshold below which exposure can be viewed as harmless,” said NRC panelist, Herbert Abrams, professor emeritus of radiology at Stanford and Harvard universities.[xxiii] Tens of thousands of tons of nuclear waste accumulate at civilian reactors with no solution for its storage, releasing toxic doses of radioactive waste into our air, water and soil and contaminating our planet and its inhabitants for hundreds of thousands of years.

The industry-dominated International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been instrumental in covering up the disastrous health effects of the Chernobyl tragedy, understating the number of deaths by attributing only 56 deaths directly to the accident as of 2004.[xxiv] This was a whitewash of health studies performed by Russia and the Ukraine, which estimated thousands of deaths and tens of thousands who suffered thyroid cancer and leukemia as a result of the accident. [xxv] This cover-up was no doubt due to the collusive agreement between the IAEA and the World Health Organization (WHO), which under its terms provides that if either of the organizations initiates any program or activity in which the other has or may have a substantial interest, the first party shall consult with the other with a view to adjusting the matter by mutual agreement.[xxvi] Thus, our scientists and researchers at the WHO are required to have their work vetted by the industry’s champion for “peaceful” nuclear technology, the IAEA. For example, WHO abandoned its 1961 research agenda on human health effects of food irradiation, ceding to the IAEA responsibility for researching its safety. The IAEA is leading a global campaign to further the legalization, and consumer acceptance of irradiated foods. “We must confer with experts in the various fields of advertising and psychology to put the public at ease,” one IAEA report states, also recommending that the process “should not be required on the label.” [xxvii]Yet, the NRC study, stating that there is no safe dose of radiation, clearly justified the public’s rational fear of radiation. Today, in the face of catastrophic climate change, we now see the nuclear industry devoting its resources to public relations campaigns perpetuating the myth that the toxic technology is “clean” and “safe”.[xxviii]


IAEA Director, Mohammed El Baradei has stated:

We just cannot continue business as usual that every country can build its own factories for separating plutonium or enriching uranium. Then we are really talking about 30, 40 countries sitting on the fence with a nuclear weapons capability that could be converted into a nuclear weapon in a matter of months.[xxix]

The current flurry of negotiations and the move to try to control the production of the civilian nuclear fuel cycle in one central place, as proposed by El Baradei, would be futile. It would create just another discriminatory aspect of the NPT, with a new class of “haves” and “have-nots” under the treaty, as was done with those permitted to have nuclear weapons and those who are not. Now it is proposed that some nations be permitted to make their own nuclear fuel, while others, such as Iran, would be precluded from doing so. And in the wake of the stern warnings to Iran, and the referral of the issue to the Security Council, which has provoked Iran to begin reprocessing of nuclear fuel under its “inalienable” right, the U.S. has incomprehensibly announced its Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). GNEP is designed to control the spread of nuclear materials in which “supplier” nations would manufacture nuclear fuel rods, ship it to other countries– by rail, road and sea– to use in their reactors and then take back the irradiated fuel and reprocess it, breaking a 30-year ban in the U.S. on turning irradiated reactor fuel into weapons-grade material, first instituted by Presidents Carter and Ford.[xxx] Brazil too, recently got into the action, firing up its own major uranium enrichment plant while we were warning Iran that such action would be viewed as hostile. And six new Arab nations—Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates—have announced their intention to develop “peaceful” nuclear technology, in what appears to be an attempt to acquire civilian nuclear technology before the dominant industrial nations succeed in putting the nuclear fuel cycle and access to materials under their exclusive control.

Trying to control the reprocessing and distribution of nuclear fuels, would be going down the same path we’ve been on for the last 50 some-odd years for nuclear arms control. There is no more likelihood that France, Japan, or the U.S., for example, will surrender control of nuclear materials production, any more than the nuclear powers have surrendered control of atom bombs. We would have a long drawn-out contentious effort to establish a discriminatory regime—when, instead, we could we be expending our energy and intellectual treasure on shifting the energy paradigm to make nuclear, fossil, and industrial biofuels obsolete.

It is time for the IAEA to give up its dual mission in nuclear technology. While the Agency plays an indispensable role in inspecting and verifying compliance with nuclear disarmament agreements, it should not continue to act with a manifest conflict of interest in promoting the commercial interests of the nuclear industry.


In June 2008, 69 Members of the European Parliament from 19 countries signed a call to negotiate a nuclear weapons convention based on the draft Abolition 2000 Model Nuclear Weapons Convention[xxxi] submitted to the UN, now updated and being promoted by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) spearheaded by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. The US Conference of Mayors, responding to a call from the Mayors for Peace, led by the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, endorsed a call for negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention this June. Congresswoman Lynne Woolsey’s House Resolution 68 calls on the US to enter into negotiations to abolish nuclear weapons.

Germany has convened a series of meetings this year with 60 nations to launch in November, an initiative for an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). See www.irena.org Just as the Comprehensive Test Ban has rendered inoperative Article V of the NPT, which provided a right to “peaceful” nuclear explosions, the establishment of IRENA would supercede Article IV and the “inalienable right” to “peaceful” nuclear technology, providing a benign, non-proliferating substitute of safe, clean, abundant, energy that will help turn the world from strife and resource wars.

Public opinion supports nuclear disarmament. A 2007 poll, jointly conducted by the University of Maryland and Russia’s Levada Center, shows large majorities in both Russia and America in

favor of eliminating nuclear weapons. [xxxii] The current crisis over Iran’s intentions to exercise its legal “inalienable right” to “peaceful” nuclear technology presents an opportunity for new American leadership to negotiate an end to the nuclear age.


Take the Russians up on their offer to cut our arsenals to 1000 warheads and then take China up on its offer calling all the other nuclear weapons states (UK, France, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea) to the table to negotiate a treaty for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

· De-alert all nuclear weapons.

· Commit to never be the first to use a nuclear weapon.

  • Cut all funding for new nuclear weapons research and substitute a passive custodial program for maintenance of the arsenal during dismantlement.
  • Stop all research, design and development of nuclear weapons by any means.
  • Close the Nevada test site just as France and China have closed theirs in the South Pacific and Gobi Desert.
  • Bring all US nuclear warheads back from Europe and abandon NATO policy to rely on nuclear weapons for its security.
  • Take up Russia and China’s offer for negotiations to maintain the peaceful use of space for all time.
  • Stop any further nuclearization and militarization of space.
  • Support negotiations for a missile ban treaty.
  • Institute a moratorium on uranium mining.
  • Call for a global phase out of nuclear power and join Germany’s initiative to fund and establish the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to promote the use of clean, safe energy.
  • Support global efforts for the reallocation of world-wide subsidies of $250 billion to nuclear, fossil and industrial biomass fuels for clean, safe, sustainable solar, wind, geothermal and marine energy; and work for the reallocation of $40 billion of US subsidies and taxbreaks now supporting unsustainable energy resources to be applied to clean, safe energy.
  • Reallocate the resources saved to redress the environmental devastation and human suffering caused by nuclear mining, milling, production and testing, which have been disproportionately borne by the world’s indigenous peoples.
  • Provide adequate resources to address the toxic legacy of the nuclear age.

Alice Slater

Abolition 2000, NY

446 E. 86 St.

New York, NY 10028