Despite international calls for the total annihilation of nuclear arms worldwide, nuclear-armed states are spending huge amounts of money to modernize their deadly arsenals.
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Narration:The deadliest weapons of mass destruction; nuclear arms are posing an existential threat to humankind. Atomic weapons were designed not to discriminate, just obliterate whatever there is in a massive area such as a large city. They have been made and stockpiled around the world, but despite calls for their annihilation; there are still thousands of warheads ready to be used. Every day that goes by without an atomic blast is a lucky day for all of us. The international community experienced the horrors of nuclear attacks decades ago, however as it seems, the world has not truly learnt a lesson from the massive loss of lives in nuclear attacks.
The final stages of world war two in 1945. US Air Force preparing to drop the 4-thousand kilogram uranium bomb codenamed “little boy” on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. And the morning of August 6th that year turned into a time of tragedy the world will never forget. When the bomb was dropped on the city, 70-thousand people were immediately incinerated. Another 70-thousand died of injuries and radiation exposure in the following years.
SOUNDBITE [English] Jackie Cabasso, Anti-Nukes Campaigner:“All of a sudden, the city exploded and disappeared. It was flattened. There were piles of corpses everywhere and people who were surviving were walking like this, with their skin hanging down their arms, their eyeballs falling out.”
Narration: The U-S dropped a second atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki just a few days later, right at a time when news of the first catastrophe were surfacing. That second attack took the lives of 70-thousand more people.
SOUNDBITE [English] Jackie Cabasso, Anti-Nukes Campaigner:“So what were the real reasons behind the bombings? Well the bombings might be considered the opening shot in the cold war. It was the U.S. signaling the Soviet Union that it had this terrible new weapon and don't mess with us.”
Narration: Seven decades on, the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China, which are the permanent members of the UN Security Council all possess numerous nuclear arsenals. These five countries are recognized as nuclear weapon states under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons or NPT. The United States and Russia have over 90 percent of all nukes worldwide with over 14-thousand warheads. America which is the only country to have used nukes against another nation in history still has the biggest number of deployed warheads with 1920 bombs ready to be used. India, Pakistan and North Korea also possess nuclear weapons but have not joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel which developed nuclear weapons in the 1960’s with Western assistance is the only possessor of nukes in the Middle East.
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is an international treaty which came into force in 1970. Almost all UN member states including the five nuclear weapon states have joined the treaty. The document has three main objectives which are preventing the spread of atomic arms, promoting peaceful uses of atomic energy, and total nuclear disarmament. The NPT has had some degrees of success in limiting nuclear proliferation but some of its most important objectives remain unfulfilled.
This is Los Alamos National Laboratory in the U-S state of New Mexico. Nuclear weapons scientists and researchers are busy designing new bombs and working on ways to improve existing atomic warheads. Such activities have been on the rise in the United States because former President Barack Obama authorized a nuclear modernization program in the 2016 federal budget. During a major speech in Prague in 2009, Obama had promised that his administration would work toward a world without nuclear weapons.
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SOUNDBITE [English] Barack Obama, Former U.S. President:“First the United States will take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons. To put an end to cold war thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same”
Narration: But years later, Obama’s go ahead to the modernization program paved the way for a planned one TRILLION dollar overhaul of America’s giant nuclear arsenal over the next three decades. The costly program is aimed at modernizing warheads and nuclear weapons delivery systems including missiles, strategic bombers, submarines and targeting systems as well as research and development. U-S President Donald Trump has said he wants the American arsenal to be expanded and be top of the pack.
SOUNDBITE [English] Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary: “What he was very clear on is that the United States will not yield its supremacy in this area to anybody, that's what he made very clear in there.”
Narration: Trump has also criticized the New Start Treaty that limits the number of deployed U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads. The massive U-S modernization plans are seen as a clear violation of the NPT which requires the nuclear weapons states to move toward complete disarmament.
The United States is not the only nuclear power seeking to upgrade its deadly arsenal. It’s close ally Britain is renewing its Trident nuclear weapons system. Trident which became operational in the 1990s has three components- submarines, missiles and warheads. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament warns that the total cost of replacing Trident will go up to over 256 billion dollars. This is five times more than governments estimates.
SOUNDBITE [English] Ruth Cadbury, British MP: “Renewing Trident will be enormously expensive, biggest take on public expenditure for a single decision this country has faced for many many years. An also it won't make Britain any safer”
Narration: Other countries that possess nuclear weapons including Russia and China have their own modernization programs on the agenda and seem absolutely unwilling to give up their nukes. That’s perhaps because they feel threatened by America which has used atomic arms against another nation and keeps spending hefty amounts of money to boost its nuclear forces.
Israel is estimated to have between 80 to more than three hundred nuclear warheads. Estimates by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute put the figure at eighty. But accounts by former U.S president Jimmy Carter and former secretary of State Collin Powel point to the higher numbers. Israel developed its arsenal with Western assistance and has defied calls to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and open up to international inspections. Efforts at the United Nations to make the Middle East a nuclear-weapons free zone have been blocked by the United States because the idea of any such zone would put Israel under the microscope. Israel’s nuclear case has come to be known as an outstanding example of the West’s nuclear double standards and hypocrisy.
SOUNDBITE [English] Noam Chomsky, Foreign Political Critic: “Every time the U.S. blocks it. Most recently in 2015, under Obama, the U.S. simply blocked the steps towards moving towards establishing this. That's extremely significant. For one thing it threatens the non-proliferation treaty. The commitment of the Arab states to the NPT is conditioned on explicitly, on moves to establish a WMD free zone in the region. And this is kind of striking that, the U.S.... and of course the reason the U.S. blocks it is totally obvious. It's to protect Israel's nuclear weapons system from inspection.”
Narration:Israel’s nukes pose a grave risk to international security given the regime’s hostile policies in the region and its repeated wars on regional countries.
In recent decades calls have been growing on governments to take meaningful steps toward nuclear disarmament. Anti –nuclear arms campaign groups have been growing in number and popularity across the world. Campaign groups that push for the total elimination of atomic arms say no other nation should ever again suffer a nuclear attack. But, sadly, with the current trend in the proliferation and modernization of nuclear weapons, a total disarmament seems to be a far-fetched wish, at least for now.”