International Day Against Nuclear Tests (August 29) is a call to action for the U.S. Senate. It has some unfinished business. It's time to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
The treaty bans all nuclear test explosions. It's a bridge to nuclear disarmament that we must cross. If we don't, we are not going to make any further progress in this vital component of international peace. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says, "Together, let us demand an end to all nuclear tests and get on with the unfinished business of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons."
The United States simply cannot return to the Cold War days of nuclear tests. We have not carried out any tests since 1992. We need to keep it that way and certify it by approving the CTBT. The alternative is downright scary.
How do you think the American public would react to the announcement of new test explosions? What would they think upon getting the bill? Also, underground nuclear tests can leak radioactive material into the atmosphere. This has happened multiple times in years past.
The international tensions a nuclear test would cause are very dangerous. It would be a trigger for Russia, China and others to do their own tests. It would unravel existing treaties and encourage new states to join the nuclear club.
We really can't go back to the days of nuclear test explosions. The reality of today's world is that nuclear weapons are very expensive and more dangerous than ever. A step-by-step approach toward nuclear disarmament is really in the interest of all nations.
There are simply more important humanitarian and environmental concerns where resources need to go instead of to useless weapons of mass destruction. Hunger and disease threaten entire countries and regions, yet efforts to tackle these emergencies suffer a lack of funding.
Nuclear weapons has yet to solve any of the massive poverty that exists within the states that posses this power. The longer these weapons remain in the world, the more chance too of accidental nuclear launch, which would be catastrophic.
This age of terrorism makes it even more important to get rid of nukes. Any new nuclear programs or spending should be aimed at securing and eliminating the weapons material so it does not fall into the wrong hands.
So there really is a common interest among all nations to ban the bomb. A good place to start right now is getting the nuke test ban up and running.
Eight nations -- the United States, Israel, Iran, China, India, Pakistan, Egypt and North Korea -- have yet to ratify the treaty. The United States, as the world leader, needs to approve the treaty.
It would be the clearest signal that we are rejecting nukes, that we know fully what they are: expensive, wasteful, dangerous and useless. We would then be ready to travel the next, and most difficult, parts of the journey to a world free of nuclear weapons. A former U.S. arms control negotiator, Gerard C. Smith, once wrote:
"In urging others not to acquire this awesome capacity, the United States and Russia may persuasively say that they have found it expensive, dangerous and, ultimately, useless......As one who has witnessed their awesome force firsthand, and who has long thought about their implications for national and international security, I conclude that abolition of nuclear weapons is the only sensible, ultimate policy objective."
That is a peace goal the entire world shares. It can start by closing and locking the door on nuclear testing forever.