According to breaking reports,* the Trump administration may end the moratorium on nuclear weapons tests and begin exploding nuclear bombs — for the first time in decades.
This is a dangerous, reckless action. If the U.S. resumes nuclear testing, we can be certain that other nuclear-armed nations like Russia, China, India, and Pakistan will follow in their footsteps. With multiple authoritarian leaders competing for advantage, dangerous new weapons systems ready for development, and risks of nuclear conflict (intentional or otherwise) at an all-time high, it would be an explosive start to a global nuclear arms race. The darkest days of the Cold War will look quaint by comparison.
The good news is Trump can't resume nuclear testing on his own. Testing these weapons takes money, and the U.S. Congress would need to authorize this spending. They can starve the administration of the funds they need or prohibit nuclear testing altogether.
TELL CONGRESS: NO NUCLEAR TESTING. NOT HERE, NOT ANYWHERE.
Why no new nuclear tests? Here are 5 reasons that resuming nuclear testing is dangerous and wrong:
(1) The widespread nuclear tests of the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s — underground, underwater, and in the atmosphere — took a staggering humanitarian and environmental toll all over the world. Minorities, Indigenous communities, military personnel, and vulnerable workers suffered especially at the hands of leaders all too eager to flex their genocidal capabilities. To this day, hundreds of thousands of these victims and their families continue to suffer this legacy of disfiguration, disease, and death. We can't let history repeat itself.
(2) The environmental and humanitarian consequences of nuclear testing are why the international community committed to a near-universal moratorium on testing. The world has shown that it is DONE with nuclear tests — 184 countries have signed an international treaty banning these tests. Over the last several decades, only North Korea has defied this global consensus and continued explosive tests (and recently even Kim Jong Un has stopped).
(3) Over the last 60 years, the world has made steady progress to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and lower the risks they'll be used. New nuclear testing and a global arms race will unravel all of this work and put hundreds of millions of people in harm's way. This week alone, the Trump administration has abandoned the Open Skies Treaty, which has helped avoid the kind of mistakes and misunderstandings that risk nuclear conflict between the U.S. and Russia, and signaled a plot to trash New START — the only agreement left that's keeping both countries from pursuing massive nuclear build-ups.
(4) The U.S. and the world are currently experiencing an unprecedented global crisis with COVID-19 which has shown us that our national priorities are seriously misplaced. Investing in massive nuclear arsenals has left us vulnerable to real public health and national security challenges like pandemics and climate change. We should be testing for COVID-19, not nuclear devastation.
(5) Nuclear testing inflicts direct and lasting harm on people and communities. It poisons the food we eat, the water we drink, even the air that we breathe. Not just for Americans, but for everyone, everywhere. The effects of nuclear testing are far-reaching and long-lasting. U.S. nuclear would put the entire world at risk.
This is absolutely the wrong move at any time, but particularly in the middle of a deadly pandemic that's ravaging vulnerable populations, killing hundreds of thousands of people, destroying millions of workers' livelihoods, and tanking the global economy. Now is the time for society to act together — civil society groups, faith leaders, policymakers, and everyday people.
* The Washington Post: "Trump administration discussed conducting first U.S. nuclear test in decades," May 22, 2020: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/trump-administration-discussed-conducting-first-us-nuclear-test-in-decades/2020/05/22/a805c904-9c5b-11ea-b60c-3be060a4f8e1_story.html