How Many Nuclear Weapons do We Need?
Catherine Thomasson, MD
February 28, 2012
reality is that one nuclear weapon can destroy the core of a city from blast,
heat and radiation and kill hundreds of thousands of individuals. Such a detonation would create a dead zone of
radiation making the area uninhabitable for decades or longer. Many more people would die in panic fleeing or
from lack of any medical support.
nuclear weapons deployed in only one of our 14 nuclear submarines are enough to
annihilate the entire country of Russia-even potentially the world. Even with
the upcoming cuts, the U.S. and Russia each are “allowed” to deploy 1550
strategic nuclear weapons negotiated under the George W. Bush-era new START
program on up to 700 missiles, bombers and submarines. All on high alert! In addition there are plans to spend hundreds
of billions of dollars to “modernize” and maintain these levels over the next
likelihood of the deliberate use of a nuclear weapon by a nuclear weapons state
is extremely unlikely. Stalin may have
been willing to risk millions of Russians in retaliation, but Vladimir Putin
would not. In reality there is far greater
chance of an accident or theft of nuclear material to create a dirty bomb; or a
limited nuclear war with destabilization in south Asia or the Middle East.
makes reducing our nuclear arsenal a top priority for our safety and that of
the entire world.
how low can we go? Besides Russia and
the United States there is no other country deploying more than 200-300 nuclear
weapons (China, France and U.K). China
possesses just 40 to 50 warheads on intercontinental-range missiles. India, Pakistan and Israel all outside international
controls of the Non-proliferation Treaty hold between 60-200 and North Korea less
Air Force analysts concluded in an article written in Strategic
Studies Quarterly that a force of only 311 nuclear
weapons would be adequate for deterrence.
So what is deterrence? It states that a rational
state will not engage in hostilities. So
why wouldn’t countries like North Korea, Libya or even Iran desire to have
nuclear weapons? Israel has them, India
and Pakistan do too, as does the United States who has been a major aggressor
in the last 50 years and indeed longer.
But we don’t want more countries getting them, and worry about the
stability of those governments and their ability to safeguard the nuclear
should be asking what will make us safe because it is not nuclear weapons.
the incredible technology of verification, controls on nuclear material and
satellite imagery, the ability to control and eliminate nuclear weapons is
better than ever.
militarily, and to reduce risk of accidental or terrorist use, it is better for
no state to have nuclear weapons, including the United States. For those who worry about the U.S. security
we all know that the U.S. military outspends nearly all the other military
forces in the world combined with weapons that result in nearly the blast force
of a nuclear bomb but without the radiation.
one step at a time.