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Policy Experts, Scientists, and Religious Leaders: Nuclear Weapons Are an Immoral and Illegitimate Danger

"Toward a Fundamental Change in Nuclear Weapons Policy:" Conference at Capitol Visitor Center Sparks Call for Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

May 4, 2017


Media Contact:
Martin Fleck, PSR Security Program Director


 "Toward a Fundamental Change in Nuclear Weapons Policy:" Conference at Capitol Visitor Center Sparks Call for Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

WASHINGTON, DC (May 4, 2017) – Last week, nuclear weapons policy experts, scientists, and religious leaders gathered at the United States Capitol Visitor Center for the conference titled, "Toward a Fundamental Change in Nuclear Weapons Policy." Sokka Gakkai-USA convened the conference and twenty NGOs and faith-based organizations co-sponsored the event.

Representative Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) stated in his opening remarks, "Nuclear disarmament is a vital long-term goal of the United States, and must remain so in order to ensure peaceful relations in the global community. A nuclear-free world is ultimately in the best interest of all nations."

Setsuko Thurlow, Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor (hibakusha), recalled the bombing of Hiroshima, "As I crawled out, the ruins were on fire, more so, my classmates in the same room were burnt alive … Thus, my beloved city of Hiroshima suddenly became desolation, with heaps of ash and rubble, skeletons and blackened corpses." Further, she stated, "Humanity and nuclear weapons cannot coexist … Now the birth of the nuclear ban treaty movement inspired by humanitarian initiatives, is like opening the door of hope for a new chapter of our struggle and for the world community… We hibakusha have waited more than seven decades for this time to arrive."

Barry Blechman, Co-Founder of the Stimson Center, stated, "Those who believe that deterrence cannot fail are like people who believe in the tooth fairy. Deterrence is not a scientific principle. It's not a law of nature, like gravity, it's a theory. … In Washington, those who argue for eliminating nuclear weapons are often labeled naive idealists. I think the shoe is on the other foot, it's those who believe in the magic of deterrence [who] are the naive ones. The risks of moving toward a nuclear weapons free world in my mind are probably lower than the risks associated with continuing to maintain stockpiles of nuclear weapons."

Bruce Blair, Co-Founder of Global Zero and former ICBM launch officer, stated, "The process of decision-making from warning through decision to action is so fast that…it's an accident waiting to happen … The go-code triggering a massive nuclear launch comes as a message that's the length of a tweet. … Clearly, this command system is rigged to fire. It's streamlined for speed, even light speed, not for deliberation, not for rational assessment. …North Korea reminds us all that leaders with fingers on a nuclear button are fallible and sometimes they act recklessly and in a delusional way, and Mr. Kim is not alone in this category. If we don't eliminate nuclear weapons, … I'm convinced that they will be used during our lifetime, either on purpose or by accident."

Ira Helfand, Board Member of Physicians for Social Responsibility and Co-President of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, stated, "At the very least about 2 billion people worldwide would be put at risk by the famine following a limited nuclear war involving less than one half of 1 percent of the world's nuclear weapons. It would almost certainly be the end of modern civilization as we know it. No civilization in human history has ever withstood a shock of this magnitude and there's no reason to assume that our very complex, interrelated, international culture would do any better."

Zia Mian, Co-Director of the Program on Science & Global Security, Princeton University, stated the U.S. nuclear weapons modernization proposal "casts a shadow over the world." Further, Mian stated, "If you're going to have a fundamental change in U.S. nuclear policy, the U.S. cannot do this by itself. The conditions under which policy is made has to change. And this is where the ban treaty actually offers a radical opportunity to begin to reshape the context within which any nuclear policy is made."

Ray Acheson, Director of Reaching Critical Will and member of the ICAN International Steering Committee, discussed the nuclear weapons ban treaty negotiations at the United Nations, due to resume on June 15, stating, "We’re banning nuclear weapons and we're opening the space for disarmament that doesn't currently exist … This is about affecting the way that people perceive these weapons as legitimate tools of security and changing that back to what they really are which is suicidal, genocidal weapons of mass destruction and terror and harm. … These legal political, social, and economic impacts of the act of stigmatization—of the act of making it very clear that these weapons are illegal, that all activities associated with them are illegal—are extremely important."

Olivia Saito, Director of Young Women's Programs of SGI-USA, stated, "The evil of nuclear weapons lies not only in their overwhelming power to cause destruction and death, but also in the profound distrust emanating from their possession. This distrust has created the so-called 'cult of deterrence,' the belief that nuclear weapons are necessary for protection against nuclear weapons. Trust in nuclear arms is a negation of trust in humanity."


Physicians for Social Responsibility, a member organization of over 30,000 seeks to address the gravest threats to human health and survival. The group's motto is "Prevention is the only cure." PSR's international federation, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, received the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.