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For two days, beginning on February 28, 2015 at the New York Academy of Medicine,
Helen Caldicott convened the following
Symposium: The Dynamics of Possible Nuclear Extinction
This collection contains complete transcripts with inlined slides of 8 speakers, mp3s of all speakers + Q&As,
with additional educational materials and means to engage with people working to abolish nuclear weapons.
Compilation by David T. Ratcliffe — Last Updated: 4 November 2015
70 years ago, nuclear weapons made extinction of all Life on Earth possible.
That prospective reality never went away and its chances keep increasing.
If we do not abolish nuclear weapons they will surely abolish us.
What To Do
Learn More
Which One's Grave?
Chicago Tribune, 12 August 1945
In 1945, Albert Einstein said, “The release of atomic power has changed everything except our way of thinking.” In 2015, seventy years later, we are still stockpiling nuclear weapons in preparation for nuclear war. Our continued willingness to allow huge nuclear arsenals to exist clearly shows that we have not fundamentally grasped the most important truth of the nuclear age: that a nuclear war is not likely to be survived by the human species.
Remarkably, the leaders of the Nuclear Weapon States have chosen to ignore the authoritative, long-standing scientific research done by the climatologists, research that predicts virtually any nuclear war, fought with even a fraction of the operational and deployed nuclear arsenals, will leave the Earth essentially uninhabitable.
It is not clear that these leaders are even aware of the findings of this research, since they have consistently refused to meet with the scientists who did the studies.
A universal ignorance of basic nuclear facts ultimately creates a very dangerous situation, because leaders who are unaware that nuclear war can end human history are likely to lack the gut fear of nuclear war that’s needed to prevent them from leading us into a nuclear holocaust.
Without this basic knowledge, it is almost impossible for anyone to understand the immense dangers posed by nuclear war. Thus I am now going to take some time to explain these facts, to try to insure my message today is clear.

∧∧          Introduction              
Context For The Symposium and How It Came To Be:
The Dynamics of Possible Nuclear Extinction – Artificial Intelligence
First Program in an Eight-Part Mini Series on the Symposium
produced by Maria Gilardin, Time of Useful Consciousness Radio

The articles that caused Dr. Caldicott to set up the conference:

“Think maybe we’d better say something about it?”
Herblock, Washington Post, 1953

Here we are on this planet, and we humans have decided to build this device. It’s called the Spectacular Thermonuclear Unpredictable Population Incineration Device. I’m a little bit inspired by Dr. Seuss here, I have to confess. This is a long mouthful so let’s just abbreviate it: S-T-U-P-I-D.
It’s a very complicated device—it’s a bit like a Rube Goldberg machine inside. A very elaborate system. Nobody—there’s not a single person on the planet who actually understands how 100 percent of it works.
It was so complicated to build that it really took the talent and resources from more than one country, they worked really hard on it, for many, many years. And not just on the technical side—to invent the technology to be able to create what this device does. Namely, massive explosions around the planet.
But also to overcome a lot of human inhibitions towards doing just this. So this system actually involves also a lot of very clever social engineering where you put people in special uniforms and have a lot of peer pressure and you use all the latest social coercion technology to make people do things they otherwise normally wouldn’t do.
And so a lot of clever thought has gone into building STUPID. It’s kind of remarkable that we went ahead and put so much effort into building it since actually, really, there’s almost nobody on this spinning ball in space who really wants it to ever get used.

∧∧          Transcripts              
Dr. Helen Caldicott: Opening Remarks
Theodore Postol:
Striving for Armageddon:
The US Nuclear Forces Modernization Program,
Rising Tensions with Russia, and
The Increasing Danger of a World Nuclear Catastrophe
Max Tegmark:
Alan Robock:
Nuclear Famine and Nuclear Winter:
Climatic Effects of Nuclear War,
Catastrophic Threats to the Global Food Supply
Steven Starr:
Bruce Gagnon:
Ray Acheson:
Tim Wright:
Playing Nuclear War
“This modern life makes our games ever shorter”
Mafalda, 1960s
There are two types of targets: nuclear air bursts and ground bursts. The cities would burn and firestorms would build. Ground bursts also produce dust and in one case the sunlight gets absorbed and in another case it gets reflected. But that means very little sunlight would reach the ground. And that would cause rapid, large drops in surface temperature. This would be devastation to agriculture and natural ecosystems.
The smoke in the atmosphere also heats the upper atmosphere which then destroys ozone and that would mean a lot more ultraviolet radiation reaching the ground; also which would be devastating for life. So this produces what we call Nuclear Winter with cold, dry, dark conditions at the surface, more ultraviolet-producing, crops dying, and global famine.
The number of countries with nuclear weapons has increased about 1 every 5 years until the Soviet Union broke up and we have 2 more since then and now we have 9 nuclear nations. Every Trident [submarine] has 100 nuclear weapons and they’re much more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. So each Trident submarine can produce about 1,000 Hiroshimas and the US has 14 of them. And that’s only half of our arsenal. And Russia has got the same size arsenal.
We could produce much, much, much more smoke if we used them. So we did a simulation of what would happen if the US and Russia had a nuclear war. And [there would be] a lot more smoke. It would go up in the atmosphere and cause much more temperature change.
Mark Twain said, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” It feels good psychologically to pretend you didn’t hear what I just said and go home and pretend it doesn’t exist. And most of the world does that. Helen calls that psychic numbing. But another action is to try and do something about it to get rid of the weapons.
We’ve already banned biological weapons in the world, chemical weapons, land minds, and cluster munitions. But the worst weapons of mass destruction of all—nuclear weapons—have not been banned. So the ICAN is the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, is working to actually ban nuclear weapons.
Max mentioned Dr. Seuss. I’ll just end with another quote from Dr. Seuss. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

∧∧          What To Do              
“My advice, my appeal to all, is this: Be a first mover. Don’t look to others or to your neighbours to start disarmament and arms control measures. If you take the lead, others will follow.”
—BAN KI-MOON, UN Secretary-General, 2013

A treaty banning nuclear weapons is a global humanitarian imperative of the highest order. It is achievable and increasingly urgent. The following provide means to implement a treaty banning nuclear weapons as well as increase consciousness of the necessity to do so.

“From the weasel [states] we hear calls to “engage, not enrage” the nuclear-armed states, that a ban treaty would be “confrontational,” a “provocation” or “disruption” that would jeopardise further steps towards disarmament, that there is no substitute for gradual, incremental progress – even as none is happening. If you have a dream that one day nuclear weapons will be prohibited and eliminated, then you need to rise up and act. Somebody has to take the first step, to refuse to give up their seat on the bus. So which country will be the Rosa Parks of nuclear disarmament?”
—Richard Lennane, Chief Inflammatory Officer, Wildfire, 7 July 2015

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)
A unique resource of information, inspiration, and ways to participate including:
• Engage your local mayor and other city officials
  to join efforts to achieve a global ban on nuclear weapons
• Humanitarian Pledge lists states pledged to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and
  elimination of nuclear weapons—as of 1 Sep, 114 Nations have endorsed the Pledge
• Find out Who Supports A Global Ban On Nuclear Weapons
• Learn about the 425 Partner Organizations in 95 countries
• Tweet for a nuclear weapons ban

ICAN was launched in Vienna on April 30, 2007. This timeline conveys a sense of its momentum. The Campaign expects that the process to prohibit nuclear weapons will get started in 2015, and will need all the help possible to achieve the goal of enactment of an international treaty banning nuclear weapons. Please become a supporter and join the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

The ICAN action plan has three strategic components:
  1. there is a humanitarian imperative to stigmatize nuclear weapons as fundamentally inhumane; banning them outright requires a comprehensive treaty-based approach rather than arms control;
  2. the time is right to build stronger links and common cause with local, national, and international humanitarian, peace, human rights, environmental, and disarmament NGOs, and to develop a network of civil society campaigners all over the world committed to push for nuclear abolition;
  3. non-nuclear-weapon states can and should take the lead to prepare for and negotiate a global treaty banning nuclear weapons, which will create an indisputable obligation for the nuclear-weapon states to eliminate their arsenals.
Martin Sheen: “If Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr were alive today, they would be part of ICAN.”
Dalai Lama: “I can imagine a world without nuclear weapons, and I support ICAN.”
Herbie Hancock: “Because I cannot tolerate these appalling weapons, I whole-heartedly support ICAN.”
Desmond Tutu: “With your support, we can take ICAN its full distance – all the way to zero nuclear weapons.”
Jody Williams: “Governments say a nuclear weapons ban is unlikely. Don’t believe it. They said the same about a mine ban treaty.”
Yoko Ono: “We can do it together. With your help, our voice will be made still stronger. Imagine peace.”
Ban Ki-moon: “I salute ICAN for working with such commitment and creativity.”

Don’t Bank On The Bomb
Produces yearly reports identifying financial institutions heavily invested in companies involved in the US, British, French, Indian and Israeli nuclear weapon programmes and offers multi-pronged strategies for Divestment Campaigns.
An effective global divestment campaign has the potential to help put a halt to nuclear weapons modernization programmes, strengthen the international norm against nuclear weapons, and build momentum towards negotiations on a universal nuclear weapons ban.
The financial institutions most heavily involved in financing nuclear weapons producers include Bank of America, BlackRock and JP Morgan Chase in the United States; BNP Paribas in France; Deutsche Bank in Germany; and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial in Japan.
2014 edition of The Don’t Bank on the Bomb Report consists of two separate documents:
  1. The Executive Summary provides a quick overview of global investments in nuclear weapons producing companies and of the conclusions drawn.
  2. The Don’t Bank on the Bomb 2014 Report provides all the details of the investments of 411 financial institutions in 28 identified producing companies. The report also provides profiles of the 28 nuclear weapons producing companies and the profiles of financial institutions in the Hall of Fame and Runners-Up categories. Research definitions, methodology and analysis of the data are found in the main report as well.
Both documents were prepared based on research conducted by Profundo, an economic research consultancy analysing commodity chains, financial institutions and corporate social responsibility issues. The methodology used for each piece of the report is explained in detail at the beginning of each chapter. This report does not provide a fully comprehensive overview of all involvements of financial institutions in the nuclear weapon industry. The selection of financial institutions is limited by the fact that the report uses a threshold. Only share and bond holdings larger than 0.5% of the total number of outstanding shares of one or more of the nuclear weapon producing companies are listed. The reason for this is practical: a threshold of 0.1% for example would have resulted in a report profiling nearly 3,000 financial institutions.
From the Introduction to the 2014 Report:
Almost seventy years after the invention of nuclear weapons over 16,000 remain in the arsenals of nine countries.[1] These nine – China, France, India, Israel, North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), Pakistan, Russia, the UK and US, are planning to spend a staggering USD 100,000,000,000 or USD 100 billion per year to upgrade and maintain their arsenals.[2]
  1. Hans Kristensen, “Status of World Nuclear Forces,” Federation of the American Scientists, last updated: 29 Apr 2015
  2. Bruce Blair, “World Nuke Spending to Top $1 Trillion Per Decade,” Time, 4 June 2011; also see Bruce G. Blair and Matthew A. Brown, Global Zero Cost Study, June 2011.

Study Wildfire-v regarding outlawing nuclear weapons
This group is exercising refreshing human intelligence with clarity. The analysis presented is cogent and well-informed as well as highly effective at exposing government hypocrisy. Richard Lennane, listed as Wildfire’s “Chief Inflammatory Officer,” is based in Geneva, Switzerland and also serves as “Head, Implementation Support Unit, Biological Weapons Convention,” United Nations Institute for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA). Two highly incisive youtube films are Wildfire statement at HINW14 Vienna (4:56, Dec 2014) and The Wildfire approach to nuclear disarmament (3:19, 22 Jun 2015). Read a penetrating 2-page summary concerning the What, Why, How, Where, Who, & When of “A treaty banning nuclear weapons”. The following 2 pages at Wildfire are representative of the perspective and understanding presented:
Nuclear disarmament:
some cold hard truths

Nuclear-weapon states will not engage in negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear disarmament treaty. Not now, not ever.

Negotiating detailed disarmament procedures and verification provisions for nuclear weapons is vastly complex - and pointless without the participation of the nuclear-weapon states.

The so-called step-by-step approach has got nowhere. This will not change.

The NPT legitimizes nuclear weapons. It holds the non-nuclear-weapon states in thrall, powerless and paralyzed by their good intentions, as eternal supplicants to the nuclear powers.

The civil society effort to abolish nuclear weapons is flailing. Without a clear, achievable short-term goal, it cannot unify, focus or exert effective pressure on governments.

All the cards are on the table. The catastrophic consequences of any use of nuclear weapons are understood. The motivations of the nuclear-weapon states are clear. Further research, commissions, studies, analysis, eminent windbags and general whining will add nothing.

It’s time to change the game.

Changing the game

The key: separate prohibition from disarmament.

Outlaw nuclear weapons now. Disarmament will follow later.

Two steps to a world free of nuclear weapons:

  1. Negotiate, conclude and bring into force a ban.
  2. Negotiate the disarmament and verification process.

Nuclear-weapon states need not be involved in step 1.
Nuclear weasel states (NATO members and other umbrella-dwellers) need not be involved in step 1.
Step 1 could be achieved in as little as two years.
There are around 140 states which could start step 1 now.
What are they waiting for?

Step 1 requires only a simple treaty:

  • that completely and permanently bans the acquisition, possession, transfer and use of nuclear weapons: no exceptions, no loopholes, no withdrawals.
  • that non-nuclear-weapon states parties to the NPT may join freely.
  • that nuclear-weapon states (NPT parties or not) may join after entry into force by negotiating an accession protocol stipulating time-bound disarmament steps and verification provisions (Step 2).

(Click here to read more about the treaty in a separate window)

It’s time to change the game. >_


Sign Petition Supporting Nuclear Zero Lawsuits
On April 24, 2014, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) filed lawsuits against all nine Nuclear Weapon States in the International Court of Justice and, separately, against the United States in U.S. Federal District Court.
The Non-Proliferation Treaty has been in force for over 44 years. The Nuclear Weapon States continue to rely heavily on nuclear weapons and are engaging in modernization programs to keep their nuclear weapons active for decades to come. The time has come for the Nuclear Weapon States to be held accountable for their inaction.
Sign the Petition at
The Marshall Islands’ Nuclear Zero Cases in the International Court of Justice
Significant resource provided by the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy - The Marshall Islands and the NPT, Robert Alvarez, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 27 May 2015
Provides historical background on the lawsuit
Nuclear Zero Lawsuits: The Unkept Promise (from
The story: Landmark lawsuits were filed on April 24, 2014 against all nine nuclear weapon states in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and, on the same day, against the United States in U.S. Federal District Court. At the heart of the lawsuits is this: holding these nations accountable for their breach of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), specifically Article VI of the treaty. At no time ever before in U.S. history has the United States been sued in U.S. court for breach of an international treaty.
A brief history: The NPT was opened for signature in 1968 and entered into force in 1970. Article VI obligates signatories to pursue negotiations in good faith for an end to the nuclear arms race at an early date and for nuclear disarmament. The NPT nuclear weapon states (U.S., UK, Russia, France and China) are in violation of their treaty obligations by continuing to modernize their nuclear forces and by failing to negotiate in good faith for nuclear disarmament (44 years since entry into force of the treaty does not meet the definition of at an early date). For the same reasons, the four nuclear weapon states not party to the NPT (Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea) are in violation of customary international law.
David vs. Goliath: The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) has filed these lawsuits in the ICJ and in U.S. court. RMI is a small island nation in the Pacific whose people have suffered greatly at the hands of U.S. atmospheric nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s. Their filings are a bold form of peaceful, non-violent action aimed at making substantial changes to the status quo on an issue that threatens the security and future of all generations.
Who stands behind this small nation: The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation has been working since 2012 to assemble a world-class pro bono legal team to represent RMI in this important case. NAPF’s official role in the case is as a consultant to RMI. Many NGOs from around the world have indicated strong support for the strategy and will be working to mobilize the public around the lawsuits.
If not now, when? Litigation filed in the women’s suffrage movement, as well as the civil rights movement, was instrumental in leading to unprecedented social and political change. The issue of nuclear disarmament must also be debated in a binding, public forum with a written record. Will the six nuclear weapon states that have not committed to compulsory jurisdiction at the ICJ agree to the legitimacy of the case against them? If not, what does this say about their commitment to nuclear disarmament?
The United States Constitution specifically provides that when the United States is a party to a treaty, that treaty is the supreme law of the land in this country. Will the U.S. government tell the world in a public forum that its treaties are meaningless and unenforceable?
The Nuclear Zero Lawsuits call upon the nuclear weapon giants to fulfill their collective legal and moral promise of nuclear disarmament. Zero is the only safe number of nuclear weapons on the planet.

kick the habit
Kick The Habit
Rob Wout aka Opland, 1981
Sign this Petition and urge others to do so:
Demand the President of the United States publicly acknowledges and addresses the threat the US nuclear arsenal poses to the continued existence of Life on Earth
The political and military leaders of the states possessing nuclear weapons, and particularly the leaders of the United States and Russia, must publicly acknowledge and discuss the existential threat that their nuclear arsenals now pose to all peoples and nations, as well as to the animals and complex life forms of Earth. They must also take all necessary actions to ban and eliminate existing nuclear arsenals, which if detonated in conflict or by accident, would end human existence and as well as that of all other complex forms of life.
From: Chris Jordan photographic arts: “Edge-walking the lines between beauty and horror, abstraction and representation, the near and the far, the visible and the invisible, Jordan’s images confront the enormous power of humanity’s collective will.”
E Pluribus Unum depicts the names of one million organizations around the world that are devoted to peace, environmental stewardship, social justice, and the preservation of diverse and indigenous culture. The actual number of such organizations is unknown, but estimates range between one and two million, and growing.
Chris Jordan: E Pluribus Unum, 2010 While there are a wealth of disturbing facts visualized by Jordan, still, as with all the eternal opposites, forever joined like two sides of a coin, there is also the “enormous power of humanity’s collective will” to understand and be informed by. This power is what we must ALL engage, direct, and focus, to close the book on the possibility of nuclear annihilation for the sake of the children, all we share Earth with, and all yet to be born and live out their lives here long, long, long after we are gone.
E Pluribus Unum, 2010      24x24 feet, laser etched onto aluminum panels

The World Peace Prayer Society
May Peace Prevail On Earth
The Power of Thought
Thought forms create an energetic field strong enough to empower the course of planetary destiny.
The Power of Words
Words carry vibrations strong enough to inspire, heal and transform the human heart as well as the Kingdom of plants, animals and all creation.
The Power of May Peace Prevail On Earth
May Peace Prevail On Earth is an all inclusive message and prayer. It is a meeting place of the heart bringing together people of all faiths, backgrounds and culture to embrace the Oneness of our planetary family.
Our Mission is Simple
To spread the Universal Peace Message and Prayer, May Peace Prevail On Earth, far and wide to embrace the lands and people of this Earth
The Universal Message and Prayer, May Peace Prevail On Earth, was conceived in a moment of great inspiration by Masahisa Goi of Japan. Since its birth over half a century ago, the simple yet profound words, May Peace Prevail On Earth, has reached deep into the hearts and lives of global citizens everywhere.

History of Arms Reduction Talks
The History of Arms Reduction Talks
Auth, Philadelphia Inquirer, 1985

It is the non-nuclear-weapon states on whom we must depend to drive a process to ban nuclear weapons, to stigmatize them, to make them socially and politically unacceptable, to make it harder for nations to get away with possessing and upgrading them, and to help the nuclear-weapon states overcome this awful, debilitating addiction.
This flips the traditional arms-control approach on its head. The humanitarian initiative is about empowering and mobilizing the rest of the world to say “enough.” It is about shifting the debate from “acceptable,” “safe” numbers of nuclear warheads to their fundamental inhumanity and incompatibility with basic standards of civilized behaviour. It is about taking away from the nuclear-armed states the power to dictate the terms of the debate and to set the agenda—and refusing to perpetuate their exceptionalism.
Through its normative force, a nuclear weapon ban treaty would profoundly affect the behaviour even of states that refuse to join. The public, the media, parliamentarians and mayors would have a powerful new tool with which to challenge the possession of nuclear weapons by their governments. The ban would compel allies of nuclear-armed states to end the practice of hosting nuclear weapons on their soil, and to reject the pretence of protection from a “nuclear umbrella.” It would oblige all states to divest from companies that manufacture nuclear arms.
The U.S. government, interestingly, felt compelled to attend the Vienna Conference in December, having boycotted the earlier conferences in Norway and Mexico, which it labelled a “distraction” from America’s many other efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament. Why the apparent change of heart? Does this mean that the U.S. is now supportive of the initiative? Not at all. That was obvious in Vienna. But it is beside the point—because the initiative does not depend on their endorsement. Its success will depend on the collective resolve of nuclear-free nations and effective public mobilization.
In a tone-deaf statement delivered immediately after the searing testimonies of survivors of America’s nuclear atrocities in Japan and the Marshall Islands and its own backyard, the U.S. ambassador declared that your country does not support, and will oppose, moves to ban nuclear weapons. He came across as callous, almost comically out of touch, a pariah in the room—not the mythical “responsible” nuclear power. That concept the humanitarian initiative has torn apart.
The U.S. attended Vienna for two reasons: it wanted to be seen as doing the right thing in the minds of its own citizens and before the international community, but also it wanted to stop the ban treaty proposal from gaining any further traction. The problem is that the momentum of this initiative is already considerable. The train has left the station and is gaining speed. Some states, of course, will get off along the way and others will jump on board. The journey will be a rocky one. But we are confident that, before long, the train will reach its destination.
I encourage you all to join in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons—to work with us to put in place a global, legal prohibition on the worst weapons ever created. This August marks 70 years since the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. An appropriate milestone, one could not deny, for the start of negotiations on a ban.

∧∧          Learn More              
“Our weapons dictate what we are to do. They force us into awful corners. They give us our living, they sustain our economy, they bolster up our politicians, they sell our mass media, in short we live by them. But if they continue to rule us we will also most surely die by them.”
—Thomas Merton, Cold War Letters (Orbis Books, 2006)
The Power of Nuclear Weapons, Then and Now

The single atomic bomb that destroyed the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 had an explosive power of roughly 15,000 tons of TNT (also called 15 kiltons). This is a picture of Hiroshima before the atomic bomb was detonated:

City of Hiroshima before the first atomic bomb was dropped on it on August 6, 1945

It is shocking to see what the atomic bomb did to Hiroshima. More than 4 square miles of the city were utterly destroyed, transforming it into a barren wasteland.

Hiroshima Panorama #1
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Photo by Shigeo Hayashi - RA119-RA134
Hiroshima Panorama #2
360 degree view span                                  Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Photo by H.J. Peterson - K-HJP001-K-HJP013
Hiroshima Panorama #4
360 degree view span                                  Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Photo by Shigeo Hayashi A723-A742

Today, one of the standard single strategic nuclear warheads in the US and Russian arsenals contains an explosive power of about 800 kilotons (800,000 tons) of TNT. Such a thermonuclear warhead contains 64 times more destructive force than the Hiroshima bomb. The following is an excerpt from Steven Starr’s talk:

The firestorm produced by a strategic nuclear weapon is vastly larger than that produced by an atomic bomb. This graphic illustrates the most likely size of a fire zone, created by an 800 kiloton strategic nuclear warhead. This graphic shows it also being detonated above where we are now in New York.

Atomic Bomb compared with Thermonuclear (strategic) Bomb

On an average day, the detonation of the warhead would instantly ignite fires over a total area of approximately 90 to 152 square miles. 20 to 30 minutes after the detonation, these fires would have joined together to form a single, immense firestorm.

Air temperatures in the fire zone would be above the boiling point of water. Hurricane force winds would blow towards the center of the firestorm, driving the flames horizontally, causing everything remotely flammable to burn. There would be no survivors in the fire zone.

Remember, 800 kilotons equals 800,000 tons of TNT. Russia has 1,000 strategic nuclear warheads that it can launch with less than 15 minutes warning, and 700 of these have an explosive power of 800 kilotons. In a war with the US, it would require about 30 minutes for these warheads to hit US cities.

Imagine a nuclear war in which hundreds or thousands of such firestorms were ignited in the course of less than one hour. There would be hundreds of cities, and hundreds of thousands of square miles, all burning at the same time....

The US and Russia together maintain a total of more than 800 launch-ready ballistic missiles, which can be fired with less than 15 minutes warning, and will strike their targets in 30 minutes or less. Once they are launched, they cannot be recalled from flight. These missiles are armed with a total of about 2400 strategic nuclear warheads, which have a combined explosive power of approximately 808 million tons of TNT.

That’s a lot of TNT to visualize. The explosive power of 808 million tons of TNT is easier to visualize if you have something to compare it to.

2.7 million tons of TNT of all bombs exploded in WWII; 808 million tons of TNT of all US & Russian launch-ready N-weps or, 300 TIMES the power of all bombs exploded in WWII

The small red dot on the left side of this figure represents 2.7 million tons of TNT, which is estimated to be the total explosive power of all the bombs exploded by all the armies of the world during the 5 years of World War 2.

The large red circle represents the 808 million tons of TNT explosive power of US and Russian launch-ready nuclear weapons. This amount is 300 times greater than the explosive power of all the bombs exploded during World War 2. It would require less than one hour for these launch-ready weapons to all detonate over their targets.

The Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons

Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons
8-9 December 2014
The Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons was the result of a decisive development within the nuclear disarmament regime. Since the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the international community has refocused its attention to the humanitarian dimension of and the risks associated with nuclear weapons. This evolution was reflected through cross-regional humanitarian statements in UN fora and culminated in the organisation of three Conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Oslo (March 2013), Nayarit (February 2014) and Vienna (December 2014).
The Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons was attended by 158 States, a broad spectrum of international organisations from the UN system, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, many academics and experts and several hundred representatives of civil society.
Austria attempted to reflect the breadth of views that exist in the international community on the way forward in the Chair’s Summary, which was presented in her sole responsibility. The Chair’s Summary contains eight key substantive conclusions that have emerged in the humanitarian initiative of the past three years and the international conferences in Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna. In addition, Austria issued a national pledge that goes beyond the Chair’s Summary that contains the conclusions that Austria drew from the humanitarian arguments.
Along with the Vienna 92 page Conference Report in PDF (as well as an e-Book Version), the Vienna site contains a mass of materials including Conference Videos, Conference Information, Conference Proceedings, and Additional Resources. Alternatively, Reaching Critical Will has a section devoted to the Humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons which contains data from the three conferences held in Oslo, Nayarit, and now Vienna. The Vienna section at RCW is still missing elements that for the present (as of 1 August 2015) are still available at the Vienna site.
War of Human Consequences: Health Consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, Mary Olson, Senior Radioactive Waste Policy Specialist with Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS)
Global Famine after a Regional Nuclear War: Overview of recent Research, Dr. Michael J. Mills, National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
Overview of the History of Nuclear Testing 1945 until today, Martin Kalinowski Ph.D., Chief, Capacity Building and Training Section, International Data Centre Division, CTBTO Preparatory Commission
Assessing the Harm from Nuclear Weapons Testing and Production, Arjun Makhijani Ph.D. Institute for Energy and Environmental Research
The humanitarian origins of international law regulating arms, Dr. Gro Nystuen, International Law and Policy Institute
The fundamental ethical and moral principles on which international legal regulations of nuclear weapons are based, Nobuo Hayashi, University of Oslo
Global Impacts of Limited Nuclear War on Agriculture, Food Supplies, and Human Nutrition,”
Ira Helfand, MD, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW),
Physicians for Social Responsibility, 2013

Banning Nuclear Weapons: The Humanitarian Facts   (PDF)
IPPNW Campaign Kit, November 2014

Transcript: The Most Dangerous Machines

Eric Schlosser speaking on 8 December 2014 at the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Session II, “Risk Drivers for Deliberate or Inadvertent Nuclear Weapons Use.”

The US Nuclear Weapons Labs: Deception Is Baked Into Their DNA

Greg Mello and Robert Alvarez were two speakers at the Symposium who possess significant understanding of the United States Nuclear Weapons Labs. The following promotes understanding of how the Nuclear Weapons Labs system operates and how the business of nuclear weapons actually functions.

Greg Mello is Secretary, Executive Director, and a co-founder of the Los Alamos Study Group, and has led its varied activities since 1989, which have included policy research, environmental analysis, congressional education and lobbying, community organizing, litigation, advertising, and the nuts and bolts of running a small nonprofit. Greg led the first environmental enforcement at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He was a hydrogeologist for the New Mexico Environment Department and later a consultant to industry.
Robert Alvarez is a Senior Scholar at the Institute of Policy Studies, where he is currently focused on nuclear disarmament, environmental, and energy policies. Between 1993 and 1999, Mr. Alvarez served as a Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Security and the Environment. While at DOE, he coordinated the effort to enact nuclear worker compensation legislation. In 1994 and 1995, Bob led teams in North Korea to establish control of nuclear weapons materials. He coordinated nuclear material strategic planning for the department and established the department’s first asset management program. Bob was awarded two Secretarial Gold Medals, the highest awards given by the Department of Energy. In 1975 Bob helped found and direct the Environmental Policy Institute (EPI), a respected national public interest organization.

In his presentation at the Symposium, Greg Mello reviewed some of the history of the creation of nuclear weapons and the culture of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. The following is an excerpt of his talk. [See Also: Interview with Greg Mello: “3 National Nuclear War Laboratories Have Run Amok, Block Disarmament, & Should Be Shut Down,” Los Alamos Study Group, 6 March 2015]

The people in charge of the Manhattan Project knew, 17 months before the Trinity test that Germany was on the road to defeat. Los Alamos was founded the same month as the Russian victory in Stalingrad. Project Alsos went through Europe and the information began to come back. By the time they interviewed Joliot-Curie it was all clear. But that was when the work truly speeded up.

Starting from March 1944 it was understood by General Groves as well as the leading scientists at Los Alamos that this was a project about post-war domination. There was a dinner at the Chadwick’s house in Los Alamos that Joseph Rotblat was at and wrote about subsequently where General Groves said this is about controlling Russia after the war. That was in March of 1944. All the information about how there wasn’t a German bomb program was all in hand by the end of ’44, and that’s when Joseph Rotblat quit.

The two lessons that you get from this and much more history is that deception is baked into the DNA [of the nuclear weapons labs] both for internal morale purposes as well as for funding, for CYA, for everything. And the second is that the bureaucracies once set in motion cannot absorb new information from the real world. So we have a changing national security situation today but the nuclear weapons complex and the military industrial complex cannot absorb this information. It will be decades, if ever, before they could ever—it will only absorb things if it’s profitable. And they have built now, a system, of such inordinate profitability that they can’t learn. They can’t manage, they can’t finish projects, and they can’t learn.

The salaries at the weapons laboratories are among the most highly guarded secrets out there. I can give you a few hints. There’s about a thousand people at each weapons laboratory that make on the order of 350,000 a year. This is much more than Cabinet officials or members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. These are not senior scientists. These are mid-career people. The average compensation at the weapons laboratories is on the order of 180,000. That includes pension and health care and so forth. The Directors of the laboratories make a million and a half or even more. The upper-most management is also very highly compensated. No one can make this kind of money in the real world. And so they’re locked into a situation where they can’t change, they can’t work on things that they would have to compete with people at universities or anywhere else in society. They’re locked in. And I think that a lot of the activists don’t really get this ... They forget things like conflict of interest, they don’t really know how much money they’re making, and they don’t know how little expertise of any broad sense is present in these laboratories....
(recording span: 12:02-15:48)

What we did not understand in the beginning but we do understand now is that the Cold War was only over on one side. That’s why I put in a little [bit] ... about PNAC. There was an end-run around reform. And there have been phases of break out from government control. One person in government remarked to me that the laboratories’ basic business plan is to substitute themselves for the government decision-making process, control all the information that could make it possible for government to reassert its authority, and to blackmail the government if any attempt is made to change either of the first two conditions. The blackmail is accomplished through the annual stockpile certification letter and through a broader suite of political activities in which they engage.... It goes beyond lobbying to simply replacement of government. This is so confusing that even Senator Feinstein did not know that the Directors of the weapons laboratories are contractors. She thought they were federal.
(recording span: 16:29-18:22)

In his presentation, Robert Alvarez discussed how lateral proliferation could trigger a nuclear holocaust. Articles by Mr. Alvarez recently published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that pertain to the US Nuclear Weapons Complex and the nuclear waste that their operations generate include the following:
  • More bucks for the bang, 23 Feb 2015
    “The cost of the nuclear weapons complex keeps going up, even as the size of the nuclear arsenal falls.”
  • Rebranding the nuclear weapons complex won't reform it, 18 Jan 2015
    “The nuclear weapons production and laboratory system created during the Cold War is simply far too large for the current military situation and needs drastic consolidation that includes the closing of labs and other facilities.”
  • The nuclear weapons dismantlement problem, 1 Nov 2014
    “In preparation for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference next year, the United States reports great progress in physically dismantling its nuclear weapons—a foundation for a key pillar of the treaty, which aims, ultimately, to reduce and eventually eliminate the arsenals of the world’s nuclear powers. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO), however, presents a very different picture.”
  • Y-12: Poster child for a dysfunctional nuclear weapons complex, 4 Aug 2014
    “The Y-12 National Security Complex has not produced weapons for some 25 years, but its annual budgets have increased. by nearly 50 percent since 1997. The dysfunction must end, sometime.”
  • The WIPP problem, and what it means for defense nuclear waste disposal, 23 Mar 2014
    “As Energy Department contractors send robots to explore WIPP's caverns, the future of the world’s only operating high-hazard radioactive waste repository is uncertain.”
  • A primer: Military nuclear wastes in the United States, 24 Feb 2014
    “The radioactive legacy of the US nuclear weapons program has spawned the most costly, complex, and risky environmental cleanup effort ever undertaken, with a long-term liability estimate ranging up to $1 trillion.”

Nukemap: Personalizing the Bomb –
Teaching an Online Generation About The Effects of Nuclear Weapons
Nukemap was written by Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science who works on the history of nuclear weapons and nuclear secrecy. He is also a web developer who is always looking for new ways to engage audiences on questions of social relevance for issues that involve science and technology.
We live in a world where nuclear weapons issues are on the front pages of our newspapers on a regular basis, yet most people still have a very bad sense of what an exploding nuclear weapon can actually do. Some people think they destroy everything in the world all that once, some people think they are not very different from conventional bombs. The reality is somewhere in between: nuclear weapons can cause immense destruction and huge losses of life, but the effects are still comprehendible on a human scale.
The NUKEMAP is aimed at helping people visualize nuclear weapons on terms they can make sense of – helping them to get a sense of the scale of the bombs. By allowing people to use arbitrarily picked geographical locations, I hope that people will come to understand what a nuclear weapon would do to places they are familiar with, and how the different sizes of nuclear weapons change the results.
There are many different political interpretations one can legitimately take away from such results. There is not intended to be a simple political "message" of the NUKEMAP.
A write-up of usage patterns over the first 4 months of the original Nukemap on the web is here: “So Long, Mom, I’m Off to Drop the Bomb: A Case Study in Public Usage of an Educational Tool,” What the surprising popularity of a website suggests about our complicated relationship with nuclear weapons. by Alex Wellerstein, WMD Junction / The Nonproliferation Review, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 3 May 2012.

Evacuation Zones for Nuclear Reactors
Physicians for Social Responsibility
6 million Americans live within the current 10 mile evacuation zone for US reactors; over 120 million live within the 50 mile evacuation zone required for US citizens in Japan during the Fukushima nuclear disaster. First Responders have consistently stated that while US evacuation plans exist, none are implementable. How close do you live to a nuclear power reactor?
Do you live within 50 miles of a nuclear reactor? One third of Americans do. Property contaminated by nuclear materials is not covered by insurance, so if your house is affected, you could be displaced permanently and lose everything. Use this simulator to find out if you are within an evacuation zone and are at risk. Also notice the number of people who would have to be evacuated if there was an accident at the plant closest to you. Do you really think that is possible? We don't.
The 25th anniversary of Chernobyl [in 2011] and the continuing crisis at Fukushima—both Level 7 nuclear disasters—are clear reminders that standard evacuation zones cannot protect the public from a nuclear accident. Current NRC regulations stipulate a 10 mile evacuation zone around nuclear plants. This is clearly insufficient and 50 miles has been recommended.

Radioactivity in Spent Nuclear Fuel Pools in the US
The Threat of Massive Releases During Conventional or Nuclear War Fighting

In his symposium presentation, Steven Starr described how the rods in a nuclear spent fuel pool contain 5 to 7 times more radioactivity than is inside the nuclear reactor and that “even if spent fuel pools are not directly targeted in a nuclear war or during wartime, they would probably still be destroyed by the long-term loss of off-site electrical power, which is required to run their cooling systems ... [and subsequently] release huge amounts of radioactivity”. Although the following report does not specifically mention loss of on-site power as a result of nuclear or conventional war fighting, its information is nevertheless extremely relevant regarding the vulnerability of spent nuclear fuel pools being breached from any kind of warfare.

Spent Nuclear Fuel Pools in the US: Reducing the Deadly Risks of Storage
by Robert Alvarez, Institute for Policy Studies, May 2011
Complete IPS Report (PDF, 36 pages)
IPS Fact Sheet (1 page)
Quick Facts About Safer Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel, Union of Concerned Scientists

U.S. reactors have generated about 65,000 metric tons of spent fuel, of which 75 percent is stored in pools, according to Nuclear Energy Institute data. Spent fuel rods give off about 1 million rems (10,000Sv) of radiation per hour at a distance of one foot – enough radiation to kill people in a matter of seconds. There are more than 30 million such rods in U.S. spent fuel pools. No other nation has generated this much radioactivity from either nuclear power or nuclear weapons production.
Nearly 40 percent of the radioactivity in U.S. spent fuel is cesium-137 (4.5 billion curies) – roughly 20 times more than released from all atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. U.S. spent pools hold about 15-30 times more cesium-137 than the 1986 Chernobyl accident released. Located in Ukraine, Chernobyl illustrated the damage cesium-137 can wreak. Nearly 200,000 residents from 187 settlements were permanently evacuated because of contamination by cesium-137. The total area of this radiation-control zone is huge. At more than 6,000 square miles, it is equal to about two-thirds the area of the State of New Jersey.
Even though they contain some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet, U.S. spent nuclear fuel pools are mostly contained in ordinary industrial structures designed to merely protect them against the elements. These storage facilities resemble large above-ground swimming pools and this practice puts the American public at risk. Spent fuel storage pools are often housed in buildings no more secure than a car dealership.
Spent fuel storage pools are vulnerable. Massive land contamination, radiation injuries, and myriad deaths would result from a terrorist attack, earthquake, or even a prolonged electricity blackout – as happened at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor site in Japan following an earthquake and tsunami. Pools need electricity to pump water to cool the rods, as well as to maintain a high water level to diffuse the escape of radiation. Despite these dangers, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) doesn’t require nuclear reactor operators to even have back-up power supplies for these spent-fuel pools to prevent disaster.
The fuel rods in these spent fuel pools should be safely stored in dry, hardened, and sealed storage casks. Dry cask storage is a much safer alternative to pools – which were originally designed to hold less than one-fifth of what they now contain. It doesn’t rely upon a constant supply of electricity or water, and it also can be stored in separate blast-proof containers, making it less susceptible to terrorist attack or earthquakes.
Over the next 10 years, we could remove all spent fuel older than five years for a cost of $3 billion-$7 billion. The cost of fixing America’s nuclear vulnerabilities may be high, but the price of doing too little is incalculable.

70th Year Articles Worthy of Note

Talks by David T. Ratcliffe About
A New Movement to Ban Nuclear Weapons

[Starting in the late 1970s] I organized with others, Physicians for Social Responsibility and we held conferences throughout America describing the medical consequences of nuclear war. The first such symposium was held at Harvard and the reporters there were absolutely perplexed. They said, What are doctors talking about nuclear war for? This is a political issue. And we said, No, it’s not. It’s a medical issue because nuclear war will create the final epidemic of the human race.

Then the Bishop, or Archbishop of Boston—Cardinal whoever—would wake up the next morning and there would be a map of Boston with the concentric circles of vaporization, and third degree burns, and fires, etc., and he’d say, I don’t think Jesus would approve of this.

It happened all over the country so finally the Catholic Bishops got together and wrote a Pastoral Letter against nuclear war. Then the Methodist Bishops got together and they did a similar thing and their Pastoral Letter was even better than the Catholic Bishops.

Eventually we had a million people in Central Park in 1982 in June, the biggest rally ever in the history of America. Black lesbians from Harlem, Southern Baptists, Mormons, everyone. It was just amazing.

We had 80 percent of people supporting the notion that nuclear weapons must be eradicated, really. Gorbachev then had the support of the world with Reagan. They met in Reykjavík, these two men, and over a weekend they almost agreed to abolish nuclear weapons. So therefore there is a precedent to abolish nuclear weapons and it’s time that happened.

The country that’s holding up the abolition of nuclear weapons is America. Without America moving, Russia won’t move. If America moves, unilaterally, Russia will too. We know that. Because they can’t afford these weapons and they’re very aware of what happens in war because they lost 30 million people on the Russian front in the Second World War and that’s deeply embedded in their souls.

I can remember as a little girl standing in the kitchen. My mother said, Thank God, he’s turned on Russia. He’ll never beat Russia. But they suffered terribly. And they’ll never forget it.

—Helen Caldicott: “Opening Remarks

∧∧          Acknowledgments              

This library is dedicated to the children, the Earth, and all Life exploring itself ongoing into what can only be called eternity. I am grateful to Dr. Helen Caldicott for her desparate passion to call us all to examine with intelligence and clarity the etiology of killing and the etiology of possible nuclear extinction so that we can heal this disease for the benefit of today and tomorrow. (She explained that physicians need to look at etiology of disease and that etiology means the cause of a disease.)

Steven Starr contributed the wording for the Petition to the President of the United States. It was his presentation, “Nuclear War: An Unrecognized Mass Extinction Event Waiting To Happen,” that generated the inspiration to make the petition. Mr. Starr, Alan Robock, Theodore Postol, Bruce Gagnon, and Tim Wright generously contributed copies of the text they read from and or slides where they were used. Michael Mills created the animations of Black Carbon Mass Mixing Ratio in greyscale at 10 frames and 5 frames per second. Maria Gilardin contributed the continuity of her First of Eight programs on this symposium. Richard Lennane gave helpful insights on the Petition to address the threat to all Life posed by the nuclear weapon states. Rebecca Lord helped with researching the petition process and its strategy. I especially wish to thank my wife, Nina. Through her counsel and advice she helps me see a wider perspective engendering more constructive communication. She is an advocate for and champion of the children in our community and their families and her devotion and dedication to serving our community is an inspiration to all who know her.

Many warnings have been uttered by eminent men of science and by authorities in military strategy.... We have found that the men who know most are the most gloomy.... People scarcely realize in imagination that the danger is to themselves and their children and their grandchildren, and not only to a dimly apprehended humanity. They can scarcely bring themselves to grasp that they, individually, and those whom they love are in imminent danger of perishing agonizingly.... We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.

The Russell-Einstein Manifesto, 9 July 1955

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