August 6th, 1945. The images of the US atomic bombs that swept away the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still vivid in our minds. Just like the human suffering that followed: at least 210.000 people died, and many others suffered from cancer, chronic diseases and miscarriages in the years that followed. Never again, was the sentiment echoed worldwide. Today, however, exactly 76 years later, we are still a long way from a world free of nuclear weapons.
On the contrary, almost all nine nuclear powers – Russia, the United States, France, China, Great Britain, Pakistan, India and North Korea – are increasing their investments into nuclear weapons. As described in a recently published report by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), amid a global pandemic these countries together spent 72,6 billion dollar on nuclear weapons, an increase of 1,4 billion from the previous year.
In the Netherlands, about 20 US nuclear bombs are still stored in the Volkel airbase. No matter how they are used, nuclear weapons always have devastating consequences. From the explosion until far beyond. It is therefore irresponsible and unacceptable that these weapons are stored in the Netherlands. PAX would like to see a real commitment from the Dutch government towards a world free of nuclear weapons and to return these nuclear bombs to the US.
An important milestone and historical achievement is the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which officially entered into force early this year. As an important player within the ICAN network, PAX was actively involved in the negotiations leading up to its adoption. In 2017, ICAN was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for these efforts. The Treaty prohibits the use, possession, development, production, stockpiling and transferring of nuclear weapons under all circumstances, as well as any assistance with those acts. While the Treaty is not legally binding for those countries that have not (yet) joined the Treaty, this new standard does send a powerful political message that the possession of nuclear weapons and a policy of nuclear deterrence is not met with praise, but with disapproval.
The Netherlands has not yet signed the Nuclear Ban Treaty. However, opinion polls reveal that almost 80% of Dutch citizens is in favour of joining the Treaty. It is about time that the government acts accordingly. De US nuclear B-61 bombs currently stored in Volkel will be replaced by more advanced weapons, which is expected to happen in 2022. The technical capabilities of these new bombs would increase the risk that they would be used. This would have severe consequences for people and the environment that would be felt for decades. PAX calls on the Dutch government to decline these new bombs and instead seize this unique opportunity to finally get rid of these weapons of mass destruction and remove them safely from the Netherlands.
76 years later, few people who themselves endured the devastating bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still alive. But the survivors that are still among us continue to fight for a world free of nuclear weapons. We cannot change the past, but together we can make sure that the horrors experienced by these people will never be forgotten. And we will continue to fight to make sure that no one will ever have to endure such horrific events. Together we can bring an end to the nuclear era.