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Published on August 29th, 2013 | by Susi Snyder

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International day against nuclear tests

Today is the international day against nuclear tests. This is an important date in our collective efforts to achieve and maintain a nuclear weapons free world. It is a day to remember the countless victims lost to the intergenerational legacy of nuclear weapons explosions, and the new victims impacted daily by the continued existence of nuclear weapons.

For many people, the only time nuclear weapons were ever used was at the end of the second world war. By the United States on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those were the only uses of the weapons in war, but they were certainly not the only uses of the weapons.

The US has used nuclear weapons far more than any other country. They have used them during war in Japan. The US also used them on the people of the Pacific, and on its own population during the testing that took place at what is now known as the Nevada National Security Site. The US conducted over 1000 nuclear weapons tests, and continue to do a modified form of testing without causing nuclear chain reactions- subcritical tests.

The Russians left their nuclear testing legacy at Novya Zemla, but also on what is now the independent state of Kazakhstan conducting over 700 tests of their own. France never tested on its own territory, instead bombing those in the Pacific and in North Africa.

The French, for some reason, felt it necessary to do over 200 tests. They were the last of the recognised nuclear armed countries to test, and I remember the boycotts of French wines and cheeses to try to get them to stop.

The UK and China only did about 45 tests each, while India and Pakistan have both done 6. North Korea has had three now, and some suspect that South Africa and Israel did a joint test together in the Indian Ocean sometime in the early sixties.

Of course, South Africa has completely disarmed, and Israel neither confirms nor denies that they have nuclear weapons at all.

We have an international Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Although, that US scallywag has not ratified it, and it has not yet entered into force. Admittedly the US is not the only holdout, there are seven others. Even though the CTBT is not yet international law, it has changed how the world looks at nuclear tests.

Once upon a time, back in the 1950s, nuclear testing was a point of pride. In Las Vegas, showgirls would sport atomic hairdos, and families would have early morning picnics to watch the bombs go off. Times have changed. Now, any test triggers action by the UN Security Council. Any test is immediately condemned by the international community. Any test is seen as a threat to the peace, a threat to the world.

The situation has changed. The horrifying impact of nuclear testing on innocent populations demonstrated that they are simply unacceptable. The use of nuclear weapons- whether for testing or in war, is unacceptable. Those who maintain, modernize, and keep nuclear weapons, despite all their arguments, do it because they know that one day they might want to use them. That is unacceptable.

Today is the International day against nuclear tests. Today is a great day to remember that even without universal implementation of a treaty, it changes our perceptions. Today is a great day to think about the power of a nuclear ban treaty to change our perceptions about those who would keep these weapons. Today is a great day to start banning the bomb.

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About the Author

Susi is the project lead for the PAX No Nukes project, she also coordinates the Don’t Bank on the Bomb research and campaign. Read more about Susi here.



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