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The World Faces a Historic Opportunity to Ban Nuclear Weapons

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on March 25, 2017 at 10:08 am

On Monday 27 March, UN talks will begin on a global nuclear ban treaty.

VIENNA/Oxford/LONDON, Mar 24 2017 (IPS) – Nuclear weapons are once again high on the international agenda, and experts note that the risk of a nuclear detonation is the highest since the Cold War.

As global tensions, uncertainty and risks of conflict rise amongst nuclear-armed states, nuclear weapons are treated as sabres to rattle, further heightening the risks of intentional or inadvertent use.

Nuclear weapons are the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created. Both in terms of the scale of the immediate devastation they cause and the threat of a uniquely persistent, pervasive and genetically damaging radioactive fallout, they would cause unacceptable harm to civilians.

But while the nuclear-armed states are implementing policies based on unpredictability, nationalism and weakening of international institutions, the majority of the world’s states are preparing to finally outlaw nuclear weapons.

Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of Hiroshima, described the nuclear bombing as blinding the whole city with its flash, being flattened by a hurricane-like blast, and burned in the 4,000-degree Celsius heat.
She said a bright summer morning turned to a dark twilight in seconds with smoke and dust rising from the mushroom cloud, and the dead and injured covering the ground, begging desperately for water, and receiving no medical care at all. The spreading firestorm and the foul stench of burnt flesh filled the air.

A single nuclear bomb detonated over a large city could kill millions of people and cause catastrophic and long-term damage to the environment. The use of tens or hundreds of nuclear bombs would be cataclysmic, severely disrupting the global climate and causing widespread famine.

Strikes of this kind would invariably violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law, yet, these weapons are still not explicitly and universally prohibited under international law. Nine states are known to possess them and many more continue to rely on them through military alliances.

The alarming evidence presented by physicians, physicists, climate scientists, human rights organisations, humanitarian agencies, and survivors of nuclear weapons attacks have been successful in changing the discourse, and opened space for greater engagement from civil society, international organisations, and states.

Because the humanitarian and environmental consequences of using nuclear weapons would be global and catastrophic, eliminating such dangers is the responsibility of all governments in accordance with their obligation to ensure respect for international humanitarian law.

The world is now facing a historic opportunity to prohibit nuclear weapons.

In October last year, a majority of the world’s states at the United Nations General Assembly agreed to start negotiations of a new legally binding treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, in line with other treaties that prohibit chemical and biological weapons, landmines and cluster munitions.

As we’ve seen with these weapons, an international prohibition has created a strong norm against their use and speed up their elimination.

The negotiations will start at the United Nations in New York on 27-31 March, and continue on 15 June-7 July, with the aim of concluding a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.

Amnesty International, Oxfam and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) believe that it is time to negotiate a treaty that would prohibit the use, possession, production and transfer of nuclear weapons, given their indiscriminate nature. No state, including permanent members of the UN Security Council, should possess nuclear weapons.

This is the moment to stand up for international law, multilateralism and international institutions. All governments should seize this opportunity and participate actively in the negotiations of a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons in 2017.

The Coming Ban on Nuclear Weapons

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on March 25, 2017 at 12:08 am

By Zia Mian, Project Syndicate, Marcg 24m 2017

PRINCETON – On March 27, the United Nations will start negotiations on an international treaty to ban nuclear weapons. It will be a milestone marking the beginning of the end of an age of existential peril for humanity.
This day was bound to come. From the beginning, even those who set the world on the path to nuclear weapons understood the mortal danger and moral challenge confronting humanity. In April 1945, US Secretary of War Henry Stimson explained to President Harry Truman that the atomic bomb would be “the most terrible weapon ever known in human history.” Stimson warned that “the world in its present state of moral advancement compared with its technical development would be eventually at the mercy of such a weapon. In other words, modern civilization might be completely destroyed.”
Soon afterwards, the newly created UN, established with the express purpose “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” took the threat posed by nuclear arms as its first priority. In January 1946, in its very first resolution, the UN called for a plan “for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons.”
The Soviet Union submitted such a plan that June. Now largely forgotten, the Gromyko Plan included a “Draft International Convention to Prohibit the Production and Employment of Weapons Based on the Use of Atomic Energy for the Purpose of Mass Destruction.” At the time, only the United States had nuclear weapons, and it chose to maintain its monopoly. But it couldn’t hold onto it for long. Where it led, others soon followed, forcing humanity to endure the decades of weapons development, arms races, proliferation, and nuclear crises that followed.
Anti-nuclear movements took root, and, in a phrase made famous by the historian E.P. Thompson, began to protest to survive. They found allies in a growing number of countries. In November 1961, the UN General Assembly declared that “any state using nuclear and thermonuclear weapons is to be considered as violating the Charter of the United Nations, as acting contrary to the laws of humanity, and as committing a crime against mankind and civilization.”
As the number and destructive power of nuclear weapons grew, and as even developing countries began to acquire them, recognition of the danger gave rise to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which entered into force in 1970. “Considering the devastation that would be visited upon all mankind by a nuclear war,” the NPT begins, there is a “consequent need to make every effort to avert the danger of such a war and to take measures to safeguard the security of peoples.”
To this end, the treaty committed all signatories to “undertake negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.” The US, the Soviet Union, and Britain signed the NPT. France and China, the only other nuclear weapon states at the time, held out for more than 20 years, until 1992. Israel, India, and Pakistan have never signed, while North Korea signed and then withdrew. Although all professed support for achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world, disarmament negotiations never began.
Countries without nuclear weapons – the overwhelming majority – took matter into their own hands. Through the UN General Assembly, they asked the International Court of Justice to rule on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. In July 1996, the ICJ issued an advisory opinion, with two key conclusions. First, “the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law.” And, second, “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”
But, in the 20 years since the highest court in the international system issued its judgment, the states affected by it have still failed to launch “negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament.” Instead, they have set out on long-term programs to maintain, modernize, and in some cases augment their nuclear arsenals.
Non-weapon states began to take action through a series of international conferences and UN resolutions. Finally, in October 2016, the UN General Assembly’s First Committee, which is responsible for international peace and security, voted “to convene in 2017 a United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” On December 23, the General Assembly ratified the decision, with 113 countries in favor, 35 opposed, and 13 abstentions.
The Year Ahead 2017 Cover Image
The new resolution’s instructions are straightforward: “States participating in the conference” should “make their best endeavors to conclude as soon as possible a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” The treaty could be ready before the end of the year.
The nine nuclear weapon states will finally be put to the test. Will they keep their promises to disarm and join the treaty, or will they choose their weapons over international law and the will of the global community? The non-weapon states that join the treaty will be tested, too. How will they organize to confront those countries in the world system that choose to be nuclear outlaws?

The Middle East for Dummies

In Human rights, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on March 24, 2017 at 11:08 pm

By David Swanson
http://davidswanson.org/node/5497

The first point I’d like to touch on is the idea that the Middle East is a culturally violent place that can be made less violent by bombing it. The first problem with this is that bombing places makes them more violent, not less. Nobody is shocked or awed into nonviolence, not 14 years ago and not for the past century. The second problem is that the Middle East’s violence cannot be compared with that of other cultures without figuring out how to factor out the influence of the West. A hundred years ago, Britain and France carved up Western Asia, and not to spread democracy.

The West has been propping up brutal kings and dictators ever since. Outside of Israel, which is essentially a Western colony, the Middle East does not manufacture weapons. Just as the West once pushed opium on China or alcohol on the native peoples of this land we’re sitting on, the West pushes weapons on Western Asia, and the top weapons dealer to the world, to poor nations, and to the Middle East is the United States — with records set under President Obama likely to be smashed under Trump. Virtually all the weapons used in all the wars around the world — and all the major wars around the world, apart from Afghanistan and Mexico, are in the Middle East and Northeast Africa — come from six nations. They are the five permanent members and saboteurs of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. These are the nations that will be working hard to defeat and disrupt the treaty negotiations beginning Monday in New York to ban nuclear weapons. They are also the nations whose weapons dealers profit from the blood of millions of innocent people too far away to see and too valueless to be reported on U.S. television.

Yesterday a racist drove up to New York to kill black men, thinking that would make big news. He forgot that someone white might be attacked in London. At the same time, the U.S. government was busy murdering scores of people in the Middle East. Guess which of these three killing sprees is labeled terrorism, and which other two see the media slander the victims and completely ignore the terror and trauma to the survivors. Imagine being a black man walking in Manhattan today. Imagine being anyone living in the Middle East today. U.S. weapons flow to Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Turkey, not to mention Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, and to non-governmental organizations that the U.S. government itself calls terrorists in places like Syria. Most if not all forces against which these weapons are used also use U.S. weapons previously given, sold, traded, or stolen. The U.S. military brings its own weapons to Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, and in fact every single nation of the region, plus the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the skies above, with the possible exception of what’s left of Palestine to which genocidal cause the United States philanthropically donates billions of dollars of weapons to the Orwellianly named Israeli Defense Forces. Each overthrow that the U.S. leads, including those in Iraq and Libya, leads to massive proliferation of weapons, creating chaos and death as far off as places like Mali. But of course the people of the region appreciate the effort, right? Yeah, about as much as the people of Fergusson appreciate the police.

The global policeman headquartered in Arlington is less popular in the places policed than a congressman at a healthcare rally. In December 2013, Gallup surveyed 65 countries around the world, and most said the United States was the greatest threat to peace on earth. In eight countries in or near the Middle East, four said the United States was the greatest threat to peace, three placed the U.S. second behind Israel, and in Afghanistan those surveyed placed the U.S. second behind Pakistan. It’s nice to be appreciated. It wouldn’t take much to actually be appreciated. Stop selling weapons. Stop giving weapons. Stop bringing weapons. Withdraw troops. Send food, medicine, farm equipment, clean energy equipment. Doing that would cost a tiny fraction of what it costs to keep making everything worse.

Trump says the U.S.-initiated wars of the past 16 years have made everything worse, so we should have more of them. He’s drone murdering at 4 times Obama’s pace. He’s moving more troops into Syria and Kuwait. And he wants to defund everything else to fund a yet more expensive military. Charlottesville City Council to its great credit has opposed this, but one of its five members would only do so if the resolution pretended that all the killing protects U.S. rights. When we get to Q&A I’d love someone to explain to me how murdering Yemeni children gives me more rights, and how demonstrating inside a free speech cage instead of in the open the way we used to constitutes an expansion of freedom. The mayor of Charlottesville refused to support the resolution because it mentioned the U.S. military, and he wants to have some higher office purchased for him some day. Several weeks back both the ACLU and the Council on American-Islamic Relations on the same day sent out national fundraiser emails quoting a Gold Star father from Charlottesville claiming that U.S. warmaking in Iraq serves to protect the Bill of Rights. These are organizations whose entire purpose is to oppose some of the symptoms of the wars, yet they promote the wars because they have so internalized the propaganda that they literally cannot imagine questioning it.

That’s the purpose of my book War Is A Lie, which Helena’s company was good enough to publish, to encourage questioning — questioning of the sort that stopped a bombing of Syria in 2013 and supported a treaty with Iran in 2015, but completely fell apart and inserted its head into its posterior the moment an ISIS video was shown on television. Mike Signer is not the only coward among us. Our entire foreign policy and public budget are shaped by irrational fear. More likely than ISIS killing you are each of the following: a U.S. police officer killing you, the stairs in your house killing you, pollutants in your environment killing you, a toddler who finds a gun killing you, or Donald Trump retweeting you. I make no comment on which of those fates would be the worst.

As you’ve heard about Yemen and Syria, let me add a couple of comments about Afghanistan and — if there’s time — Iraq. The current U.S. war in Afghanistan is well into its 16th year, though U.S. violence there began much earlier. The U.S. military now has approximately 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan , plus 6,000 other NATO troops, 1,000 mercenaries, and another 26,000 contractors (of whom about 8,000 are from the United States). That’s 41,000 people engaged in a foreign occupation of a country 15 years after the accomplishment of their stated mission to overthrow the Taliban government. Afghanistan is the most heavily bombed country of all current U.S. wars, the bulk of that bombing done under President Barack Obama, who also tripled the level of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, before reducing them. During each of the past 15 years, our government in Washington has informed us that success was imminent. During each of the past 15 years, Afghanistan has continued its descent into poverty, violence, environmental degradation, and instability.

The United States is spending $4 million an hour on planes, drones, bombs, guns, and over-priced contractors in a country that needs food and agricultural equipment. Thus far, the United States has spent nearly $800 billion with virtually nothing to show for it except the death, injury and displacement of millions of Afghans, and the death of thousands of U.S. soldiers plus the injury of tens of thousands and the endangerment of people in the United States, the erosion of our rights, the shame of Guantanamo, and destruction of the earth’s environment.

Before Faisal Shahzad tried to blow up a car in Times Square, he had tried to join the war against the United States in Afghanistan. In numerous other incidents, terrorists targeting the United States have stated their motives as including revenge for the U.S. terrorism in Afghanistan, along with other U.S. wars in the region. In addition, Afghanistan is the one nation where the United States is engaged in major warfare in a country that is a member of the International Criminal Court. That body has now announced that it is investigating possible prosecutions for U.S. crimes in Afghanistan. Over the past 15 years, we have been treated to an almost routine repetition of scandals: hunting children from helicopters, blowing up hospitals with drones, urinating on corpses — all fueling anti-U.S. propaganda, all brutalizing and shaming the United States. U.S. and allied soldiers now being ordered into Afghanistan were in pre-school on September 11, 2001. Ordering young American men and women into a kill-or-die mission that was accomplished 15 years ago is a lot to ask. Expecting them to believe in that mission is too much. That fact may help explain this one: the top killer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is suicide. The second highest killer of American military is green on blue, or the Afghan youth who the U.S. is training turning their weapons on their trainers. Candidate Trump said: “Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghans we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.” President Trump is acting contrary to every part of that.

At 14 years since the launch of Operation Iraqi Liberation (to use the original name with the appropriate acronym, OIL) and over 26 years since Operation Desert Storm, there is little evidence that any significant number of people in the United States have a realistic idea of what our government has done to the people of Iraq, or of how these actions compare to other horrors of world history. A majority of Americans believe the war since 2003 has hurt the United States but benefitted Iraq. A plurality of Americans believe, not only that Iraqis should be grateful, but that Iraqis are in fact grateful.

A number of U.S. academics have advanced the dubious claim that war making is declining around the world. Misinterpreting what has happened in Iraq is central to their argument. By the most scientifically respected measures available, as of some years ago, though the death and destruction has continued, Iraq had lost 1.4 million lives as a result of OIL, had seen 4.2 million additional people injured, and 4.5 million people become refugees. The 1.4 million dead was 5% of the population. That compares to 2.5% lost in the U.S. Civil War, or 3 to 4% in Japan in World War II, 1% in France and Italy in World War II, less than 1% in the U.K. and 0.3% in the United States in World War II. The 1.4 million dead is higher as an absolute number as well as a percentage of population than these other horrific losses. U.S. deaths in Iraq since 2003 have been 0.3% of the dead, even if they’ve taken up the vast majority of the news coverage, preventing U.S. news consumers from understanding the extent of Iraqi suffering.

In a very American parallel, the U.S. government has only been willing to value the life of an Iraqi at that same 0.3% of the financial value it assigns to the life of a U.S. citizen.

The 2003 invasion included 29,200 air strikes, followed by another 3,900 over the next eight years. The U.S. military targeted civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances It also made use of what some might call “weapons of mass destruction,” using cluster bombs, white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new kind of napalm in densely settled urban areas.

Birth defects, cancer rates, and infant mortality are through the roof. Water supplies, sewage treatment plants, hospitals, bridges, and electricity supplies have been devastated, and not repaired. Healthcare and nutrition and education are nothing like they were before the war. And we should remember that healthcare and nutrition had already deteriorated during years of economic warfare waged through the most comprehensive economic sanctions ever imposed in modern history.

Money spent by the United States to “reconstruct” Iraq was always less than 10% of what was being spent adding to the damage, and most of it was never actually put to any useful purpose. At least a third was spent on so-called “security,” while much of the rest was spent on corruption in the U.S. military and its contractors.

The educated who might have best helped rebuild Iraq fled the country. Iraq had the best universities in Western Asia in the early 1990s, and now leads in illiteracy, with the population of teachers in Baghdad reduced by 80%.

For years, the occupying forces broke the society of Iraq down, encouraging ethnic and sectarian division and violence, resulting in a segregated country and the repression of rights that Iraqis used to enjoy, even under Saddam Hussein’s brutal police state.

Without Bush and Obama there would be no ISIS. Obama shifted to air war, and dropped more bombs and missiles on Iraq than Bush did. Obama set records for military spending and for weapons sales and gifts abroad. He created drone wars including in Pakistan and Somalia and Yemen. He ended the idea that presidents need Congress for wars, with his war in Libya fueling the violence in Syria and Iraq among other places. He put more troops in more countries. He bombed eight countries and bragged about it. He firmly established warrantless spying, baseless imprisonment, torture, and assassination as policy choices rather than crimes. He wrote secret and public so-called laws that his successor is picking and choosing from without input from the legislature. He created a new cold war with Russia. He did these things willingly or he permitted his subordinates to do them.

Now Trump says he’ll destroy ISIS, and the U.S. Secretary of Exxon-Mobil said yesterday: “Hard-fought victories in Iraq and Syria have swung the momentum in our coalition’s favor, but we must increase the intensity of our efforts and solidify our gains in the next phase of the counter-ISIS fight.” We’re winning so we need more war is a stand-by. In distant second is, of course, We’re losing so we need more war.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie.

Is Australia violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty?

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on March 24, 2017 at 9:45 pm

BY Tim Wright

23rd March, 2017

On 27 March, most of the world’s nations will begin work on a UN
treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons. This will be the first time in
more than two decades that multilateral nuclear disarmament
negotiations have taken place. Australia, regrettably, will not be
represented. It announced last month that it plans to boycott the
historic talks, as the treaty is not in our ‘national interests’.

Successive federal governments have argued that US nuclear weapons are
indispensable for Australia’s security – shielding us, like an
umbrella, from nuclear attack. Based on this misguided belief,
Australian officials have voiced strong opposition to the proposed UN
treaty, which would require Australia, upon joining, to reject any
role for nuclear weapons in its military doctrines.

But is Australia’s boycott of this process – that 123 other UN member
states have endorsed – compatible with its obligations under
international law? As a state party to the 1968 Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT), Australia is legally required to pursue negotiations ‘in
good faith’ on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament.
Fulfilment of that obligation cannot be delayed indefinitely.

In a Senate committee on 2 March, Labor parliamentarian Lisa Singh
asked the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade whether ‘failing to
participate in the upcoming negotiations will put us in breach of our
obligations under the [NPT]’. Jane Hardy, the head of the arms control
and counter-proliferation branch, responded: ‘We do not believe so.
That is our assessment.’

But not everyone is convinced. Professor Ramesh Thakur, a disarmament
expert at the Australian National University, told ABC radio on 16
March that Australia is required to be there. ‘Every NPT state party,
including Australia, has a legal obligation to work for complete
nuclear disarmament. Therefore, not to take part is arguably a
violation,’ he said.

John Carlson, who served as director general of the Australian
Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office for two decades, made the same
argument on The Interpreter last month. ‘Boycotting the forthcoming
negotiations, which are supported by the great majority of NPT
parties, is inconsistent with this obligation,’ he wrote, noting that
the new UN treaty would constitute an ‘effective measure’ for
disarmament.

But Hardy told the Senate committee that Australia’s participation
‘would send the wrong signal’. ‘We would not be able to negotiate in
good faith, so we do not believe – and the government has decided –
that this would be the wrong thing to do,’ she said. However, the
requirement of ‘good faith’ applies not simply to the conduct of
negotiations, but also to the pursuit of negotiations.

Is Australia ‘pursuing’ negotiations in good faith, within the meaning
of article VI of the NPT? The boycott certainly casts serious doubt on
Australia’s commitment to implementing that provision. Refusing to
participate in a process that is widely supported by the NPT
membership and likely to produce the kind of disarmament outcomes
envisaged by the treaty is clearly at odds with its object and
purpose.

The government claims, disingenuously, that the proposed treaty does
not constitute an ‘effective measure’, as nations armed with nuclear
weapons will refuse to join it. In explaining why it voted against the
UN General Assembly resolution last year that established the mandate
for negotiations, Australia said that the treaty will ‘be ineffective
in eliminating nuclear weapons’.

But the treaty need not eliminate nuclear weapons in order to be an
‘effective measure’. Under article VI, it must merely relate to – or
be in the direction of – nuclear disarmament. Whether or not
nuclear-armed states agree to join, it clearly satisfies that
requirement. (Even so, it makes no sense for Australia to prejudge the
effectiveness of the outcome of the negotiations before they even
start.)

Experience with other types of weapons has shown that negotiating a
prohibition facilitates progress towards disarmament. It is difficult
to imagine, for example, that the great gains made towards eliminating
chemical weapons and anti-personnel landmines would have been possible
without a decision by states to impose global prohibitions on those
weapons, which stigmatised their use and stockpiling.

Weapons that are outlawed are increasingly seen as illegitimate,
losing their political status and, along with it, the resources for
their production, modernisation and retention. Arms companies find it
more difficult to obtain contracts and financing for work on illegal
weapons, and such work carries a great reputational risk. It defies
logic that the new treaty on nuclear weapons will have no impact on
disarmament.

But Australia’s argument about the supposed ineffectiveness of this
widely supported treaty is simply a cover for its true – and rarely
stated – reason for opposing the ban: it wants to continue,
indefinitely, claiming ‘protection’ from US nuclear forces. Under the
terms of the NPT, that certainly is not an acceptable legal
justification for boycotting multilateral nuclear disarmament
negotiations.

What You Need to Know About the Future of Nuclear Weapons Under Donald Trump

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on March 23, 2017 at 11:44 pm

Emma Sarron Webster, TEENVOGUE, March 22, 2017

In late January, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the “Doomsday Clock” 30 seconds closer to midnight. The clock is symbolic, with midnight representing the end of the world; the group moves the minute and second hands based on its analysis of various threats to humanity. Now, at two and a half minutes to midnight, the Doomsday Clock’s minute hand is closer to the catastrophic hour than it’s been since 1953. The decision to move it was in part because of Trump’s recent comments on nuclear arms, as well as nuclear tests by North Korea and new ballistics missiles being built by Russia.

Right now, nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons are estimated to exist in the world (that’s down from the 70,000-plus that existed in the Cold War era), with the U.S. and Russia owning approximately 93% of those. The remaining 7% is owned by six other countries: France, China, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, and Israel.

Here’s what you need to know about nuclear weapons.

What are nuclear weapons and proliferation?

Nuclear weapons are explosive devices that derive their destructive force from a combination of chemical explosives and nuclear reactions. They can be fired using airplanes, submarines, or missiles launched from silos. They can destroy entire cities, wipe out millions of people, and cause long-term, devastating effects to the environment and to human health.
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The first nuclear weapons were developed during World War II, and they’ve only been used in warfare twice, when the United States bombed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Since then, other countries have acquired nuclear weapons, and more than 2,000 nuclear tests have been conducted.

Under the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the term “nuclear proliferation” refers to the spread of nuclear weapons (including weapon material, information, and technology) to states that don’t already have them, while nonproliferation refers to preventing such a spread.

What is the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons and why is it important?

The Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is an international agreement covering three pillars: disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The core of the NPT states that “countries with nuclear weapons will move towards disarmament; countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them; and all countries can access peaceful nuclear technology.”

The NPT was developed in the aftermath of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis (when the U.S. and the Soviet Union teetered on the brink of nuclear war following the discovery of Soviet missiles in Cuba) and has been in effect since 1970. There are 190 countries that are signatories to the NPT, including five nuclear states: the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France, and China. North Korea signed the NPT in 1985 but withdrew in 2003. India, Israel, and Pakistan have never signed the agreement.

“This treaty is just a piece of paper, but it has done a great deal in terms of limiting the creation of new nuclear capable states and fostering international cooperation,” Angelica Gheen, a radiation-health physicist at a large research university, tells Teen Vogue. Along with nonproliferation, “this has led to an environment of global cooperation on nuclear security…and it allowed for [South Africa] to successfully disarm with international resources,” a process that took place from 1989 to 1991, culminating in South Africa joining the NPT in ’91.

Some believe that nuclear proliferation can actually prevent war, with the dangerous weapons acting as deterrents to countries considering attacks. However, some studies state otherwise. Research has also shown that the closer a country is to acquiring nuclear weapons, the more likely it is to be attacked.

What are the main concerns with nuclear weapons?

Despite treaties and presumptions of deterrence, the fear that nuclear weapons could end up in the wrong hands or that existing nuclear states could choose to attack is real. “Terrorists are working every day to try to get their hands on weapons-grade materials that they could use in a bomb,” John Tierney, executive director at the Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization “dedicated to enhancing peace and security” through policy analysis and research, tells Teen Vogue.

There are also concerns associated with nuclear states that aren’t bound by the NPT, like North Korea, which has conducted several nuclear weapons tests over the years, as well as India and Pakistan, which have both conducted nuclear tests and are pursuing new nuclear delivery systems.

Though Syria and Iran don’t currently have nuclear weapons, both are believed to have taken steps toward proliferation, in violation of the treaty’s terms. (The 2015 Iran nuclear deal among Iran, the U.S., and five other countries was developed to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.) And then there are China and Russia. A Chinese state-run newspaper, Global Times, recently called for an increase in nuclear capabilities, and U.S. officials believe that China — North Korea’s only major ally — has supplied nuclear technology and materials to other countries. Russia has also caused concern recently: In 2014, U.S. officials said Russia violated the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by testing a ground-launched cruise missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The treaty bans missiles capable of traveling between 310 miles and 3,400 miles, and experts believed the weapon Russia tested had that capability. And in December 2016, Russian president Vladimir Putin said the country needed to “strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces.”

And though in 2010 the U.S. and Russia signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) to further limit nuclear arsenals (requiring each state to limit its number of deployed warheads to 1,550 by February 5, 2018), both countries (as well as China) are undergoing modernization of their nuclear arsenals. But if the goal is to eliminate nuclear weapons, what’s the point of updating them? From the looks of it, some people believe Russia’s modernization is a sign that they’re working on a new bomb and that America’s modernization is in response to that. Then again, the Center for Arms Control states that the U.S. modernization plans are based on maintaining the amount of nuclear weapons (as deterrents) agreed upon under the New START Treaty — and those goals may be necessary, considering some systems still currently exist on floppy disks. “I don’t think anybody would have an objection [to modernization] as long as [the weapons are] serving the purpose of deterrent, and if we’re committed to eventually reducing the numbers and eliminating them, you want them to be safe and secure,” Tierney says. “But if people are using this modernization process as a guise to proliferate [and] to create more dangerous and risky weapons, then that just escalates the risk of a nuclear mistake or a nuclear incident.”

What is the risk of a nuclear mistake or incident?

Which brings us to another important point: Aside from acts of aggression, there’s the very real concern about simple mistakes that could have catastrophic effects. Between 1950 and 2013, there were 32 nuclear weapon accidents, or “broken arrows,” in which weapons were accidentally launched, fired, detonated, stolen, or lost; six lost weapons were never found. Fortunately, those accidents haven’t resulted in a nuclear explosion, but there have been close calls. In 1980, a missile technician dropped a socket from a socket wrench, which fell 70 feet and pierced the side of the underground Titan II missile, causing it to explode, killing one person. But had the incident caused the missile’s nuclear warhead to detonate, it would have wiped out all of Arkansas.

And then there are the close calls that come with making the decision to detonate a nuclear weapon. In 1983, the Soviet Union’s missile-detection systems mistakenly detected an incoming strike from the U.S. that was triggered by the sun’s reflection off of cloud tops. Instead of registering the supposed nuclear attack, the Soviet duty officer, Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, acted on a gut feeling and instead registered it as a false alarm, avoiding a nuclear disaster. There have been other close calls with similar outcomes: narrowly avoided catastrophes based on human decisions.

And making that decision is something that has to be done in an incredibly short time frame, given that if a nuclear weapon is on its way, it’s only a matter of minutes before it hits. Thus, the U.S. has weapons that are on “hair-trigger alert,” which enables them to be launched within minutes, but it also means an increased likelihood of accidental launches or launches in response to false alarms.

When an alert happens, the military chain of command has less than 30 minutes to go through the process of assessing the threat, communicating with the president, and launching a retaliation if the president gives the go-ahead. “One of the reasons why these weapons are so dangerous is that unlike sending people to war and having a little bit of process and hopefully a congressional debate, and then a vote about whether or not to go into war, this is a decision that one person is making and in such a short time frame,” Tierney says.

Why is there concern surrounding Donald Trump and nuclear weaponry?

The U.S. has a “first strike” nuclear weapon policy, meaning America can activate weapons against another country without being attacked first. And President Donald Trump has the final say. Though national security advisors can brief him, it’s ultimately up to the president whether or not to attack, a point that came up during the presidential campaign when Hillary Clinton called out Trump’s impulsivity and how it could affect his decisions with the nuclear codes.

And though Trump said that receiving the nuclear codes was “sobering,” his various statements on the topic are cause for concern. Just one month before his inauguration, Trump tweeted that the U.S. should “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” a statement in direct contrast with Obama’s stated policy of nonproliferation. When asked about the tweet, Trump told MSNBC in a statement, “Let it be an arms race.” He seemingly reinforced those views just a few weeks ago, telling Reuters that the U.S. nuclear arsenal should be at the “top of the pack.”

“When Donald Trump tweets casually about the U.S.’s need to ‘strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,’ it drastically undermines all of these efforts and years of work to denormalize the escalation of nuclear weapon proliferation,” Gheen says. She notes that the NPT was already weakened by the loss of North Korea, and if the U.S., one of the two remaining major nuclear powers in the agreement, were to ever withdraw, the NPT would likely be dissolved.

On the campaign trail, Trump vowed to do away with the Iran nuclear deal, though his more recent lack of comments on the deal give the impression that he may keep the agreement intact. Even if he does try to renegotiate or withdraw from the deal — which, Tierney says, has already been a success — he’ll likely face pushback from U.S. officials and other countries that support it. “The fact of the matter is … [the deal] has worked,” Tierney says. “It’s done what it was intended to do: It’s put us in a much less risky situation, and the other [nations] that were partners in negotiating this…they want it to stay.”

Not long after that tweet, Trump took to Twitter again, in response to North Korea’s recent missile test, dismissing the country’s claims that it is developing a weapon capable of hitting the U.S. Some experts, however, believe it’s only a matter of time before North Korea develops such a weapon. “With an unpredictable Kim Jong Un [North Korea’s leader]…it is time for a very delicate diplomacy,” Gheen says. “With Donald Trump tweeting without thought for consequence, you have a scenario with two prideful, impulsive, nuclear-armed leaders. Add China into the mix, which is pretty much DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]’s only ally and [a nation that] has nuclear capabilities, and [there’s] a growing anxiety over Donald Trump.”

Part of that also has to do with Trump’s hiring — and firing — decisions. The president nominated former Texas governor Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy (DOE), which oversees the country’s nuclear programs. But unlike his predecessors, like MIT nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz, Perry — who once advocated for abolishing the DOE — has minimal education or experience in the field. During his confirmation hearings, Perry gave vague responses to questions about the U.S. nuclear warheads program, and it turns out he may not have been clear on what his role would be when he accepted the offer. Tierney noted that between Trump and Perry, “there’s concern that there’s a lack of technical knowledge [and] a lack of appreciation for the complexity and for the risk involved.”

And those concerns are heightened when you consider the fact that aside from his one-off tweets and eyebrow-raising statements, Trump hasn’t really shared a clear vision for the future of nuclear arms. “Effective nuclear and radiological emergency response, detection, and prevention requires a well-coordinated national effort,” Gheen says. “A unified national message is essential to maintain funding and efficacy of these programs…. The Trump transition team [showed] little interest in making the continuation of these programs a priority.”

What’s next?

Clearly, the issue of nuclear weaponry and proliferation is a sensitive and dangerous one. To maintain safety and avoid large-scale destruction, Tierney believes Trump needs to continue President Obama’s efforts in nonproliferation, and that he and Perry need to hire experts in the DOE and the administration who have significant knowledge and understanding of nuclear weapons necessary to advise the president and the secretary of energy.

As for the weapons themselves, Tierney and others believe the U.S. needs to take weapons off high alert and work with Russia to do the same. “No matter who’s the president, it’s almost too huge a task to expect anybody to encumber and have 100% accuracy all the time,” Tierney says. “If you’ve only got about 30 to 45 minutes to make a decision as monumental as that, that clearly isn’t enough time in most instances for somebody to have a full appreciation of all the facts that are going on and to make good judgment.” Multiple leaders as well as scientists have called for weapons to be taken off high alert.

And in January, Democratic senator Ed Markey and congressman Ted Lieu introduced legislation to restrict the “first use” policy and prohibit Trump from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war from Congress.

Ultimately, Gheen says, Trump and the U.S. need to continue to partner with other countries, particularly nuclear states, to help avoid a disaster. “There is a great tradition of international nuclear cooperation, especially within organizations like the International Atomic Energy Agency, an international organization that promotes “safe, secure, and peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology,” she says. “Together we can propose creative solutions for [nuclear] issues.”

Tierney notes, though, that this is something that may also require a grassroots effort. “We need to get a public movement in gear again to understand that these risks are out there, and as frightful as they are, they can be dealt with,” he says. “We’ve had success in the past and we need to get people together, but it’s [going to] take a voice of people, a movement, to get people to speak up loudly enough that the people who make these decisions in the capitals of various countries react as they did in the ’80s and start taking action to stop the proliferation of these weapons and eventually keep on decreasing them, and put us in a safer environment.”

Russia’s foreign minister says ready to discuss reducing nuclear arms

In Jefferson Parkway, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on March 23, 2017 at 10:12 pm

Reuters, March 23, 2017

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday Russia was willing to discuss reducing nuclear weapons, news agency RIA reported.

“We are ready to discuss the possibility of further reducing nuclear capacity, but only if all factors are taken into account and not only the number of strategic offensive weapons,” Lavrov was quoted as saying.

He said it was “absolutely clear the time had not yet come” for eliminating all nuclear arms, news agency TASS reported.

(Reporting by Denis Pinchuk; Writing by Alessandra Prentice)

U.S. first strike advantage heightens risk of nuclear war: Polanyi

In Nuclear Guardianship, Peace, War on March 23, 2017 at 12:32 am

By John Polanyi Mon., March 20, 2017

American’s first strike capabilities are a legitimate threat to Russia, eliminating the desired balance between nuclear superpowers.

At the dawn of the nuclear age, its principal architect, Robert Oppenheimer, spoke of a stable standoff between nuclear powers. They would be held back from attacking one another by mutual fear, instead circling endlessly “like a pair of scorpions trapped in a bottle.” Subsequently, political scientist Albert Wohlstetter pointed out that this stability would be lost if a situation arose in which advantage accrued to the first to attack. Then deterrence would at best be “a delicate balance of terror.”
Unknown to most, the balance is today at its most delicate. President Trump has inherited from previous administrations a balance of power tilted so far in favour of the U.S. that it might be advised at some awful moment of crisis to resort to a “first strike.”

Maintaining peace between the superpowers under these conditions will demand the highest level of skill and restraint from the two leaders. The auguries for this are not promising, since the delicacy of the balance has been hidden from public view.

What brought about this new imbalance? We owe it to a substantial increase in lethality of U.S. nuclear-armed submarine-based missiles. This makes it possible that a U.S. strike might destroy most of Russia’s missiles, still largely land-based. This new situation is described by three weapons experts in the March 1 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

The Bulletin’s authors characterize the new U.S. first-strike capability as “revolutionary.” The increase in U.S. ballistic missile lethality resulted from attachment to the warheads of an altitude-measuring device (called a superfuse) that ensures it will explode above a targeted missile, with 90 per cent probability of destroying it.

There are 506 submarine-based nuclear warheads, each equipped with super-fuses, routinely deployed at sea in U.S. submarines. (Each warhead yields 100 kilotonnes — eight times the Hiroshima bomb.) As a consequence, the full complement of 136 Russian silo-based ICBM’s might be destroyed by attacking each with two warheads.

This would leave the U.S. with a surplus of 234 super-fused warheads in their submarines, together with an additional 400 submarine-based “heavy” warheads (455 kilotonnes each) free to attack further targets, such as underground command centres, and forests sheltering mobile missiles. This catalogue of overkill does not include U.S. firepower on hundreds of land-based ICBM’s nor nuclear weapons on bombers.

The question today is not whether this guarantees U.S. “success” in the appalling eventuality of a nuclear first strike, but the effect it has on Russia’s faith in its deterrent. Absent assured second-strike capability, Albert Wohlstetter likened the standoff to a gun dual between armed cowboys — nothing could be less stable.

Due to limitations in the Russian early-warning system, which cannot see over the horizon, their military would have less warning time of a strike than the U.S. — a pathetic 10 to 15 minutes instead of 30.

Russian doubts as to the deterrent value of its retaliation will be compounded by its estimate of the capability of U.S. missile defences to blunt it. Most observers are unimpressed by the effectiveness of U.S. missile defences. Russia clearly takes a different view.

The weakening Russian position in the nuclear weapons equation is known to Russia. In September 2015 President Putin “accidentally” revealed on television Russian plans for a 40-ton nuclear-powered super-torpedo with a range of thousands of kilometres that could carry a 100 megaton nuclear warhead. Such monstrous weapons could render the east coast of the U.S. uninhabitable. Testing began in December. The Russian intention in developing this new weapon is surely to start redressing the nuclear imbalance.

In 1962, in a previous time of imbalance, an inexperienced president, John F. Kennedy, brought the world to the edge of the nuclear abyss. The imbalance that triggered the Cuban Missile Crisis was less than that of today. The two sides remained equally vulnerable. “What did it matter,” Kennedy asked at the time, “whether you got blown up by a missile based in Cuba, or an ICBM from the Soviet Union?” It was the perception of imbalance that mattered, and mattered hugely.

Driving the crisis was the erosion of confidence between the two sides. Even the scorpions in their bottle are reliant on mutual understanding. Putin asserts this when he refers, as he often does, to his “partners in the West.” Trump does the same when he expresses the wish to forge a new deal with Russia. The need for that has never been greater.

Ultimately, the superpowers must reject threats of Armageddon for something more worthy of their civilizations, legislating Gorbachev’s assertion last fall “that nuclear weapons must be prohibited.”

This proposition, fervently endorsed by President Obama, will soon be debated in the UN General Assembly. But while we lay the foundations for a more humane world, we must see to it that the present order does not crumble.
John Polanyi is a Nobel laureate at the University of Toronto who has written widely on the dangers of nuclear war.

India may abandon its ‘no first use’ nuclear policy: Expert

In Human rights, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on March 21, 2017 at 10:24 pm

The Indian Express, March 17, 2017
India may abandon the policy if it feels that Pakistan is going to use nuclear weapons or tactical nuclear weapons against it
India may abandon its ‘no first use’ nuclear policy and launch a preemptive strike against Pakistan if it feared that Islamabad was likely to use the weapons first, a top nuclear expert on South Asia has claimed.
The remarks by Vipin Narang, an expert on South Asian nuclear strategy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, before a Washington audience was though a negation of India’s stated policy of ‘no first use’.
During the 2017 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, Narang said, “There is increasing evidence that India will not allow Pakistan to go first”.
He said India “may” abandon the policy and launch a preemptive strike against Pakistan if it believed that Pakistan was going to use nuclear weapons or most likely the tactical nuclear weapons against it.
But, he pointed out, India’s preemptive strike may not be conventional strikes and would also be aimed at Pakistan’s missiles launchers for tactical battlefield nuclear warheads.
“India’s opening salvo may not be conventional strikes trying to pick off just Nasr batteries in the theatre, but a full ‘comprehensive counterforce strike’ that attempts to completely disarm Pakistan of its nuclear weapons so that India does not have to engage in iterative tit-for-tat exchanges and expose its own cities to nuclear destruction,” Narang said.
He said this thinking surfaces not from fringe extreme voices or retired Indian Army officers frustrated by the lack of resolve they believe their government has shown in multiple provocations, but from no less than a former Commander of India’s Strategic Forces, Lt Gen BS Nagal.
It also comes perhaps more importantly and authoritatively, from the highly-respected and influential former national security adviser Shivshankar Menon in his 2016 book ‘Choices: Inside the Making of Indian Foreign Policy’, the nuclear strategist said.

“Serious voices, who cannot be ignored, seem to suggest that this is where India may be heading, and certainly wants to head,” Narang said.
“So our conventional understanding of South Asia’s nuclear dynamics and who, in fact, might use nuclear weapons first and in what mode may need a hard rethink given these emerging authoritative voices in India who are not content to cede the nuclear initiative to Pakistan,” he said, adding that this would mark a major shift in Indian strategy if implemented.
“In short, we may be witnessing what I call a ‘decoupling’ of Indian nuclear strategy between China and Pakistan.”
Sameer Lalwani, senior associate and deputy director South Asia at the Stimson Center, an American think-tank, said Narang’s remarks challenged the conventional wisdom of South Asia’s strategic stability problem.
Based on recent statements and writings of high-level national security officials (serving and retired), Narang argued that India may be exhibiting a “seismic shift” in its nuclear strategy from ‘no first use’ to a preemptive nuclear counterforce allowing for escalation dominance or a “splendid first strike” against Pakistan, Lalwani said.

UN negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons start next week

In Human rights, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on March 21, 2017 at 10:03 am

The first negotiating session of the UN Conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons will take place at the United Nations in New York on March 27.

In December 2016, the UN General Assembly decided – by a vote of 113 in favour, 35 against and 13 abstaining – to commence negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, regardless of whether or not the nuclear-armed and allied states join such a treaty.

Impact of the treaty on nuclear-armed and allied States

Even if no nuclear-armed or allied States join the nuclear prohibition treaty, it could impact on their policies and practices.

The treaty could, for example, affirm that the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons are already illegal under existing international law, including international humanitarian law and the UN Charter. This would increase the legal and political pressure on nuclear armed and allied States to phase out nuclear deterrence and join subsequent negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
The treaty could also prohibit the financing of nuclear weapons, including by banks and public funds, in the States signing the treaty. This follows a similar practice of governments divesting from corporations making landmines and cluster munitions following the adoption of treaties prohibiting these weapons.

Such action could hit at the heart of one of the most powerful drivers of the nuclear arms race – the nuclear weapons corporations which are making billions of dollars from producing the weapons, and have a vested interest in keeping the arms race going.

UNFOLD ZERO has joined with Basel Peace Office and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, in submitting a working paper to the UN negotiating conference calling for the treaty to include such a prohibition, providing details about how such a prohibition could work, and giving examples of countries that have already divested their public funds from nuclear weapons corporations.

UNFOLD ZERO and PNND hold a consultation in Washington DC with disarmament experts on the nuclear prohibition treaty, nuclear arms control between US and Russia, and the 2018 UN High Level Conference.
UNFOLD ZERO consultations in UN centres and key capitals

From January to March 2017, UNFOLD ZERO and PNND organised a series of consultation meetings with disarmament experts and civil society representatives on the current nuclear disarmament climate, how to build success in the ban treaty negotiations and the 2018 UN High Level Conference, and how to build cooperation between civil society and parliamentarians.

Consultation events were organised in Berlin, Geneva, London, New York, Vienna, and Washington DC.

The outcomes of these events help UNFOLD ZERO and PNND feed into the UN negotiations and build support from parliaments and in inter-parliamentary forums including the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

UNFOLD ZERO at the March 6 ban treaty discussion in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, hosted by the government of Austria, Geneva Centre for Security Policy and the Geneva Disarmament Platform. [Photo: GCSP]
Geneva discussions on the ban treaty

A series of informal discussions amongst governments, disarmament experts and civil society organisations is being held at the Palais de Nations in Geneva in March, prior to the start of the UN negotiations in New York.

The discussions, which have been organised by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and the Geneva Disarmament Platform, have focused on a number of critical issues for the negotiations, including provisions on cooperation and relations with nuclear-armed states outside the treaty, withdrawal provisions and provisions for nuclear-armed States to accede to the treaty.

UNFOLD ZERO has been participating in these discussions along with our partners Basel Peace Office, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament and the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms.E
Yours sincerely
The UNFOLD ZERO team

A Legal First: Japanese Government and Tepco found liable for Fukushima disaster

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere, Public Health on March 21, 2017 at 3:42 am

BY DAISUKE KIKUCHI, JAPAN TIMES, MARCH 17 2017
http://tinyurl.com/k3g3xy4

MAEBASHI, GUNMA PREF. – A court in Japan has ruled for the first time that the government and the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were responsible for failing to take preventive measures against the March 11, 2011, quake-triggered tsunami that killed scores and forced tens of thousands from their homes.
Friday’s stunning ruling by the Maebashi District Court was the first to recognize negligence by the state and Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. It called the massive tsunami predictable and said the major nuclear disaster could have been avoided.
The district court ordered the two to pay damages totaling ¥38.55 million to 62 of 137 plaintiffs from 45 households located near the plant, which suffered a triple meltdown caused by the tsunami, awarding ¥70,000 to ¥3.5 million in compensation to each plaintiff.
The plaintiffs had demanded the state and Tepco pay compensation of ¥11 million each — a total of about ¥1.5 billion — over the loss of local infrastructure and psychological stress they were subjected to after being forced to relocate to unfamiliar surroundings.
Citing a government estimate released in July 2002, the court said in the ruling that “Tepco was capable of foreseeing several months after (the estimate) that a large tsunami posed a risk to the facility and could possibly flood its premises and damage safety equipment, such as the backup power generators.”
It pointed out that the state should have ordered Tepco to take bolstered preventive measures, and criticized the utility for prioritizing costs over safety.
Of the plaintiffs, 76 who lived in evacuation zones were forced to move, while another 61 evacuated voluntarily even though their houses were located outside evacuation zones. The ruling was the first of 30 similar class-action suits filed nationwide involving more than 10,000 plaintiffs.
About 80,000 citizens who had lived in Fukushima reportedly left the prefecture after the March 2011 disaster.
“I believe that the ruling saying both the government and Tepco were equally responsible is an important judgment,” Katsuyoshi Suzuki, the lead lawyer for the defense said at a news conference following the ruling. “But thinking about the psychological distress (the plaintiffs faced) after being forced to evacuate from their homes, I think the amount is not enough.”
Takehiro Matsuta, 38, one of the plaintiffs who evacuated from the city of Koriyama, hailed the ruling, but called the damages “disappointing.”

“The ruling was one big step for my family, for those who evacuated from Fukushima to Gunma, and for tens of thousands of earthquake victims nationwide,” he said.
But called the payout “disappointing,” as his child, who was 3 years old at the time of the nuclear disaster, was not granted compensation. “My wife and I are struggling everyday, but it’s my child who suffers the most.”
The group of lawyers for the plaintiffs, which have had suits filed since September 2011, claimed that the Fukushima disaster resulted in serious human rights violations by forcing victims to relocate after the crisis caused widespread environmental damage.
The plaintiffs argued that Tepco could have prevented the damage if it had implemented measures, including the building of breakwaters, based on its 2008 tsunami trial calculation that showed waves of over 10 meters could hit the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
Those calculations took into account the 2002 estimate by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion, which concluded that there was a 20 percent chance of a magnitude-8 earthquake rocking areas off Fukushima within 30 years.
However, the government and Tepco have argued that the massive tsunami was unexpected, claiming that there were different opinions among scholars over the long-term evaluation. Both attacked the credibility of the study, calling it unscientific.
The government also objected to the ruling, saying that because it had no authority to force Tepco to take such preventive measures as argued by the plaintiffs, it bore no responsibility.
According to the defense, a number of other class suits are inching closer to rulings, with one in the city of Chiba scheduled for Sept. 22 and another in the city of Fukushima involving 4,000 plaintiffs expected by the year’s end.