76 Years after A-Bomb, Youth Can Lead on Reducing Nuke Danger | Opinion

Last month I spoke to a youth group whose members are advocating for a treaty to forever end nuclear weapons testing. Our meeting was timely, before the July 16 anniversary of the first atomic bomb test at the end of World War II. Code-named Trinity, the A-bomb test by the U.S. Army in the New Mexico desert brought forward the dangerous age of nuclear weapons.

We need to listen to these students and young professionals who dream of finally getting us out of this nuclear peril, which is entering another dangerous phase.

There are still close to 14,000 nuclear weapons in the world according to the Arms Control Association. A recently released publication from the Pentagon alarmingly stated, "There is an increased potential for regional conflicts involving nuclear-armed adversaries in several parts of the world and the potential for adversary nuclear escalation in crisis or conflict."

A 1953 nuclear weapons test
A 1953 nuclear weapons test by the United States. National Archives

Nuclear arms control efforts have been stalled in recent years. A major reason for that is failure to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear test explosions. Eight key nations (United States, China, Israel, Iran, North Korea, Egypt, India and Pakistan) have yet to ratify the treaty, which tragically keeps the door open for a resumption of nuclear testing.

The United States has not test exploded a nuclear weapon since 1992, and has no need with computer and lab programs that maintain the arsenal. But not ratifying the treaty sends a signal that nuke test explosions could resume at any time. Also reports that the Trump administration had seriously considered new nuclear tests last year shows the danger of leaving the treaty in limbo.

world's first atomic bomb
On July 16, 1945, the world's first atomic bomb was detonated approximately 60 miles north of White Sands National Monument. White Sands Missile Range Photo

The failure to ban nuclear testing forever could ultimately lead to a resumption in nuke testing by Russia or China. New nuke testing would be extremely dangerous, increasing international tensions and encouraging a bigger arms race. An expensive arms race would drain resources away from fighting hunger, poverty, disease and climate change.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his successor John F. Kennedy originally pursued a treaty to ban nuclear testing. Both Ike and JFK believed a test ban treaty would be a bridge to nuclear disarmament, one that we need desperately now as nuclear arms reductions have stalled.

Eisenhower and JFK's efforts achieved the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty banning atmospheric, underwater and outer space testing. Now it is up to us to finally close the door on nuclear testing forever by banning underground testing.

It's vital to note Eisenhower and JFK were from different political parties, yet shared the same goal of supporting a nuclear test ban treaty. Eisenhower even wrote a letter to the Senate in support of ratifying the limited test ban when JFK was president. Members of the Eisenhower administration helped Kennedy achieve treaty ratification. We would hope for this bipartisanship today in ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

The Youth group, organized by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty organization, can guide us there by bringing people together on this vital arms control issue. Their global members are working to bring each nation onto the treaty. One of the areas the group highlights is the treaty's extensive international monitoring system, which ensures verification. The students participate in science and technology workshops to learn more about the monitoring stations that detect nuclear explosions.

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization Youth Group
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization Youth Group now has over 1000 members advocating for the treaty. CYG photo

At our meeting I asked the group if they had added to their membership of 200 plus students. They told me their membership had grown to over a thousand!

If you are a college or high school student please consider joining the Youth Group supporting the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, and help change the world.

William Lambers is the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace and Ending World Hunger. His writings have been published by The Washington Post, History News Network, Newsweek and many other outlets.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.