June Newsletter: Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

Dear friends,

This past May, a draft treaty to ban nuclear weapons was released at the United Nations. Nuclear weapons are a major global catastrophic risk, one that GCRI has done extensive work on. At first glance, the nuclear ban treaty would seem like something to wholeheartedly support. However, upon closer inspection, its merits are ambiguous.

The treaty is not expected to eliminate nuclear weapons because the nuclear-armed countries won’t sign it. Instead, it seeks to strengthen the norm against nuclear weapons and increase pressure for disarmament. …

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GCR News Summary August/September 2016

EU Parliament in Strasbourg image courtesy of  David Iliff under a CC-BY-SA 3.0 license

By Matthijs Maas

In the early hours of September 9, North Korea carried out its fifth nuclear test, its biggest ever at an estimated 10 kilotons. The test, which was first detected as a magnitude 5.3-earthquake, was condemned by the UN Security Council, as well as leaders from across the world. In a statement, North Korea said it had tested a “nuclear warhead… standardized to be able to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets”. …

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GCR News Summary June/July 2016

B-61 nuclear bomb, the same model as stored at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey; Image courtesy of Phil Schmitten / United States Department of Defense

by Matthijs Maas

A failed coup attempt against the Turkish government raised fears over the safety of the US nuclear stockpile stored at Incirlik Air Base after authorities temporarily locked down the base and arrested the base commander for supporting the mutineers’ air operations. Under NATO’s nuclear sharing agreement, Incirlik Air Base plays host to an estimated 50 US B61 hydrogen bombs–over a …

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GCR News Summary May 2016

President Obama and Prime Minister Abe at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial image courtesy of Pete Souza/The White House

President Obama became the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima, just a little more than one month after Secretary of State John Kerry became the highest ranking US official to visit the city where the US detonated a nuclear weapon at the end of World War II. Obama laid a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, but did not apologize for the use of nuclear weapons against Japan. …

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GCR News Summary March 2016

Go game image courtesy of Jaro Larnnos under a Creative Commons license

Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo computer program beat 9-dan professional go player Lee Se-dol 4-1 in a five-game match. Lee has won 18 international titles and is widely regarded as one of the best Go players in the world. AlphaGo made a number of decisive moves that the human players found completely surprising and “beautiful”. The South Korean Go Association granted AlphaGo an honorary 9-dan ranking for its “sincere efforts” to master the game at a level approaching …

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GCR News Summary February 2016

Stop Trident demonstration in London image courtesy of David Holt under a Creative Commons license

Tens of thousands of people gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square to protest the renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear submarine program. It was the largest anti-nuclear demonstration in England since 1983, when several hundred thousand people demonstrated against the deployment of cruise missiles at Greenham Common. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the protesters they should not forget that a nuclear war would mean “absolute destruction on both sides” and said that he …

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GCR News Summary May 2015

MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft image courtesy of the US Air Force/Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt

China has converted some of its long-range missiles to carry multiple warheads. China’s decision to retrofit its missiles with “multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles” (MIRVs) appears to be at least in part a response to the US expanding its missile defense in the Pacific. The US, the UK, France, and Russia already have missiles equipped with MIRVs. The New York Times noted in an editorial that because MIRVs can overwhelm missile defense systems, they increase …

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GCR News Summary April 2015

US Secretary of State John Kerry addressing the Non-Proliferation Review Conference image courtesy of the US State Department

Angela Kane, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, warned that the nuclear powers’ lack of meaningful progress toward disarmament could undermine the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). US Secretary of State John Kerry said at the NPT Review Conference that as of September, 2014 the US had 4,717 nuclear warheads—87 fewer than the year before. Kerry said that the US planned to accelerate dismantling its approximately 2,500 retired warheads by …

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GCR News Summary March 2015

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Lausanne image courtesy of the US State Department

Iran and the P5+1 countries—the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany—worked past a March 31 deadline to reach a framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. Iran agreed to limit its uranium-enrichment program to producing low-enriched uranium with 6,104 older-generation centrifuges at a single site in Natanz. Iran also agreed to give up 97% of its existing stockpile of enriched uranium and …

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GCR News Summary February 2015

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva image courtesy of the US Department of State

The Global Challenges Foundation published a report on the risks human civilization faces (GCRI’s Seth Baum and Robert de Neufville contributed content to the report). The report identified 12 different areas of risk “that for all practical purposes can be called infinite”. These are nuclear war, global pandemics, climate change, ecological catastrophe, asteroid impacts, super-volcano eruptions, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, bad global governance, the …

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