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Dangers from Nuclear weapons: Physicists can help! US Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction

June 16, 2023

Dangers from Nuclear weapons: Physicists can help! US Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction

Dangers from Nuclear weapons:
Physicists can help!
US Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction
Frank N. von Hippel, Senior Research Physicist and
Professor of Public and International Affairs emeritus
Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University,
Japan Physical Society, 9 PM US ET, Tuesday, 21 March 2023


June 16, 2023

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  1. Dangers from Nuclear weapons: Physicists can help! US Physicists Coalition

    for Nuclear Threat Reduction “Humanity remains one misunderstanding, one misstep, one miscalculation, one pushed button away from annihilation.” – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, 28 September 2021 Frank N. von Hippel, Senior Research Physicist and Professor of Public and International Affairs emeritus Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University, [email protected] Japan Physical Society, 9 PM US ET, Tuesday, 21 March 2023
  2. Outline Global stocks of nuclear warheads China’s buildup US and

    other nuclear-armed states are “modernizing” Nuclear weapons are indiscriminate and a global threat Dangers of accidental nuclear war Historical role of physicists as advocates for nuclear arms control Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction 2
  3. First Soviet test Cuban Missile Crisis End of Cold War

    End of Post-Cold War Relaxation Hiroshima-Nagasaki US Russia Total All others * Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Nuclear Notebook, https://thebulletin.org/nuclear-notebook/ Global stocks of nuclear warheads have declined but still ≈10,000 and we may be beginning a new buildup. 3
  4. Nuclear warheads are not weapons. Militarily, they are largely obsolete.

    US battlefield nuclear weapons: 20,000 in 1967  200 today. Precision-guided munitions are used for destroying tanks, ships, aircraft and missiles. Nuclear warheads are for terrorizing, but modern societies are vulnerable to pressure in less primitive ways: economic sanctions, computer hacking … 4 ≈100
  5. China discovered in 2021 to be building up ~ 300

    ICBM launch “silos” in context of confrontation with US over independence of Taiwan Beijing Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda, “China’s nuclear missile silo expansion: From minimum deterrence to medium deterrence,” https://thebulletin.org/2021/09/chinas-nuclear-missile-silo-expansion-from- minimum-deterrence-to-medium-deterrence/ 5 (DF-41 ICBM can have 3 warheads ≈ 300 new silos
  6. China’s buildup beyond a “minimum deterrent” may in part be

    due to concerns about the combined effects of a US first strike and ballistic missile defense against China’s surviving missiles (offense-defense arms race). 6 ? (+ 800 US nuclear cruise missiles and bombs for long-range bombers)
  7. US is “modernizing” its nuclear “triad” • 400 new ICBMs

    carrying up to 1200 warheads • 12 new ballistic-missile submarines carrying up to 1500 warheads • 100 new bombers carrying up to ~1000 new nuclear-armed cruise missiles • ≈ 4000 new and refurbished nuclear warheads • Russia, France, UK, China also “modernizing.” Reagan-Bush Obama-Trump- Biden… 1960 1980 2000 2020 2040 15% 10% 5% % of DOD Budget ~$50 billion/yr (+$20 billion/yr for warheads) Eisenhower- Kennedy 7
  8. Consequences of All-out Nuclear War Risk = (Very large Consequences)x(Uncertain

    Probability) In 1961, US Strategic Air Command estimated its Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) would kill 400 million people in the Soviet Union, China and E. Europe plus perhaps 200 million from radioactive fallout in W. Europe, Japan, South Asia.* US megatonnage today is 1/20 of 1961 but total deaths, including from starvation, after an all-out nuclear war could be billions. * Daniel Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine (Bloomsbury, 2017). 8
  9. Pu U Al High Explosive Modern strategic ballistic missile warhead

    Up to 8 warheads on a single missile (450,000 tons TNT equivalent each) Plutonium shell “Secondary” Nagasaki bomb (20,000 tons chemical explosive equivalent) Nagasaki implosion design was miniaturized and used as a trigger for much more powerful compact thermonuclear warheads.
  10. Nuclear weapons are indiscriminate. Blast and Fire: One Russian warhead

    (30x Hiroshima) on Pentagon ≈ 1 million deaths 11 km scaled Hiroshima firestorm radius (~Y1/2) Capitol White House Pentagon 6 km scaled Hiroshima blast radius (~Y1/3) Beltway 1 0
  11. * Major U.S. attack on Russian nuclear forces (The U.S.

    Nuclear War Plan: Time for a Change (1200 warheads) https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/us-nuclear-war-plan-report.pdf, 2001) Fig. 4.84. x ~4 for 2 weeks Lethal outdoors Radioactive Fallout: Most US warheads are aimed at Russian and Chinese nuclear weapons. Fallout from groundbursts on “hard” targets such as missile silos in Russia would cause ~10 million deaths. In addition, hundreds of “leadership” and “war-supporting-industry” targets are in urban areas.* Kazakhstan Submarine bases (dots are airbursts)
  12. 65,000 warheads J. Coupe, C. G. Bardeen, A. Robock, O.

    B. Toon, “Nuclear Winter Responses to Nuclear War Between the United States and Russia,” Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (2019) 124, 8522–8543. https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JD030509 Climate impact of a US- Russia nuclear war on the growing season if firestorms from ≈ 400 Megatons of nuclear explosions on cities loft ≈100 Megatons of sun-blocking black smoke to stratosphere (7-yr half-life). Most of North America, Russia, Europe, China, would experience Antarctic growing season (“nuclear winter”) during first two years. Congress has asked US National Academy of Sciences to evaluate these predictions. Could Japan also mount a review? Before After Length of growing season: 0 50 100 150 200 300days 12
  13. 13 Lili Xia et al, “Global food insecurity and famine

    from reduced crop, marine fishery and livestock production due to climate disruption from nuclear war soot injection”, Nature Food, August 2022 Starvation from 37 Megatons of soot in stratosphere Percentage deaths of national populations if international food trade halted and 50% of livestock feed converted to human consumption 25-50% 75-95% 50-75% 95-100% 0-1% 1-25%
  14. Risk = (Probability)x(Consequences): accidental nuclear war: ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles)

    are targetable and therefore in a launch-on-warning posture Russia’s ballistic missiles can reach US ICBM silos with ≤ 30 min. flight time. President’s decision time less than 10 minutes and depends on accurate information 65,000 warheads 14
  15. Information is not always accurate Publicly known false alarms •

    2 US:1979/80 (training tape, faulty chip), • 1 SU:1983 (sun reflection from cloud) Early-warning crews saved us from nuclear destruction, but their leaders were discharged because they took too long to confirm warnings were false. • In Europe, 1983, NATO command exercise programmed to end with simulated nuclear attack on E. Europe was taken as real by Soviet command. Nuclear bombs were loaded on Soviet fighter-bombers for preemptive attack. Nuclear threats in military crises • 1961 crisis over US access to W. Berlin. (Is Taiwan today’s W. Berlin?) • 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis occurred after US announcement during Berlin Crisis that US had “nuclear superiority.” • 2022 Putin threatened nuclear attack if NATO support for Ukraine becomes intolerable. A New risk: Possible hacking of nuclear command and control 15
  16. 16 Nuclear-armed states Former nuclear-armed states Under US nuclear “umbrella”

    States in nuclear-weapon-free zones Other Global nuclear-weapon status (35% have joined 2017 Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons)
  17. Physical scientists have tried and sometimes succeeded in making a

    difference Niels Bohr was the first During World War II, Bohr met separately with President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill to urge them to consult with Stalin on the secret US-UK nuclear- weapon project. He hoped to prevent a post-war nuclear arms race. He failed but his concerns and activism inspired others. 17
  18. 1955 Russell-Einstein Manifesto and resulting Pugwash Conferences facilitated at least

    five important arms-control agreements (1963 Atmospheric Test Ban Treaty, 1972 Treaty Limiting Anti-Ballistic Missiles, 1972 Biological Weapons Ban, 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, and 1993 Chemical Weapons Ban) 18 S. Tomonaga, Nobel Prize 1965 First Pugwash meeting in Canada, 1957 [H. Yukawa (Nobel Prize, 1949) not in photo but attended] Pugwash and its leader, Joseph Rotblat, were awarded 1995 Nobel Peace Prize Joseph Rotblat C.F. Powell, Nobel Prize 1950 Herman J Muller, Nobel Prize 1946 Leo Szilard,
  19. Of course, Not just physicists! 1982 mass movement to “freeze”

    nuclear arms race culminated in a million-person demonstration in New York and mass demonstrations in W. Europe against US intermediate-range missiles These uprisings changed Reagan’s mind and encouraged Gorbachev. 19 March to UN headquarters
  20. But that was 40 years ago With end of Cold

    War, most of us believed danger of nuclear war ended. Activists moved to other issues – especially climate change. So did most members of U.S. Congress – except for those who have districts and states with nuclear weapons jobs. They supported continued funding. Now we must mobilize again to educate and empower those politicians interested in further reducing the threat from nuclear weapons. 20
  21. US Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction https://physicistscoalition.org Founded in

    2020 with sponsorship of American Physical Society to help educate physicists and then have them help educate Congress about dangers of nuclear war and how the dangers can be reduced. ~850 US physicists, including graduate students. Have advocated: • For extension of New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (new START) (extended for 5 years till 2026 by Biden and Putin) • Against Trump Administration proposal to prepare to resume underground nuclear weapon tests (2021). • For a no-first-nuclear-use policy (blocked by united alliance of Congressional Republicans, the Pentagon and governments of Japan and other US allies) Physicists Coalition, now independent, is selecting more issues for advocacy starting with urging negotiations on a follow-on to US-Russia New START nuclear arms reduction treaty. 21
  22. Additional Coalition Activities https://physicistscoalition.org 22 • Continual cycle of education

    of members on issues • Provide expertise to community and national nuclear arms control advocacy groups • Next generation fellowship: graduate students, post docs, Assistant Professors who apply to study an issue with a nuclear-weapon policy expert Chapters in universities to • Teach courses on nuclear-weapon issues • Develop sustained advisory relationships with Congressional offices Outreach to physicists in other countries (as in this session) Thank you for attending!