Aug 21, 2015

Let’s Be Clear. There Is No Surviving a Nuclear War

​NewsWeek... The reality of nuclear war between nations is that very few nuclear weapons with yields below 10 kilotons would be used: A much more likely scenario would be the use of multiple weapons in the 50-to-500 kiloton range. The result would be a public health emergency for which it is impossible to prepare.

A report released in 2013 by the Nobel Laureate International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and its U.S. affiliate Physicians for Social Responsibility demonstrated that a limited nuclear war involving just 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs—less than 0.5 percent of the world's nuclear arsenal—would be devastating. More than 20 million people would be dead in a week from the explosions, firestorms and immediate radiation effects. But the global consequences would be far worse. The climatic disruption and resulting decline in global food production would put two billion people at risk worldwide.

We could spend the equivalent of the entire U.S. defense budget (estimated to $590 billion annually) on a Nuclear Global Health Workforce and still not be adequately prepared for the consequences of even such a limited nuclear war. Our entire pattern of civilization, including the design of cities, human health resources and food production, would need to be changed to make it resilient to nuclear war. This has been repeatedly and conclusively determined by studies since the 1970s, including the "Medical Implications of Nuclear War" conducted in 1986 by the National Academy of Sciences and cited in Dallas's research.

Civilization as we know it cannot survive a nuclear war that involved the use of even a fraction of the world's nuclear arsenals on multiple cities. Yes, devoting more resources to preparing for a nuclear incident makes sense, but when it comes to nuclear war prevention is the only responsible course of action.  

In order to fully succeed in that objective, nuclear weapons must be outlawed and permanently removed from national arsenals.

James E. Doyle is an independent consultant and former nuclear security specialist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Ira Helfand, M.D. is a past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, co-President of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.