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Council Statement Registers Concern Over Potential Nuclear Weapons Use

At its April meeting, the APS Council passed a statement expressing concern over potential use of nuclear weapons by the United States, and calling for a more extensive public debate on this issue. Of particular concern was the danger that any change in US policy would undermine the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime, which seeks to limit the spread of nuclear weapons.

The statement reads:
“The American Physical Society is deeply concerned about the possible use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states and for pre-emptive counter-proliferation purposes.

Nuclear weapons have not been used for more than 60 years, reflecting a widespread appreciation of the grave human costs and political and moral consequences of crossing the nuclear threshold. The American Physical Society urges a prompt, full and informed public debate about the circumstances under which the United States might use or threaten to use nuclear weapons, and the consequences for the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

In addition, the Council provided background information to place the statement in context. It reads:

“The American Physical Society notes that any policy by the United States to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states threatens to undermine the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime. The current US nuclear-use policy, stated in 1995, and reiterated in 2002, reads:

'The United States reaffirms that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon state-parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, except in the case of an invasion or any other attack on the United States, its territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies, or on a state toward which it has a security commitment carried out, or sustained by such a non-nuclear-weapon state in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon state.’”

A statement on nuclear use was recommended to Council by the APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA). One factor in POPA’s decision to bring this issue forward was the strong advocacy on its behalf by Jorge Hirsch of the University of California, San Diego
(see "UCSD Physicist Wants Nuclear Weapons Taken Off the Table").

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff