As a result of policies and actions of the nine nuclear weapon states, the global threat from nuclear weapons is worsening. In particular, U.S. withdrawal from important arms control treaties, the pursuit of new nuclear weapons capabilities and possible reduction of the threshold for nuclear warfighting by the U.S. and Russia, and programs in all nine states for sweeping modernization and development of nuclear arsenals, suggest we confront a resurgent nuclear arms race and a more perilous future. These new threats add to the dangers posed by the nine national nuclear arsenals that together contain roughly 10,000 operational nuclear warheads, with an explosive power in the range of 200,000 Hiroshima bombs. About 2000 warheads are on alert status, capable of launch within minutes of an order.
Experience suggest that engagement and pressure external to national governments is necessary to orient national policies towards reducing nuclear threats worldwide. Physicists, especially in the United States, have had a special relation to nuclear weapons policy since the start of the nuclear age. Yet today this issue receives scant attention from the U.S. physics community, reflecting the post-cold-war waning of public concern about nuclear-weapon dangers. A new generation of the physics community must become informed, engaged and active as informed advocates on this pressing issue.
With the support of the American Physical Society, we have launched a Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction. Our goal is to reach out to physicists in the United States and mobilize those interested in engaging on the nuclear threat and opportunities for its reduction. The physics community can be a powerful voice to inform Congress and other key stakeholders in policymaking, including the public.
To build a national network of physicists willing to be informed advocates on this issue, we are sending experts in nuclear arms control issues to physics institutions across the country to deliver colloquia, recruit physicists to the coalition and foster local and national advocacy. Advocacy takes many forms: Educating Congressional representatives at home and in Washington, educating state legislators, writing articles for the public, coordinating messaging with local action groups and national NGOs active in nuclear arms issues, and more.
The project has been launched by a grant from the American Physical Society – a professional organization of 55,000 physicists in academia, industry and government. Two years of support is provided by the APS’s new Innovation Fund (IF), in partnership with the APS Office of Government Affairs.
The initial team supporting this project includes:
- Angela di Fulvio, University of Illinois
- Steve Fetter, University of Maryland
- Alex Glaser, Princeton University
- Rob Goldston, Princeton University
- Raymond Jeanloz, University of California at Berkeley
- Fred Lamb, University of Illinois
- Zia Mian, Princeton University
- Stewart Prager, Princeton University
- Alan Robock, Rutgers University
- Frank von Hippel, Princeton University
Participating staff from the APS Office of Government Affairs includes:
- Mark Elsesser
- Callie Pruett
- Francis Slakey