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A new international treaty outlaws use of nuclear weapons

A 70-year nuclear gloom begins to lift

Beginning January 18, 2021 four billboards around Puget Sound will display a public service announcement: “NUCLEAR WEAPONS BANNED BY NEW U.N. TREATY; Get them out of Puget Sound!” The four billboards will be located in Seattle, Tacoma and Port Orchard, and are paid for by Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action and World Beyond War.

The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) enters into force on January 22, 2021. For participating countries, the treaty outlaws not only the use of nuclear weapons, but also makes it illegal under international law to “develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess, or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

While the treaty’s prohibitions are legally binding only in the 51 countries that are “States Parties” to the treaty, those prohibitions go beyond just the activities of those governments. The treaty also prohibits these countries from assisting “anyone” engaged in any of those prohibited activities, including private companies and individuals who may be involved in the nuclear weapons industry.

Most deployed nuclear weapons in the US are in the Puget Sound area

Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor is located a few miles from the cities of Silverdale and Poulsbo and is homeport to the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the US. Nuclear warheads are deployed on submarines and are additionally stored on the naval base.

The submarine base at Bangor is 20 miles from downtown Seattle, yet only a small percentage of citizens in our region know that Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor exists. However, in the 1970s and 1980s, thousands demonstrated against nuclear weapons at the Bangor base and hundreds were arrested.

New warheads for Trident sub-launched nuclear missiles

Currently, there are eight Trident-equipped submarines deployed at Bangor. One Trident submarine carries the destructive force of over 1,200 Hiroshima bombs (the Hiroshima bomb was 15 kilotons). In early 2020, the Navy updated select submarines at Kitsap-Bangor with “low-yield” warheads (eight kilotons).

These new warheads create a dangerously lower threshold for the use of US strategic nuclear weapons. Any use of nuclear weapons against another nuclear weapon state would likely elicit a response with nuclear weapons and cause overwhelming death and destruction.

Civic responsibility and nuclear weapons

Our proximity to the largest number of deployed nuclear weapons demands a deeper reflection and response to the threat of nuclear war. Citizens in a democracy also have responsibilities—which include choosing our leaders and staying informed about what our government is doing.

One such leader, President Obama, spoke in Hiroshima in 2016 and called for an end to nuclear weapons. He said that the nuclear powers “…must have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without them.”

Material for this story was provided by Leonard Eiger and the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action. The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action was founded in 1977. The center is on 3.8 acres adjoining the Trident submarine base at Bangor, Washington. The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action offers the opportunity to explore the roots of violence and injustice in our world and to experience the transforming power of love through nonviolent direct action. We resist all nuclear weapons, especially the Trident ballistic missile system.

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