Nuclear Weapons Myth Buster

There are several myths about nuclear weapons. We have listed some of them with help from ICAN UK.

Myth 1: Nuclear weapons are essential for security

Nuclear weapons pose a direct and constant threat to people everywhere. Far from keeping the peace, they breed fear and mistrust among nations. These ultimate instruments of terror and mass destruction have no legitimate military or strategic utility, and are useless in addressing any of today’s real security threats, such as climate change, terrorism, resource depletion, extreme poverty and disease.

Nuclear ‘deterrence theory’ relies on a range of assumptions about an adversary that are unstable, unprovable and unreliable. And if things go wrong, the consequences will be catastrophic.

The vast majority of states, including some that consider themselves to be in precarious security situations, reject the idea that nuclear weapons make them or anyone else safer.

Myth 2: Nuclear weapons have kept the peace for 70 years

Since the first use of nuclear weapons 70 years ago, there have been hundreds of conflicts across the world: there hasn’t been peace. And there’s only proof by absence that nuclear weapons have prevented nuclear war. Evidence of a shocking number of close shaves show that it was only by luck that the Cold War didn’t go ‘hot’ on numerous occasions.

The critical question is not whether nuclear deterrence has worked for 70 years, but if we should take the chance that it will work for another 70 years. The world no longer consists of two ideological blocks but is much more unpredictable. Nuclear deterrence is not a sustainable strategy.

Nuclear weapons are unique in their destructive power and the threat they pose to the environment and human survival.

Myth 3: It’s okay for some countries to have nuclear weapons

The possession of nuclear weapons, argued South Africa’s delegation at NPT 2015, privileges the security interests of a few states “at the expense of the rest of humanity.” Calling for an end to ‘nuclear apartheid’, South Africa questioned what is so special about the security of the nuclear-armed states that only they should have nuclear weapons.

A single nuclear bomb detonated over a large city could kill millions of people. The use of tens or hundreds of nuclear bombs would disrupt the global climate, causing widespread famine.

The effects from the production, testing and deployment of nuclear arsenals are experienced as an ongoing personal and community catastrophe by many people around the globe.

“There are no right hands for wrong weapons” – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Myth 4: A ban treaty is unnecessary

While more than 40,000 nuclear weapons have been dismantled since the peak of the Cold War, current efforts at disarmament are clearly insufficient, leaving more than 16,000 nuclear warheads still active.

All nuclear armed states are investing heavily in the modernization of their arsenals, with the apparent intention of retaining them for many decades to come. Since the 1980s, three more states (India, Pakistan and North Korea) have tested and developed nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons are the only WMD not yet prohibited by international treaty. A ban treaty can be achieved now, even without the nuclear-armed states. It will stigmatize nuclear weapons and set clear new standards.

Myth 5: A ban is useless unless all countries sign at once

Past experience strongly suggests a nuclear weapons ban treaty will affect the behaviour even of countries that don’t sign up to it initially.

The US no longer produces, sells or uses landmines – even though it hasn’t signed the treaty banning landmines.

The world did not wait for Syria to eliminate its chemical weapons before the prohibition of chemical weapons was negotiated and brought into force.

A nuclear weapons ban would allow nations with stockpiles of these weapons to join so long as they agree to eliminate them within a specified time frame. Once such nations have joined, agreements can be developed to ensure that stockpiles are destroyed in a verifiable and irreversible manner.

Myth 6: Banning nuclear weapons won’t eliminate them

Banning nuclear weapons is not the same as eliminating them. The prohibition of weapons typically precedes and brings about their elimination, not the other way around.

A ban on nuclear weapons will make the maintenance and development of nuclear weapons less attractive and more difficult. A ban treaty will provide a strong framework within which detailed elimination measures can be negotiated.

A ban treaty will bring legal clarity and moral authority, sending a clear signal that all nuclear weapons are unacceptable, even if never used.

A historic window of opportunity has opened to ban nuclear weapons. It’s time to change the rules.


Last update: August 25, 2015