This week marks the 63rd anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On August 9th, 1945 at 11:01am the United States of America dropped a nuclear bomb on a pre-designated city in Japan killing 80,000 people in the second of two nuclear attacks. This attack was the only time that nuclear weapons have been used as an instrument of war, and it could be the last, if we generate the political will to dismantle our weapons of mass destruction, abide by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and create a federal level department of peace.
At the time of the bombing the United States only had two nuclear weapons in its arsenal but since that time our stockpile of nuclear weapons has mushroomed to nearly six thousand weapons. Fortunately we have not used these weapons since then, but the only guarantee that they will never be used is if they do not exist. As tempting as it is to believe that we are a moral nation that would never use such terrible instruments of destruction, the fact is that we have used them and we can use them again if our military or elected leaders believe the situation justifies it. That is why it is more important than ever to dismantle weapons of mass destruction.
Nuclear weapons are dirty, dangerous, immoral weapons that continue to do damage long after the bombs have been used. In addition to the nearly 200,000 people who died as a result of the nuclear attacks, many more victims continue to suffer to this day as a result of the radiation released that day. Birth defects and mutations continue to affect the children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to this day. With literally thousands of nuclear weapons in the possession of nearly two dozen nations, the risk of one of these bombs being used in a conflict has increased exponentially since it was first used in 1945.
In the past six decades the United States alone has gone to critical levels of preparedness for nuclear attack on more than thirty occasions in response to international conflicts. Having initiated a first-use policy, we cannot claim to have the higher ground on the issue of nuclear proliferation and possession. By using the bomb first and then building the biggest arsenal, our national policy makers have set a precedent and sent a clear message to the world that we are not a country which is truly interested in peace and international security.
There is nothing more threatening to global peace than our own nuclear weapons stockpiles. These weapons are also a threat to the environment both short term and long term. Uranium mining involves milling, production and environmental and ecological devastation. After the uranium ore is extracted and processed no one seems to want the nuclear waste, which is left like an orphan without a home. There is no comprehensive plan for the long term storage of radioactive nuclear waste which stays radioactive for up to 250,000 years and scientists haven't figured out how to safely contain such materials. For the people of the world to even begin to have a chance at peace and a healthy environment we need to begin to dismantle our nuclear weapons stockpiles now and clean up the mess we have made.
In Tennessee there is enough work for all of the hundreds of employees of the Oak Ridge nuclear complex just cleaning up the contaminated facilities and the environment to keep them employed for many years to come. The same is true of all of our nuclear weapons production and storage facilities. Additionally we need more investment in research and development to study how to more safely contain the nuclear waste that has already been produced.
It has become clear to the people of this world that the future does not include nuclear war or proliferation of nuclear weapons. After the cold war, the United States and the former Soviet Union took a big step back from the precipice by dismantling some warheads. Since that time international will has resolved and grown stronger to continue the progress that was made nearly twenty years ago. Right now, while our world is at relative peace regarding global threats to security, is a good time to dismantle our weapons of mass destruction. It is up to the people of the United States to develop the will and the leadership to live up to the vision of a nation which is dedicated to peace and social justice rather than violence and warfare.
We can live in a world of peace, if we take concrete steps now by dismantling our weapons of mass destruction, abide by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and support a federal level department of peace. It is possible to resolve international conflicts without threatening to completely destroy other cultures. We have the collective intelligence to create a more meaningful future for ourselves and the generations to come.