Foto: DPA/Kay Nietfeld/NTB Scanpix

ATOM BAN: Doctors protesting against nuclear war and for an international ban on nuclear weapons. UN negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban start on 27 March.

– A ban on nuclear weapons is worthy of support

Published: 24 Mar 2017

Sverre Lodgaard has looked into the possibilities and limitations of the negotiations now taking place.

On 27 March the UN begins the negotiation of a nuclear ban convention. Sverre Lodgaard, Senior Research Fellow at NUPI, has done extensive work on nuclear weapons and disarmament. He has written a note on the way ahead towards a ban on nuclear weapons:

An excerpt from the note reads as follows: “Clearly, it does not suffice to eliminate the weapons and let the rest stay. If that were the case, one would be left with a world of threshold states. Virtual arsenals – a capability to reintroduce the weapons on short notice – would continue to exist along with deterrence doctrines and the mentality that nuclear war might still happen. In such a setting, a ban on use would ring hollow.  Nobody would be attracted by such a vision.   

So in addition to the weapons, dedicated infrastructure and weapon-grade materials should be eliminated as well and related manpower transferred to other sectors. Virtual arsenals also need arsenal keepers and they are seldom neutral experts, but socio-political actors with a vested interest in what they are doing. If circumstances allow, they might act to expand their activities and argue for a return from virtual to real arsenals. As for weapons-grade materials, HEU is not the problem, but plutonium may be. If there is no technical solution, a compromise has to be struck with the civilian power industry.

A comprehensive ban on possession is therefore crucial in order to achieve a credible ban on use. Preservation of some reconstitution capability, however modest, suggests that remnants of old nuclear mind-sets still exist and that in the minds of important actors, nuclear war remains a possibility. This cannot but detract from the credibility of a ban.

On the margin, an argument can be made that in addition to a comprehensive ban on reconstitution capabilities, a new security culture would be needed that leaves no place for anything nuclear.”