46th anniversary of the Limited Test Ban Treaty

 In Accomplishments, Nuclear Weapons, Peace Action West News
President Kennedy signs the Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963

President Kennedy signs the Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963 (Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration)

This week marks the 64th anniversary of the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today also marks the 46th anniversary of the signing of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The US was joined by the Soviet Union and Great Britain in signing the treaty that banned nuclear testing in the atmosphere, underwater, and in space, while still allowing underground nuclear weapons testing to continue. Right now we have an opportunity to finally close that gap and push for the Senate to ratify a treaty to ban all nuclear tests through the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

I wanted to share this article today as a reminder of what a movement of concerned and dedicated people can achieve when they work together. Peace Action West’s ancestor organization, the Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy or SANE, was deeply involved in the test ban negotiations. Passing the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was a big step forward for our country, and public outcry kept the pressure on political leaders to take action. This week we are reminded of the need to continue our work towards a nuclear weapons free world, and know that by working together we can make progress.

Wired has an interesting article marking this day in history that describes some of the incidents that lead to the push for limiting nuclear weapons tests:

Fear of environmental contamination as the result of nuclear fallout was the original impetus for pushing a test-ban treaty. By the mid-’50s the thermonuclear weapons being so blithely tested in places like the Bikini atoll and Siberia dwarfed the atomic bombs used against Japan a decade earlier. In some cases, the actual yields of these detonations were badly underestimated — the 1954 Bikini test by the United States a case in point — raising fears that unchecked testing would result in catastrophic, worldwide nuclear fallout.

The detonation in the Bikini test was expected to have the power of about 8 million tons of TNT. The actual yield was almost double that, and the fallout extended well beyond any predictions. To make matters worse, a Japanese fishing vessel believed to be safely outside the danger zone was contaminated and its crew stricken with radiation sickness.

In a world already terrified by the prospect of nuclear annihilation, the idea of being poisoned by fallout was real enough. Scientists talked openly about the possibility of massive contamination and the genetic damage that would surely follow. The pressure to do something mounted, from nuclear and non-nuclear states alike.

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