CCNS Position on the De-Alerting of Nuclear Weapons

The following conditions encourage and make necessary the prompt wide-scale de-alerting of nuclear weapons:

  • Thousands of nuclear weapons remain on high alert despite the end of the Cold War. Various de-alerting methods, ranging from removal of warheads from their delivery systems to eventual remote weapons storage under international monitoring and verification, can be used to help eradicate the nuclear threat. The deteriorating socioeconomic situation in Russia and potential instabilities in the control of nuclear weapons have increased the risk of nuclear war by accident, miscalculation or unauthorized use. At the same time, serious economic constraints will inevitably force Russia to drastically reduce its arsenal. In response, the U.S. should begin de-alerting large portions of its own arsenal;

  • The U.S. is now the world's sole conventional weapons superpower, a position that can only be seriously challenged by the nuclear weapons of other countries. The size of the U.S nuclear arsenal is not relevant to deterring possible threshold states or terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction. Because the side-scale de-alerting of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal would likely encourage reciprocal measures by other nuclear weapons states, U.S. national security would ultimately be enhanced;

  • The U.S. precedent for wide-scale de-alerting has already been established. In 1991, during the disintegration of the Soviet Union, President Bush ordered the immediate stand-down and unloading of many strategic bombers and the withdrawal of the bulk of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Europe. Russian President Gorbachev quickly responded with similar measures to these two unilateral American de-alerting initiatives;

  • The potential effects of Year 2000 computer problems on military radar and nuclear weapons command and control systems are not publicly known. However, should any problems arise, they can only serve to increase the risk of accidental nuclear war. Possible Year 2000 computer problems are a compelling reason for the prompt wide-scale de-alerting of nuclear weapons;

  • The increased proliferation of nuclear weapons has been most concretely demonstrated by recent Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons tests. Those tests were in large part driven by the previously existing nuclear powers' refusals to enter into the serious global nuclear disarmament negotiations mandated by the 1970 NonProliferation Treaty (NPT). Wide-scale de-alerting by the earlier weapons states could play a decisive role in persuading India and Pakistan to never deploy their own arsenals;

  • The stated justification for the continued preservation of the weapons states' help nuclear stockpiles is for deterrence, in contrast to first strike use. The side-scale de-alerting of nuclear weapons can greatly help to eliminate the possibility of first strike use and/or nuclear war by accident, miscalculation or unauthorized use, but still provide for interim deterrence capability while disarmament negotiating steps are undertaken pursuant to the NPT; and

  • Progressively more stringent de-alerting steps can serve as confidence building measures towards the NPT's goal of eventual nuclear disarmament. Up to 100 former military commanders and high-ranking governmental officials from all five previously-declared nuclear powers have called for deep cuts in all nuclear weapons arsenals, which would lower the threat to global security and bring billions in direct annual savings. Deep de-alerting can offer further economic and environmental benefits by helping to obviate the need for future nuclear weapons activities such as plutonium pit and tritium production and disposal facilities for future military radioactive wastes such as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

    THEREFORE, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety adopts the following position:

  • All nuclear weapons states should begin the de-alerting of nuclear weapons immediatly and complete at least on de-alerting measure on all nuclear weapons as soon as technically feasible. The objective is to dramatically reduce the global risk of nuclear war by accident, miscalculation or unauthorized use, and to strongly discourage the proliferation of nuclear weapons through strong international leadership by example;

  • Multi-lateral criteria for de-alerting nuclear weapons should be developed and adopted as a basis for building towards increasingly deeper de-alerting steps. All nuclear weapons states must begin to plan for adequate storage, monitoring, security and verification measures that would ultimately allow for the separation of nuclear weapons from their delivery systems in a difficult-to-revers manner that allows time for the diplomatic defusing of any nuclear crisis; and

  • To help initiate and facilitate side-scale de-alerting of their arsenals by all nuclear weapons states, the U.S. should, if necessary, unilaterally begin the process of de-alerting its own nuclear weapons, thereby promoting greater American national security and global security in general.