Big bad bomb

Is the elimination of nuclear weapons actually a feasible option? 

Nuclear Weapons specialist Joseph Siracusa. Photo: Arte Blythe.

Cinemas blew up with the release of the Oppenheimer movie and the world was reminded of the death and destruction the detonation of nuclear weapons leave behind. 

On September 26, the General Assembly of the UN will commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. However, the question remains of whether elimination is actually a feasible option in today’s international climate.

According to the UN, there are currently more than 12,705 nuclear weapons in the world and the Federation of American Scientists said Russia and the US control 90 per cent of the stockpile.

Curtin University’s dean of global futures, and a nuclear weapons specialist, Joseph Siracusa said: “We will be rid of nuclear weapons when they become anachronisms, that is, they are replaced by some other technology that could kill us.”

Monitoring nuclear weapons puts a large amount of pressure on the international playing field. In February 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin left the last remaining nuclear arms pact with the US, claiming he would not let the US and NATO monitor Russia’s nuclear facilities. 

Dr Siracusa believes the tension between the US and Russia has led us to the beginning of a new Cold War, meaning instead of seeing nuclear weapons elimination we will see nuclear weapons escalation.  

The idea that not wanting to see the elimination of nuclear weapons makes you a bad person is an oversimplified fairytale that abolitionists tell the public to make the elimination of nuclear weapons seem easy, according to Dr Siracusa.

He said Australia currently condemns the use of nuclear weapons despite it being linked to a “nuclear guerilla,” the US.

Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia) president Sue Wareham said: “Australia’s position just doesn’t hold water. It’s totally contradictory.”

She said global powers need to maintain pressure on nuclear weapon states to prevent their use and increase pressure to speed up the elimination of nuclear weapons. 

“If Australia was to reject this significant part of US foreign policy [nuclear deterrence] the global effect of this would be huge.”

Dr Wareham explained that in the 1980s, New Zealand announced they wanted nothing to do with nuclear weapons or the US’s deterrence strategies and yet the two countries still have a positive political relationship. She felt Australia should follow in the footsteps of New Zealand.  

“Nuclear weapons threaten all of us and the task of elimination is absolutely critical, but the challenges are quite great,” said Dr Wareham.

Nuclear weapons may seem like a larger global issue, however, the development of ‘the bomb’ is also tied closely with Western Australia. 

The Montebello Islands in northern WA were used by the British to conduct nuclear weapons testing between 1952 and 1956.

The Oppenheimer movie brought ‘the bomb’ to life in cinemas but Dr Siracusa reminded the world nuclear weapons are real, and their potentially devastating power is still the world’s reality.