Saturday, May 29, 2004

Curbing nukes more crucial than ever

Your voice: William Lambers

The March 11 railway bombings in Spain show that terrorists are capable of striking anywhere, anytime, with varying methods. As horrific as the attacks were in Madrid, the destruction could have been far greater if terrorists had used nuclear weapons.

Nuclear terrorism is a significant threat, and action must be taken to reduce the dangers. We cannot wait for the danger to surface. The increased airport security we now see, while necessary, is a reactionary measure to the Sept. 11 attacks. In the case of nuclear terrorism, you cannot wait for such an attack to occur and then put in place a full range of security measures.

U.S. tax dollars being spent on new nuclear weapons research would be better served on securing nuclear stockpiles worldwide. Terrorists must be prevented from acquiring fissile material (necessary for making a nuclear bomb) or seizing an existing nuclear weapon. The U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction program helps secure Russian nuclear weapons and fissile material. However, the program does not presently cover all Russian nuclear weapons, and the program is underfunded. Russia aside, there are six other nations with sizable nuclear weapons stockpiles. The program must be expanded to other nuclear nations. Already, it is taking place in Pakistan.

The United States must take the lead by ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. This treaty would ban all nuclear testing forever and would be a significant step toward nuclear disarmament worldwide. Also, the United States should demand a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, which would end production of nuclear weapons material.

The fewer nuclear weapons, the safer we are in this post-Cold War era filled with terrorist threats. The United States must pave the way for a strong nuclear non-proliferation regime, a major aspect of international security against terrorism.

William Lambers of Delhi Township, a graduate of Elder High School and the College of Mount St. Joseph, is the author of the book "Nuclear Weapons" and a writer for the History News Service.

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