Statement on the addition of the Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test Site as a World Heritage Site

Pugwash Leaders Commend Addition of Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test Site as World Heritage Site and Urge Concrete Progress on Disarmament, on 65th Anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombings.

On 31 July 2010, the Bikini Atoll, the site of the first hydrogen bomb test, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.  The 1954 Bravo test, which was some 7,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb, left a massive crater there which reminds the world that the forces unleashed by these weapons are beyond any military need.  There are few such locations that so clearly symbolize the folly of such weaponry.  We also welcome recent funding decisions by national, regional and local entities in Canada to help restore Cyrus Eaton’s Thinkers’ Lodge, where in 1957 the ground breaking first “Pugwash Conference” took place engaging courageous scientists from both sides of the Cold War divides, a meeting that eventually led to the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize and the 2008 designation of Thinkers’ Lodge as a Canadian national historic site.  We congratulate all parties who are working hard to preserve this historical legacy.  We encourage them to ensure that these designations thoughtfully address the responsibility of scientists and politicians when new technologies are under development.

When atomic bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945, no leader could have envisioned that 65 years later there would be some 23,000 nuclear weapons in arsenals around the world.  This year, there are signs of hope that one day these weapons can be relegated to the dustbin of history, where they belong along with other weapons that have no place in a humane society (such as the already banned chemical and biological weapons, landmines and cluster munitions).  There has been a surprising consensus on the need to work toward a nuclear weapons free world, from an array of current and former world leaders, helped in part due to the efforts of the Pugwash network.  Such statements undoubtedly create an environment for progress, and yet they must be backed by concrete steps.  This is the only way to ensure the weapons will never again be used, either deliberately or through some horrible mistake.

However, the challenges for nuclear disarmament are grave and demand strong leadership from above, and creativity from those within the military-industrial complexes to redirect resources to more peaceful purposes.  If we are not careful, the tradeoffs made will create bureaucratic obstacles to further disarmament.  Bold leadership is needed to create opportunities for progress on a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East, ratification of the New START Treaty, CTBT Entry Into Force, and to increase confidence that peace can be built in some of the most troubled spots of the world.

Pugwash believes above all else that dialogue in times of crisis is essential.  In this respect we encourage all parties to conflicts to seek ways via official talks and through unofficial or Track II dialogue to identify not just areas of disagreement, but to explore areas of convergence.  It was through such confidence building measures during the Cold War that a brake was put on the bloated nuclear arsenals.  Internationally and through some 50 national groups around the world, Pugwash continues to strive for a world free of nuclear weapons, and eventually a world without war.

Jayantha Dhanapala, Pugwash President and Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, Pugwash Secretary General