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10 December 2009

Guest Blogger: State Sen. Nan Orrock

Reducing the Nuclear Risk

By Nan Orrock

When President Obama accepts the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, it is an opportunity to articulate a new international direction, away from nuclear proliferation, away from nuclear tests, and away from loose materials and increased risk. Hopefully, he will join the Nobel Committee in putting out the call that we must act now to reduce the enormous arsenal of nuclear weapons.

It will not be easy, or quick. And it shouldn’t be. As long as nuclear weapons exist, the U.S. must have a safe and reliable arsenal. The road to disarmament is, necessarily and rightly, long, and will take many years and many small steps to guarantee our safety and prevent any cracks in our security. But it is also vital; the longer nuclear weapons lurk, and grow, the graver the danger that a rogue state or a terrorist will use one.

One of the first steps should be to prevent new nuclear weapons. The easiest way to do this is to ban nuclear weapons tests.

We have a chance today to ban nuclear testing by signing onto the nuclear Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The CTBT would impede the ability of nuclear-armed countries to perfect new and more deadly nuclear bombs, and would help prevent new nuclear weapons programs. U.S. ratification would clearly demonstrate renewed leadership on the world’s most pressing security threats while stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and preventing nuclear terrorism.

The time is right for the U.S. to finally support and sign the CTBT. It has profound and widespread support across all political spectrums and around the world. It has been signed by 182 nations and ratified by 151, including all NATO countries and other key U.S. allies. An array of bi-partisan military experts and senior statesmen supports the CTBT. In 2007, former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, and former Senator Sam Nunn (GA), all called for the Senate to ratify the treaty. Former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – including Generals John Shalikashvili, Colin Powell, David Jones and Admiral William Crowe -- also support CTBT.

It is in our national security interest to prevent nuclear weapons testing. The U.S. hasn’t tested a nuclear weapon in nearly 20 years. We already know our stockpile is safe and reliable so we don’t need further tests. By doing so, we can lead by example and show other countries that nuclear testing and proliferation is wrong. It is time for the U.S. to ratify this treaty, permanently ending nuclear test explosions worldwide.

The truth is that as long as nuclear weapons exist, there are parties who will struggle to find a way to make and use them. The only way to prevent such a terrible tragedy is to find a way to reduce and eventually eliminate the weapons. In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize President Obama has the opportunity to set an example for the world by supporting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Georgia State Senator Nan Grogan Orrock (D-Atlanta), is President of the Women Legislators’ Lobby, a national network of women state legislators launched by Women’s Action for New Directions