8.5 C
Monday, February 26, 2024

Scientists can strengthen nuclear agreements

Must read

Scientia Pakistan
Scientia Pakistanhttps://scientiamag.org
The dynamic editorial team of Scientia Pakistan Magazine.
Scientists’ expertise has long been crucial for nuclear negotiations — as exemplified by Ali Akbar Salehi of Iran and Ernest Moniz of the United States.Credit: Thomas Imo/Photothek/Getty

Scientists’ expertise has long been crucial for nuclear negotiations — as exemplified by Ali Akbar Salehi of Iran and Ernest Moniz of the United States. Credit: Thomas Imo/Photothek/Getty

Just days ago, it looked as if India and Pakistan were ready to go to war. Ambulance drivers and trauma surgeons were told to cancel leave; airports were shuttered and the skies cleared of commercial flights. The world held its breath as the two nuclear-armed nations shot down each other’s fighter jets. Thankfully, both sides have stepped back.

By coincidence, US–North Korea nuclear talks in the same week ended prematurely with no deal. North Korea will, however, continue its moratorium on nuclear tests for now, while the United States continues to suspend major joint military activities with South Korea.

The United States and North Korea are at least beginning to climb the ladder towards disarmament, however shakily. The South Asian countries, by contrast, are not even on the first rung. The big lesson from these most recent events is the need for an urgent global, or at a minimum bilateral, effort — one that includes researchers — to address the risks of undeclared nuclear arsenals. Stockpiles, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, are expanding.

Scientists have been at the heart of the most successful nuclear agreements, from the Soviet–US talks that laid the foundations for the global Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in 1996 to negotiations in 2015 on what is known as the Iran nuclear deal.

Researchers are central because they have advanced knowledge of the science and technology of nuclear-weapons development, testing, dismantling and verification. Indeed, it is often researchers such as Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, and former US energy secretary Ernest Moniz — who both worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge — who negotiate and write the words.

Historically, nuclear diplomacy has focused on global agreements; the latest is the troubled Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which opened for signature on 20 September 2017. But India and Pakistan — along with Israel — will not sign until the five permanent nuclear-weapons states (the United States, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom) agree to do so, and that is even less likely. A more effective approach would be to build on existing agreements, starting with a 30-year-old bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan, in which scientists and engineers from each side swap lists of facilities, with their governments pledging not to attack.

This accord could be broadened to include a pledge that lists are accurate and that neither side will attack essential infrastructure, especially large dams, says Toby Dalton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC. He adds that the countries could also agree to exchange information on the ability of domestic extremist groups to acquire nuclear technology.

This could be instigated by each country’s scientists, or through membership of the InterAcademy Partnership of scientific academies that work together on global problems. They have a duty to use these links, and their influence with the media and politicians, to take this step.

One of the biggest hurdles to all such undertakings, bilateral or multilateral, is an understanding that the greater threat is doing nothing towards disarmament. In that respect, the US–North Korea talks are at least in play. Eventually, India and Pakistan also need to begin a formal process. The people of South Asia were genuinely shaken by last week’s military action. The world can no longer afford to live with the risk that this action could have led to all-out war.

Nature 567, 5 (2019)

The editorial was originally published in Nature, 6th March 2019 and is re-publishing here with prior permission.
Previous article
Next article
- Advertisement -spot_img

More articles


  1. You’re so cool! I don’t suppose I’ve read through something like this before.

    So great to discover somebody with a few genuine
    thoughts on this subject. Really.. thanks for starting
    this up. This website is something that is required on the internet,
    someone with a bit of originality!

  2. Heya are using WordPress for your site platform? I’m new to the
    blog world but I’m trying to get started and set up my own. Do you
    need any coding knowledge to make your own blog? Any help would be greatly

  3. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added”
    checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three emails
    with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service?

    Thank you!

  4. Please let me know if you’re looking for a
    article writer for your weblog. You have some really great posts and I feel I would
    be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the
    load off, I’d absolutely love to write some articles for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine.
    Please shoot me an e-mail if interested. Cheers!

  5. Thanks , I have recently been searching for information approximately this subject for
    ages and yours is the best I have discovered so far.
    However, what about the bottom line? Are you positive in regards to the source?

  6. Have you ever thought about adding a little bit more than just your articles?
    I mean, what you say is important and everything.

    Nevertheless imagine if you added some great pictures or
    videos to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with images and videos,
    this website could certainly be one of the greatest
    in its niche. Good blog!

  7. Hey there this is kind of of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG
    editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a
    blog soon but have no coding experience so I wanted to get guidance from someone with
    experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  8. constantly i used to read smaller articles
    that as well clear their motive, and that is also happening with this article which I am reading at this place.

  9. My partner and I stumbled over here coming from a different page and thought I should check things out.
    I like what I see so now i am following you.
    Look forward to finding out about your web page yet again.

Comments are closed.

- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest article