Ashley Collins | email@example.com; 239-213-60292:44 p.m. ET March 8, 2017
Nuclear weapons can wipe out an entire city and kill millions. That power shouldn't be taken lightly. Yet, several countries, including Iran, Pakistan and North Korea, continue to actively engage in creating and testing nuclear weapons. North Korea just test-launched four ballistic missiles into the sea near Japan Monday.
According to Dr. John Psaras, former chief scientific officer with the U.S. Department of Energy, the threat isn't something to ignore. He spoke to more than 150 curious individuals at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Naples late last month during the annual "Progressive Voices Speak Out" lecture series.
Psaras, now retired, dedicated more than 25 years to the U.S. Department of Energy.
In order to explain the current nuclear weapons situation, Psaras started off with its origin.
The nuclear age began in 1945; the year the U.S. tested a nuclear bomb in New Mexico, and dropped a uranium bomb over Japan's Hiroshima, and a plutonium bomb over Nagasaki towards the end of World War II.
"Plutonium, to give you an idea, is roughly about, pound for pound, three times more vile than uranium," Psaras said to the audience.
During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union engaged in a nuclear arms race. At the peak of the war, the U.S. had more than 30,000 nuclear device units, Psaras added.
"Russia had almost double that amount. So we could have blown the world 100 times over with that power," he said.
In order to quell the use and testing of nuclear weapons, an international treaty called Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was born in 1968, and was extended indefinitely in 1995.
The treaty recognized the U.S., Russia, United Kingdom, France and China as nuclear-weapon states, and according to the Arms Control Association, legitimized those states' arsenals. However, not all states' agreeing to the treaty have stuck by the treaty's rules. North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2003 and has tested nuclear devices since. Iran engages in secret nuclear activities in violation of the treaty’s terms.
"In those instances you could have a situation where somebody may be able to steal a nuclear device... In the event that they do try to actually hit anybody, either ourselves or alternately our allies, we are ready, having anti-ballistic missiles located strategically in both Southeast Asia as well as Europe and the Middle East," Psaras said.
He added that while he isn't sure what the new presidential administration plans to do against nuclear weapons, it should be placed in high priority.
In a February interview with the Reuters news agency, President Donald Trump said he wants a world free of nuclear weapons, but if it can't be, the United States should be "at the top of the pack."
The lecture series concluded March 8 with Brendan Fischer, associate counsel with the Campaign Legal Center, speaking on the role of gerrymandering and voter suppression during the 2016 presidential election.
The congregation's Rev. Tony Fisher hopes participants take action based on the information learned from the series.
"What we learn in these lectures hopefully just doesn't sit in our brains and make us feel good that we've heard it. But that it motivates us to turn around and go out and do something in the wider world," Fisher said to the audience.