Decades after the first atomic weapons test in 1945, nuclear disarmament has stalled.

Much more needs to be done to rid the world of more than 12,500 nuclear weapons, most of them held by the U.S. and Russia, and to redirect the billions spent on these weapons.

SHARE Decades after the first atomic weapons test in 1945, nuclear disarmament has stalled.
A photograph of the first atomic bomb test on July 16, 1945, is displayed along a fence at Ground Zero at Trinity Site, at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The crater that the blast created has long since been filled.

A photograph of the first atomic bomb test on July 16, 1945, is displayed along a fence at Ground Zero at Trinity Site, at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The crater that the blast created has long since been filled.

Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

The first atomic bomb test took place 78 years ago this Sunday — July 16, 1945 — and opened the door to the dangerous nuclear arms race the world has seen ever since. J. Robert Oppenheimer, a leader in the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb during World War II, thought after the blast: ‘’Now, I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.

But we must also remember a moment of hope 18 years after that first nuclear weapons test by the United States, code-named Trinity.

In July 1963, President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation: “I speak to you tonight in a spirit of hope. Eighteen years ago the advent of nuclear weapons changed the course of the world as well as the war. Since that time, all mankind has been struggling to escape from the darkening prospect of mass destruction on earth.”

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JFK announced the signing of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the Soviet Union: “Yesterday, a shaft of light cut into the darkness. Negotiations were concluded in Moscow on a treaty to ban all nuclear tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water.”

Keep in mind this treaty came almost one year after the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the U.S. and Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war in October 1962. Nuclear weapons testing was prolific on both sides even during the crisis. The world needed some hope.

The 1963 Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty provided some restraint on the nuclear arms race. It was the beginning of hope, and each subsequent nuclear arms control treaty since then has tried to build momentum toward disarmament and peace.

But today, as we know, so much more needs to be done, as there are over 12,500 nuclear warheads in the world, according to the Arms Control Association. About 90% of these weapons are held by the U.S. and Russia.

Progress toward nuclear disarmament has stalled. Nuclear states are modernizing their arsenals. The war in Ukraine has even raised the horrifying possibility of nuclear weapons being used by Russia.

A report from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons confirms again that too much money is wasted on nukes. Their new report says nine nuclear-armed states spent $82.9 billion on such weapons in 2022.

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We as nations have to do better. Nuclear spending is out of control, wasting precious resources and adding to existing global tensions. Meanwhile, programs such as food aid to provide relief to those starving, are low on funds.

The United States and other nuclear states need to divert spending away from nuclear arsenals and toward global food aid, by reducing their reliance and emphasis on nukes and stepping up or resuming negotiations for treaties to reduce nuclear arsenals.

The United States, Russia and China should lead in nuclear disarmament. Instead of thousands of nukes worldwide, why not bring that number down to hundreds quickly?

Reducing nukes can offer a vision for how to get to zero weapons, creating more security for every nation.

William Lambers is the author of “The Road to Peace” and partnered with the United Nations World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.”

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