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Key to ratification of arms-control treaty

Fallout from nuclear accidents or weapons detonation has profoundly disastrous consequences for the environment and humans.
When the Chernobyl reactor exploded in 1986, an area equivalent to the state of Kentucky became contaminated, perhaps for hundreds of years.
Prevailing winds spread radiation over much of Europe where the poisoning of crops, meat and milk was a concern for many months. Long-lived cesium persists there in some soils, making mushrooms and wild berries too radioactive to eat even now.
Many farmers in Wales, 1,500 miles away still must transfer their sheep to less radioactive grazing sites before they can be sold for meat, almost a quarter century after the explosion.
The Chernobyl nuclear-power disaster is thought to have released several hundred times the radioactive contamination of land and people as did the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. But bombs in the nuclear arsenals of today can have a thousand times the explosive “yield” of the Little Boy dropped on Japan.
As physician and antinuclear activist Helen Caldicott noted in 2002, a document issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under President Ronald Reagan had acknowledged the horrifying scope of ecological devastation that would be unleashed in a nuclear exchange.
It would mean “the total loss of agricultural and societal support systems,” the document indicated, and “result in the loss of almost all humans on Earth.”
It suggested insufficient awareness of “this vulnerability [as] an aspect of a nuclear war.” Reagan proposed the superpowers’ arsenals be reduced by thousands of warheads each, in 1982.
The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, concluded between Russia and the U.S. under the elder President Bush in 1991 was based on that recommendation. The treaty, in effect since then and containing a system of inspections for compliance verification, expired last December.
International terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons and technology to more countries have been troubling trends in recent decades.
Responding to those developments, leading statesmen from several earlier administrations and the U.S. Senate called for “A world free of nuclear weapons” two years ago (Wall Street Journal, January 2007).
In Prague last year President Obama took up that call, pledging that the United States would help “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
On April 8, he and his Russian counterpart signed a renewal of START to take the two superpowers another modest step in that direction. Foreign-policy leaders from both major parties and many administrations, including Tennessee’s Senator Howard Baker, Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of State Colin Powell stated strong support for the new treaty, urging swift ratification.
Without a binding U.S.-Russian nuclear weapons agreement, they warn, “our world is a much more dangerous world.”
Senator Bob Corker, serving on the Foreign Relations Committee, is currently reviewing the START treaty. Both Tennessee senators’ championing of it will be crucial in securing the two-thirds majority vote which ratification requires. One would strongly wish for that.