The Third Bomb -- Suggested Reading

Updated: May 18


On March 16, 17, and 18, 2021, Track Two and Esalen Institute will hold The Third Bomb and How We Prevent It, a conference on the nuclear arms threat.


Learn more about the conference here.


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Our starting premise: No one believes there should ever be a nuclear war; deactivating nuclear-powered arms entirely is the surest route to no use.


What follows is a collection of resources exploring how we might build a safer world, with thanks to Track Two's network member, Jean-Claude Bouis.


In discussing a verifiable agreement to ban nuclear weapons we should be mindful of the ban's potential impact (possibly creating a world-wide economic catastrophe) on a global industry that employs millions of people.


Nuclear disarmers can't forget the communities that rely on military spending (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)


A practical approach to a ban would have to include a plan to deal with repurposing the industry, transferring employees to other work, and compensating areas bereft of military spending.

The industry generates billions in profits, investment opportunities as well as income for many retirement funds. Some of these funds have approved or are leaning toward divestment. For example, on behalf of NYC municipal pension funds, Citigroup has invested US$16.5 billion in 14 companies that produce nuclear weapons, and the City Council has introduced legislation (shelved for now) calling for divestment (New York already has made changes to its pension funds to divest from fossil fuels).


Another example, on 18 June 2019, the city of Santa Barbara, California, officially endorsed the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and voiced its opposition to the investment of city resources in companies associated with nuclear weapon production. Many others have been banning investment in nuclear weapons as is clear from the Don’t Bank on the Bomb project.


"Don’t Bank on the Bomb provides a pathway for action to those who would choose the end of nuclear weapons. With the Don’t Bank on the Bomb project we want to stop the production of nuclear weapons by limiting or ending investments into their producers and engaging the financial sector to strengthen the stigma against them." (Financing the companies that make nuclear weapons, ICAN and PAX)

The project, a PAX program in conjunction with ICAN--the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons--identifies those producers (including developers of such weapons as the Minuteman III, and its related maintenance and support units, testers, transporters, etc.). One example is Huntington Ingalls Industries which is connected to several facilities in the US nuclear weapons industry, and is part of more than US$ 28 billion in outstanding contracts. Lockheed Martin is a close runner-up, connected to more than US$ 25 billion in contracts.


Others include Boeing; Honeywell International, which operates and manages the Sandia National Laboratory; Consolidated Nuclear Services LLC (CNS), a Bechtel-led joint venture including Leidos, ATK Launch Systems (now part of Northrop Grumman), SOC, and Booz Allen Hamilton as a teaming subcontractor.


Other reading suggestions:

  • The Missile Next Door by Gretchen Heefner (2012, Harvard University Press) "The Minuteman in the American heartland," turning the rural West into the largest peacetime militarized zone on earth, "a sacrificial sponge" to absorb thousands of warheads in a first strike.

  • Five Myths About Nuclear Weapons by Ward Wilson (2013, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) "Nuclear weapons necessarily shock and awe opponents, including Japan at the end of World War II; nuclear deterrence is reliable in a crisis; destruction wins wars; the bomb has kept the peace for sixty-five years; and we can’t put the nuclear genie back in the bottle."

  • Memoirs by Andrei Sakharov, trans. Richard Lourie (1990, Knopf) Thermonuclear war is a peril to the very existence of humanity because of "the enormous destructive power of a thermonuclear explosion, the relative cheapness of rocket-thermonuclear weapons, and the practical impossibility of an effective defense against a massive rocket-nuclear attack."

  • The Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism by Charles D. Ferguson and William C. Potter (2005, Center for Nonproliferation Studies) Substandard security at nuclear facilities in Russia, Pakistan, and Central Asia increases the risk of terrorists seizing highly enriched uranium to make crude, but devastating, nuclear explosives. The book "urges the United States and its international partners to take immediate steps to prevent the most catastrophic forms of nuclear terrorism and to reduce the consequences of the most likely nuclear terror attacks."

  • How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III by Ron Rosenbaum (2011, Simon & Schuster) "Would you retaliate in response to a first-strike nuclear attack that has already destroyed your country and thus risk causing the total annihilation of humanity?--a question to which either answer gives your enemy a rationale to strike you first."

  • The General vs. the President by H.W. Brands (2016, Doubleday) "MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War," wrestling over Korea and China.

  • The First War of Physics by Jim Baggott (2010, Pegasus Books) "The secret history of the atom bomb, 1939-1949."

  • The Butter Battle Book by Theodor Seuss Geisel (1984, Random House) "The Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo."

  • Stop Nuclear War! A Handbook by David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton (1982, Grove Press)

  • The Bomb by Fred Kaplan (2020, Simon & Schuster) "President, generals, and the secret history of nuclear war."