Nuclear weapons: immoral and now illegal

by Karen Robinson ~ January 22nd, 2021. Filed under: News.

Today, 22 January 2021, the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons comes into force.  Monica Frisch, Director of Conscience, writes:

Nuclear weapons: immoral and now illegal

The dropping of two nuclear bombs 75 years ago, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in August 1945, demonstrated their enormous destructive power. There is no doubt that if one was exploded again, in war or accidentally, it would cause a humanitarian disaster. It is argued that they are militarily unusable because of the destruction their use would cause and many people, even those who may not call themselves pacifists, believe that using nuclear weapons is immoral. Now there is a further argument: illegality.

In July 2017 over a hundred and twenty countries voted to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. In October 2020 the fiftieth country ratified the Treaty which means it will become international law on 22nd January 2021. Not only does it prohibit the use of nuclear weapons but also related activities such as developing, testing or manufacturing nuclear weapons and assisting others with any prohibited activities.

As individual peace activists we are delighted that the Treaty has now been ratified, though the UK did not take part in the negotiations and has not signed nor ratified it. Nor have the other states possessing nuclear weapons.

The entry into force of the Treaty provides Conscience with a new powerful argument. It provides added pressure to change the law so no-one is forced to pay through their taxes for nuclear weapons which are now illegal as well as immoral.

We also recognise that possession of nuclear weapons ties up resources that could be better used to tackle the problems that face the world, including the causes of war as well as the current Covid-19 pandemic and climate change.

Conscience is clear that there are many alternative ways to resolve conflict, ways other than war, and that nuclear weapons have no place in conflict resolution.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and many other peace organisations in the UK will continue to campaign for the UK to honour its commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to make tangible steps towards disarmament. Until the UK does so, Conscience will argue that UK taxpayers should not be forced to pay for nuclear weapons which are now not only immoral but illegal.


The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs gives an overview to the Treaty, its background and its status, at This includes a link to the text of the Treaty.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament provides a summary of the background and presents its views briefly at

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was central to bringing about this treaty and won the Nobel Peace Prize “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”. Their website provides a wealth of information, particularly on nuclear weapons and the nuclear armed countries.  Conscience is a partner organisation of ICAN.

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