Nuclear weapons are back in the news following the opening of “Oppenheimer,” Cristopher Nolan’s movie about the creation of the atomic bomb. The film had a huge opening weekend, bringing in $80.5 million.

As “Oppenheimer” was hitting theaters, the Congressional Budget Office released a new report estimating that the United States will spend $756 billion on its nuclear forces over the next 10 years. That’s an average of $75 billion a year. The hefty price tag is due to efforts to upgrade or modernize every part of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The rise in these cost estimates signals an alarming trend. Despite the Biden administration’s stated commitments to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in national security, Congress continues to chart a dangerous nuclear course.

Modern nuclear weapons are much more harmful than J. Robert Oppenheimer’s original atomic bomb. The sheer scale of their destructive capability means that using them would risk planetary annihilation and a humanitarian Armageddon.

Yet so often, when lawmakers speak publicly about nuclear weapons, they don’t discuss their physical effects. The language used—that of deterrence and risk mitigation—seems designed to minimize their awful power.

These weapons are intrinsically immoral. The horrors suffered by the victims of the American nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the ongoing consequences experienced by those exposed to nuclear testing in the United States cannot be forgotten.

The release of the film has forced this issue back into the spotlight. Reigniting the public debate was film director Christopher Nolan’s goal. In a recent interview, he was asked what he would want members of Congress to take away from the film.

“Our relationship with the fear of nuclear weapons ebbs and flows with the geopolitical situation, and it shouldn’t because the threat is constant,” Nolan said. “So even though the situation in Ukraine kind of puts it more in the forefront of people’s minds, the truth is, nuclear weapons are an extraordinarily dangerous thing to have lying around the house.”

This is a moment to rethink the status quo. Congress must prioritize diplomacy, arms control, and disarmament rather than costly and potentially dangerous nuclear modernization efforts. The threat posed by nuclear weapons is unceasing, and the urgency to address it should remain a steadfast priority.


Understanding the Ongoing Impact of Nuclear Weapons Testing
From 1945 to 1962, the U.S. government conducted more than 200 above-ground nuclear tests. Those exposed to nuclear fallout are still dealing with the deadly consequences of these detonations today. Few have been compensated. This week, FCNL’s Allen Hester spoke about the need to extend and expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (HR. 4426 / S.1751) in a podcast by the Ploughshares Fund titled “The Shadow of Oppenheimer.” Listen here.

Court Challenges Biden Asylum Rules
A court has temporarily blocked the Biden Administration’s asylum rules, which took effect in May. The new policies make it harder for migrants to claim asylum in the United States if they first pass through another country without seeking protection there. These restrictions place vulnerable migrants in harm’s way. We cannot turn our backs on those we promised protection.

Your Advocacy to Protect Peacebuilding is Working Despite Tough Budget Climate
Thanks in part to your advocacy, on July 20, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to preserve funding for critical conflict and atrocities prevention programs in its State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs bill. After the August Congressional Recess, votes on the House and Senate bills should be scheduled in each chamber. Read more about what is at stake from Hervé Mbouri, a Cameroonian protection and peacebuilding specialist working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Registration is Open for the 2023 Annual Meeting and Quaker Public Policy Institute
Justice Calls Us, Love Unites Us. That is the theme for FCNL’s 2023 Annual Meeting and Quaker Public Policy Institute. Registration is now open! You are invited to join us, either in-person in Washington, D.C., or online, November 15-19, 2023.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation is a national, nonpartisan Quaker organization that lobbies Congress and the administration to advance peace, justice, and environmental stewardship. This Week in the World. The FCNL weekly newsletter of advocacy actions and updates and opportunities to take action on the issues you care about.