The Northwest Could Help Defuse Possible Nuclear War with China


The recent AP article, “In effort to improve U.S. ties, China honoring U.S. World War II Flying Tigers,” highlights an important goal in order to avoid military conflict with China. In addition, just published What Governor Newsom’s Trip to China Accomplished and (under)stated, “The fate of the world relies on climate cooperation with China.”

As Congress and the Pentagon rattle nuclear missiles along with China, these were welcome headlines. Yet the more immediate fate of the world depends on prevention of nuclear war.  

On September 21, after a year of war in Ukraine where Putin raised nuclear warfare as an option, 20 physician editors of leading medical journals co-authored “Reducing the Risks of Nuclear War — The Role of Health Professionals,” which was simultaneously published in 100 medical journals. It began with this alert: “In January 2023, the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock forward to 90 seconds before midnight, reflecting the growing risk of nuclear war.”  

The authors recommend three immediate steps on the part of nuclear-armed states and their allies: 1) adopt a no-first-use policy; 2) take their nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert; 3) urge all states involved in current conflicts to pledge publicly and unequivocally that they will not use nuclear weapons in these conflicts. 

As a concerned grandparent of seven and a physician, I turned to WA Physicians for Social Responsibility. WPSR has been a leader in the anti-nuclear movement since the 1980s and has led in the formation and support of the Washington Against Nuclear Weapons Coalition, which includes more than 50 state organizations. WPSR recently co-hosted an Annual Policy Briefing with an organization singularly focused on reducing the threat of nuclear weapons, and I was fortunate to attend.

At the briefing, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Rep. Adam Smith, and Dr. Bruce Amundson, spoke of their work to reduce the risk of nuclear war. Seattle author Steve Olson offered copies and discussed his book, The Apocalypse Factory: Plutonium and the Making of the Atomic Age, which is about the Manhattan project, Hanford’s role of producing plutonium (necessary for the Nagasaki bomb and the prototype for thousands of nuclear warheads built during the Cold War). Olson also discussed Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bombs and the cleanup that is still occurring at Hanford. Hiroshima bomb survivor Soh Hohrie shared his story of survival and made a plea for peace.  The following day Dr. David Hall and his wife helped host a field-trip to Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, which shares a fence with the Bangor-Trident submarine base.

That experience led me to wonder: Might a delegation from Washington state build on California’s climate strategy and create a nuclear-war-prevention collaboration with China? 

Senators Murray and Cantwell, Gov. Inslee, Representatives Jayapal and Smith, and the rest of our congressional delegation could focus on Washington state’s unique opportunity (and obligation) to lead in nuclear arms control.  Hanford had the historical role in making the Nagasaki bomb and supplying the plutonium for our nuclear arsenal. Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base, the largest deployer of nuclear weapons in the U.S., is the West Coast hub for our ballistic missile submarines.

Recently I saw an announcement that the Biden administration is preparing to hold a rare discussion with China on nuclear-arms control. Washington state has the “Flying Tiger” force to help with these discussions. I urge all Washington’s Congresspeople, concerned citizens, other health professional colleagues and concerned organizations to seize this moment and add their voices to this issue of survival for our species and planet.

Steve Overman MD
Steve Overman MD
Steve Overman, MD MPH, the founding member of The Seattle Arthritis Clinic and a Clinical Professor at UW, currently works in digital health, AI/ML in healthcare, and with WPSR on social issues.


  1. Steve, Thanks very much for this valuable reminder of the need to maintain constant pressure on this issue. Though I grew up just 15 miles away from Hanford, in Othello, I knew very little about the plant until I started writing The Apocalypse Factory. Writing that book has led me to the conclusion that Washington State, which has been at the forefront of nuclear issues since the site for Hanford was chosen in 1943, has a special opportunity and responsibility to lead in the nuclear disarmament movement.

  2. As a nurse professor and a Marshallese person, I concur with Dr. Overman’s premise that we need to work on nuclear disarmament. My Marshallese community members are still enduring the adverse health effects of the nuclear testing on our islands- 70 years later…As Washingtonians, we can lead the effort toward peace and equity.


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