WASHINGTON -- Four Nobel prize-winning scientists urged President Bush yesterday to take a gigantic leap in arms control by seeking a deal with Moscow to slash U.S.-Soviet nuclear arsenals by 90 to 95 percent.
The combined arsenals, roughly estimated to total about 50,000 warheads, would be cut to no more than 4,000 weapons of all types from so-called tactical or short-range versions to those carried on intercontinental missiles and bombers.
The proposal, in a letter to Mr. Bush, spearheaded a campaign by the Union of Concerned Scientists for radical cuts in U.S. and Soviet weapons and imposition of tough new limits on stockpiles of other nuclear powers.
It was the most far-reaching in an expanding list of proposals for slashing nuclear stocks and tightening controls in the wake of the failed August coup in Moscow.
Nobel laureates signing the letter were Henry W. Kendall, UCS chairman and physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Hans Bethe, Cornell University physics professor and one of the original A-bomb scientists; Glenn T. Seaborg of the Lawrence Berkeley (Calif.) Laboratory and a former head of the old Atomic Energy Commission; and Kenneth C. Wilson, Ohio State University physics professor.
In numerous respects, the UCS's detailed proposals for dealing with "relics of a bygone Cold War" were similar to those recently advanced by the National Academy of Sciences. But the UCS was more specific on the level of cuts to be sought and urged an immediate start with a goal of 2000 as the year for achieving the reductions and new global controls.
"Everybody is getting on the bandwagon for low levels of nuclear weapons," said Jack Mendelsohn of the independent Arms Control Association.
For its part, the ACA has been urging swift action on the 1990 treaty to reduce conventional military forces in Europe, which is languishing in the Senate -- and on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed in Moscow July 31 but not yet submitted to the Senate. Senate action on the START treaty is not expected until next year.