The United Nations classifies three types of weapon as ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ (WMD) – nuclear, chemical and biological. All three have international treaties designed to control their manufacture. There are treaties that outlaw the use of chemical and biological weapons in an attack. Those treaties are known as the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). There is a treaty, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which calls on those countries that have nuclear weapons to disarm. What would be really useful is something like a Nuclear Weapons Convention, based on the same format as for chemical and biological weapons.
Although there are only the three types of weapons, they should not be seen as equal. As you will see in these pages, chemical and biological weapons are terrible things that have horrible effects. But they are usually confined to a smaller area. They do not get anywhere near the horrors of nuclear weapons. We are talking about a completely different type of danger with these weapons. A nuclear weapon not only destroys a vast area killing tens of thousands of people, it not only leaves that area virtually uninhabitable, but it continues to kill people decades after exploding. It should also be recognised that during the Cold War (from the end of the Second world war to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989) the thing that scared people was the threat of a nuclear war, particularly an all-out nuclear war that would wipe out the planet.
In this section you will find information on how these weapons originated, how they have been used, what effect they have on people and the planet, what countries possess them and what can be done to ban them. They will include the numerous attempts to ban these weapons. Because of the different nature of these groups of weapons, the information is split into three parts: nuclear weapons facts, chemical weapons facts and biological weapons facts.