The world’s first nuclear test was conducted on 16 July 1945 by the United States. It took place in Alamogordo, in the desert of New Mexico, and was codenamed ‘Trinity’. Just three weeks after the test, on 6 August, a nuclear bomb was used against an enemy for the first time. The US exploded a uranium device, called ‘Little Boy’, approximately 2000 ft above the Japanese city of Hiroshima killing around 140,000 people. On 9 August a second nuclear bomb, this time a plutonium device called ’Fat Man’, was exploded at the same height above the city of Nagasaki with around 74,000 deaths. Continue reading
The history of proliferation of nuclear weapons is illustrated in this interactive map from Global Zero. In December 2008 in Paris, in response to the growing threats of proliferation and nuclear terrorism, 100 leaders from around the world launched Global Zero. They announced a plan for the phased, verified elimination of nuclear weapons, starting with deep reductions in the U.S. and Russian arsenals, to be followed by multilateral negotiations among all nuclear powers for an agreement to eliminate all nuclear weapons.
The growing group includes former heads of state, former foreign ministers, former defence ministers, former national security advisors, and more than 20 former top military commanders.
There are five ‘declared’ nuclear weapon states. They are the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China. ‘Declared’ means that they have signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as countries which had tested nuclear weapons. No other country that has signed the NPT is allowed to have these weapons.
Following the series of tests in 1998, it was clear that both India and Pakistan were developing nuclear weapons. They now both possess them. Although it will never say if it does indeed have them, it is generally agreed that Israel also has a nuclear arsenal. These three countries have not signed the NPT. Continue reading
It’s important to remember that nuclear weapons are not just big bombs. They do not have the same make up as the sort of terrorist bombs or heavy artillery fire seen regularly on the television news. So what happens when a nuclear weapon explodes?
The effect on the human body is horrific but it’s important for people to know what happens. The temperature of a nuclear explosion is several million degrees centigrade. The explosion creates a fireball of white heat. On exploding, intense heat and radiation is released in winds of around 1000 mph. This also creates huge pressure on the surrounding air. The mushroom cloud effect is produced by the powerful updrafts lifting debris from the ground up into the air. The top of the cloud can be several kilometres wide. Continue reading
The 1960s saw a number of negotiations taking place with the Outer Space Treaty, banning the use of nuclear weapons in space, being signed in 1967. The same year saw the treaty making Latin America a nuclear weapon-free zone signed as well. Then, in 1968 the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was finally agreed and signed. This treaty, although designed to stop the spread of nuclear weapons also called for the nuclear weapon states (those countries that possess nuclear weapons) to begin talks that would lead to disarmament. After years of negotiations, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was finally ready for signing in 1996. The Strategic Offensive Reduction Talks (SORT) were agreed and signed by the US and Russia in 2002. Continue reading
Following the end of the second world war, the US began a series of tests at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. Most of the troops ordered to take part in the testing programme were not equipped with any specialised protective clothing. Several thousand rats, pigs, goats and monkeys were on board target ships or tethered on shore closer to the blast. In later experiments pigs were dressed in clothing to measure the effects of burns on protected and unprotected skin and monkeys were crammed into tubes and placed around the site.
Testing has resulted in lasting damage to the environment – French testing had so damaged Moruroa Atoll that it was crumbling away – and there are repeated reports of severe human birth defects but as the French have stopped collecting medical statistics, it has been difficult to prove anything conclusively. Continue reading
There are many reasons why people oppose nuclear weapons. For many it’s simply a case of morality. How can I support something that would kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people who just happen to live in a country my government thinks of as an enemy?
The military have also been involved in opposing nuclear weapons. In 1996 General Butler was instrumental in organising a Generals and Admirals Statement signed by 60 retired military officers from 17 countries calling for nuclear disarmament. Following on from that, in 1998, there was a Civil Leaders Statement calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. This was signed by 117 leaders from 46 nations and included 47 past or present presidents and prime ministers. Signatories included former US President Jimmy Carter and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.
The first meeting of the General Assembly (then of 51 countries) took place in London in January 1946. The very first resolution adopted called for the elimination of nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction.
Over 60 years later, the five permanent members of the Security Council still have nuclear weapons and able to stop a resolution calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Not surprisingly, there are many who want to see the UN reformed. Continue reading
There are a number of problems with the theory of ‘deterrence’. For a start it is a contradiction in itself.
The continual reliance on deterrence can actually make situations worse as people become more worried and scared of an enemy. It makes negotiations more difficult as any compromise is seen as a weakness. So the tension can rise. That tension is then seen as an excuse for yet more weapons. Continue reading
Many years have passed since the unanimous conclusion by the court in 1996 that all states are legally obliged to pursue negotiations in Good Faith on nuclear disarmament. This obligation is not just about engaging in the process of negotiation. There has to be an outcome – the global abolition of nuclear weapons. Continue reading