By far the most powerful technology on earth, both as a source of energy and as an instrument of war has been controversial. Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings by the United States of America in 1945 made scientists and diplomats discuss whether or not the technology is good for mankind. However, the public debate emerged after extensive testing took place in the Pacific in 1950s. In the 60s came other protests and Bans in Europe and North America, especially Partial Test Ban Treaty which prohibited atmospheric nuclear testing. Nuclear power became an issue of major public protest in the 1970s.
Not many us know that in October 1939, just when there was an outbreak of World War II in Europe, President of US Franklin D. Roosevelt received a letter from Albert Einstein, seeking his attention that a bomb of unprecedented power can be made tapping the forces of nuclear fission and Germany was already working on it. Had the Germans developed it first, Hitler would have ruled the world. Albert Einstein urged the United States government to join the nuclear race and thus with cooperation of Great Britain over 2,00,000 workers and several thousand scientists and engineers, finally tested the first atomic bomb. This secret project was code named “The Manhattan Project”.
In 1945 in New Mexico desert, America conducted the Trinity, the first nuclear weapons test, marking the beginning of the atomic age. As he witnessed the spectacular explosion, Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who had directed the scientific work on the bomb, remembered a line from the Vedic religious text Bhagavad-Gita: “I am become death, the shatterer of worlds.” Soon after that the Little Boy device detonated over Hiroshima on 6th August 1945 that killed approximately 75,000 people making the world realize that mankind will destroy the world. This realization led to the formation of United Nations on 24th October 1945. Still the world’s nuclear stockpiles grew. The last nations to possess nuclear weapons are India and Pakistan with India signing no first use nuclear policy.
On August 5, 1963, United States, Soviet Union and Great Britain signed the Partial/Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which marked the beginning of a new nuclear free era. The signing of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty took place one day before the 18th anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II. The treaty prohibited the testing of nuclear weapons in outer space, underwater or in the atmosphere which was a first step toward the control of nuclear weapons.
United States has done the most number of nuclear tests among all the nations followed by Soviet, France, Great Britain, China, India and Pakistan. In fact United States has conducted more number of tests then rest of the countries combined. The Russian Federation has maximum number of nuclear warheads (approximately 27,000). Still, the world believes that United States and Russia are peace loving countries. The world is now worried about nuclear tests being carried by North Korea and Iran. One nation whose name keeps coming up when it comes to nuclear possession is Israel. The world is still not sure the country has nuclear weapons or not. All countries boast on the fact that they want to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes but it’s all about showcasing one’s strength.
Today eight countries are possessing nuclear weapons. The five nuclear weapons states United States, Russia (former Soviet Union), United Kingdom, France and China, are the only countries allowed to have nuclear weapons according to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) from 1970. China and France wanted to withdraw as nations continued to conducted tests underground. But on 11 May 1995, the Treaty was extended indefinitely and any tests whether for military purpose or peaceful purpose was banned. A total of 190 parties have joined the Treaty. All members of the United Nations except Israel, India, Iraq, Iran, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Pakistan have signed the NPT. Countries which have dismantled or returned the nuclear weapons to the mother country after its formation are South Africa, Japan, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.
There is a long awaiting hope, that the world will be Nuclear free, as of now approximately 1.8 billion people live in nuclear free zones.
Giving society cheap, abundant energy … would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun —Paul Ehrlich.
Written and Edited by: Rahul Choudhury