The History of Anti-Nuclear Movement

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




30 thoughts on “The History of Anti-Nuclear Movement

  1. It is said that in a nuclear war “He who strikes first dies second”. And this very concept of second strike capability in nuclear strategy plays a dual role – firstly it gives a country assured ability to respond to a nuclear attack with powerful nuclear retaliation, however it also discourages any country to take the first step in a nuclear war. However if humans succumb to their greed and other temptations and get deviated to such a extent when the very idea of MAD ( Mutually Assured Destruction) would seem like a like-able option, total annihilation is inevitable. As such it is essential for men to realize that civilization is not a race in itself, but the development of an entire race which is way above the petty boundaries of age, sex, color.


  2. Soumya Sarkar says:

    Use of nuclear weapons in today’s world is often termed a MAD decision, a decision which implies Mutually Assured Destruction. There have been treaties and juntas setting milestones to achieve towards Nuclear Disarmament and get rid of this necromancy, but this state may not be achieved very soon. One fact that may lighten our hearts in this regard is the increasing irrelevance of a nuclear war as the real war today, that is being fought between the world superpowers is the one which revolves around economies, trade and cyberspace.


    • Well to a certain extent your absolutely right that today’s war is been fought on economic front, but it was always fought on that front, the Greeks, the British, the Germans, the Japanese and now the Americans. They have all fought to show their might and not to unite for a cause. Nevertheless, we expect these nations to behave like humans now. But still after what happened in Syria recently will you believe that North Korea and Iran will not lead us into a Nuclear War.


  3. I say, let the testing continue, but not for warfare. Cheap sources of energy are secondary, what we need right now is abundant sources. Developed countries are capable of harnessing nuclear power for their energy requirements, and they should do the same and leave the conventional sources for the developing nations till they have the technology.
    The amount of money being spent on testing warheads can be utilized to feed the hungry in the world for 90,000 days!


  4. Vipin, how will you control our such friendly neighbours (China and Pakistan) ? Leave alone Pakistan we can tackle them, but how will you tackle the dragons with only 100 warheads when they have 1200?


  5. Its all about power and to propagate fear or a way to yell that we too are nuclear so better not think of attacking us….Only a fool country will attack with nuclear power these days….can’t say that if it lands up with terrorist groups…we need energy-sustainable energy but not at the cost of mankind….The way we are harming our environment in the name of development is a more serious threat than nuclear power….we cannot undo what harm we already did (developing nuclear) but the time has come to think ahead to look for other sources of energy without threatening future lives….


  6. Ujjwal Rakesh says:

    Testing nuclear power for creating cheap sources of energy by any country reminds me of a very funny scene from a movie “Dictator” where the actor laughs himself when he says that, “we will use nuclear energy only for peace.” But apart from being funny it actually showcased the mentality of any country. If we really want to create an abundant source of energy from nuclear testings then why don’t the countries come together to try such experiments. This will reduce the risk of nuclear war and serve the purpose but then it won’t be possible because that is not the motive.


  7. For the sake of security and development mankind has developed a such kind of energy that will devastate humanity and wide range of species.We have seen the catastrophe which took place in Hiroshima & Nagasaki…thus to save ecology and mankind to profess peace and development an alternate source of energy is to be developed which not only give peace a chance but also foster sustainability and country development…..


  8. Mark Gideon says:

    Like any energy source, nuclear energy has its own benefits but in recent times the Fukushima disaster which shocked the world on the effects of the uglier side of nuclear energy has questioned the logic of it being safe and reliable. Japan with some of the most advanced technology built to counter the high seismic activity in which that country lies, still failed to hold down the effects. It is this which precisely shocked the world. If advanced countries themselves cannot be safe, what hope do developing countries have? Then there is anti-nuclear protests at kundankulam which gained momentum in the light of Fukushima.
    I think people realize that technology which is not in harmony with nature will no longer be acceptable. The anti-nuclear moment will continue because we can never hope to have it absolutely secure. Fukushima proved that.


  9. Manjit says:

    The big money is spent on making nuclear weapons or testing them. The question is, if an nuclear weapon is made or tested then what?????????? No answer. I think Asian countries should invest in sensitive seismic devices more in number to detect Earthquake and Tsunami. That will be a better way of spending money.


  10. iffat anjum says:

    United States test the first nuclear weapon in Mexico and when found to be the most powerful, tried on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to showcase the whole world the power they have. in 1963 partial nuclear test ban treaty deal signed by all the three great countries – United State,Russia,Great Britain who are afraid of each other. Participation in UN was more of a political effort of the west world countries showing concern for humanity and now trying to ban other countries from testing the nuclear weapons. Though its good for humanity and for preserving the quality of life.But can these countries assure in future that it wont’ happen not even to use it for good cause as Israeli is said to believe? Because every country first think politically than for mass humanity. Therefore we must first think of humanity and sustainable energy which will be good for coming generation rather gifting a big gift of nuclear weapon.


  11. Mohd Ibrahim says:

    The anti-nuclear weapons movement grew rapidly because for many people the atomic bomb “encapsulated the very worst direction in which society was moving”.

    Peace movements emerged in Japan and in 1954 they converged to form a unified “Japanese Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs”. Japanese opposition to the Pacific nuclear weapons tests was widespread, and “an estimated 35 million signatures were collected on petitions calling for bans on nuclear weapons. In 1945 in the New Mexico desert, American scientists conducted “Trinity,” the first nuclear weapons test, marking the beginning of the atomic age. Even before the Trinity test,

    The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the end of World War II quickly followed the Trinity test, and the Little Boy device was detonated over the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. Exploding with a yield equivalent to 12,500 tonnes of TNT, the blast and thermal wave of the bomb destroyed nearly 50,000 buildings and killed approximately 75,000 people.[15] Subsequently, the world’s nuclear weapons stockpiles grew.

    Operation Crossroads was a series of nuclear weapon tests conducted by the United States at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean in the summer of 1946.

    A Los Alamos study warned “the water near a recent surface explosion will be a witch’s brew” of radioactivity. To prepare the atoll for the nuclear tests, Bikini’s native residents were evicted from their homes and resettled on smaller, uninhabited islands where they were unable to sustain themselves.

    Radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons testing drew public attention in 1954 when a Hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific contaminated the crew of the Japanese fishing boat Lucky Dragon. One of the fishermen died in Japan seven months later. The incident caused widespread concern around the world and “provided a decisive impetus for the emergence of the anti-nuclear weapons movement in many countries”.


  12. Ravi Bhandari says:

    Creation of Nuclear weapons was a mistake but even nuclear energy being safe is now questioned after Fukushima, Japan. A nuclear war between India and Pakistan will kill millions, we can only hope such a day never comes…


  13. Mamata Devi says:

    Its only India’s nuclear weapons that is keeping Pakistan quiet on the Kashmir issue. Else the kind of speeches we hear from other side of the border, they would have definitely attacked us if there was no nuclear power. The country should thank Moraji Desai, Narashima Rao and Atal Vihari Vajpayee for taking this step towards securing our country.


  14. Mohan Naydu says:

    When you see the movie “Sum of all fears” there is a seen where Russian President says to Morgan freeman who is an adviser to the American President that America bombed hiroshima, America bombed Nagasaki – They should not lecture the world about peace. Obama getting a noble for peace when the country in his regime is engaged in 3 wars and planning to attack Syria is a joke. The dominance of the west on what is wrong and right should stop. God knows who have given them the authority.


  15. Maynak Rai says:

    I would like to know what kind of measures is the Indian government is taking to make the country nuclear free. They don’t even care about the protests on the kundakulum plant. They think that its being funded from outside the country.


  16. Wandering thoughts says:

    A well written article, lots of info being shared. Wish to know which all countries are planning to develop nuclear weapons. Forget the world being nuclear free, America and Russia will never give up on nuclear weapons, they might come up with something much more devastating.


  17. James Anthony says:

    We are demanding something which will be too much to give up on. Even after the creation of United Nations to restore peace in the world. The wars and experiments on weapons continued. There needs to be a greater will and less greed to make the world nuclear free


  18. Sushma Bhatia says:

    I think Pakistan has more nuclear weapons than India. It shows that they want to become more stronger on defense front rather than thinking how to develop their sinking economy. It is a failed state.


  19. Green Environment says:

    Nuclear testing has adverse effects on the ecosystem. There should be anti-nuclear protests across the globe. But for that to happen we have make everyone aware of this.


  20. lipika singh says:

    nuclear energy is only a seemingly cleaner form of energy as it doesn’t spews out tons of carbon dioxide or smoke , however it has a significant issue uranium and radioactive energy which is highly dangerous


  21. Pankaj Bhardwaj says:

    There are more sources of energy which are yet unexplored then why go for such high risk alternatives. Yes I agree we need to go for a treaty abandoning nuclear testing completely for the sake of mankind.


  22. kaif says:

    Nuclear power is a very risky technology. The world has raised its concern about this since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Its a dangerous and expensive way of boiling the water to generate electricity. Nuclear Power is very hazardous for the whole of mankind, species, Flora and Fauna as it creates,nuclear accidents like radioactivity,nuclear terrorism, as it could be targeted by terrorist and criminals,many skin diseases caused by nuclear testing. So, it’s not good for any nation because results are rather devastating then comforting . So there should be an anti-nuclear movement to ban all these activities which is caused by nuclear power.


  23. Sree Vidhya Rajiv says:

    Nuclear power should be used for the betterment of mankind rather than using it for the destruction of lives and properties. Apart from Nuclear energy, alternate sources should be promoted to make earth a safer place after what happened in Japan. The incident made us realize that even with such advanced technology nothing can be termed 100% safe. Even today there is radioactive spills from the Fukushima Plant which is polluting the environment.


  24. Jeff E says:

    Like most things in this world what you’re looking at may not be all of what you see even though you were there and witnessed the whole thing. Nuclear Power and its problems with pollutants that remain dangerous for long times, the risk of melt down or like japans Fukushima leaking into the ocean may be the least of the problems with this technology. How many studies have been done with regards to magnetic fallout in relation to the earth and the overall effect of running even a “safe” nuclear power station and the magnetic effect that has on our planets magnetic field. Do they interrupt the earths magnetic fields? Fukushima is on a major fault line.Has the power station been the trigger that brought the earth quake on because of magnetic emissions from it and the proximity to the fault line been a natural disaster of our own ignorance with what I consider to be our most dangerous form of energy or weapon on these grounds. If we keep pushing the turtle may flip.
    P.s or what about the magnetic fall out of the massive power net spreading across the globe, same thing I dont think the earth likes this at all. we do need to find better ways


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