Nuclear weapons were first developed by the United States prior to the start of World War ll. The first and only times that nuclear weapons were used in battle was against Japan in 1945. The United States dropped two different style of nuclear weapons on two different Japanese cities. One bomb used plutonium while the other used uranium to create the explosions. The bombs were dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Estimates of deaths within the four months after the bombings ranged from 150,000 to 250,000 or more. About half the deaths occurred on the first day with the remaining occurring over a four month period from burns and radiation sickness. At that time, only the United States had nuclear weapons in its arsenal.
In 1953, President Eisenhower wanted to encourage the development of nuclear energy and to also convince the European (members of NATO) - North Atlantic Treaty Organization) that they should switch from expensive and manpower intensive conventional weapons to instead rely on cheaper nuclear weapons for defense. Eisenhower slashed the US defense budget while increasing the American nuclear stockpile from 1,005 to more than 20,000 during his eight years in office while stating that in the event of war, the US would use nuclear weapons as readily as conventional ones. He thought that it would be a counter to Soviet propaganda if the US shared nuclear technology with others. Towards that end, EIsenhower thought that Free World nations should be given training, equipment and uranium to create small research nuclear reactors. American companies built or assisted in the building of nuclear facilities in Argentina, Brazil, Taiwan, Israel, South Africa, India and Pakistan. This program eventually fueled the global spread of nuclear arms.
The announcements by Iran of its intent to develop its nuclear capabilities has resulted in cries of panic among certain goverments in the Middle East as well as in the US. There has been less consternation among European governments and virtually no objections by either Russia or China. Those nations objecting to the Iranian nuclear development program have called for strong economic sanctions, possible military action to destroy or slow down the Iranian progress and negotiation to provide enriched uranium from foreign sources which would reduce the potential for enrichment of uranium by Iran to weapons grade. Iran has rejected accepting enriched uranium from others and the economic sanctions in place have been too porous to have any real effect as too many nations, including Venezuela, Pakistan and China are only too eager to trade with Iran. Theories abound that Iran may even be assisting Venezuela in development of a nuclear capability.
Military actions such as Israel's attacks against Iraq in 1981 and more recently against an apparent Syrian nuclear facility have successfully kept those nations nuclear weapons free. Because Iran has carefully constructed large and secret underground facilities that are located near heavily populated zones, it is unlikely that a military effort would be sucessful.
In late November, Iranian government officials announced that a sophisticated computer virus had successfully impeded the operation of certian pieces of equipment (centrifuges) that are critical parts of the nuclear development program and that a one or possibly two prominent Iranian nuclear research scientists had been targeted for apparent assassination - all seemingly designed to slow down what seems to be the combination of missile development and the introduction of a possible nuclear weapons program. Efforts to control nuclear proliferation include the United Nations sponsored Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons or the NPT which was signed in July of 1968 by the US, England, Russia and 59 other countries. China and France joined in 1992. The NPT obligates the five biggest nuclear powers...
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