A Brief History of Nuclear Proliferation

Topics: Nuclear weapon, Nuclear proliferation, Nuclear weapons Pages: 11 (7814 words) Published: October 26, 2014
Introduction In the last hundred years, life expectancy doubled and many deadly illnesses were eradicated. The world would be a better place to live, had the astonishing scientific discoveries not been devalued with building the atomic bomb an invention that can destroy life on earth in an instant. Fredrick Soddy, who together with Ernest Rutherford discovered in 1901 that radioactivity involved the release of energy, described an atomic future in which humanity could transform a desert continent, thaw the frozen poles, and make the whole Earth one smiling Garden of Eden. While the poles are indeed thawing, the earth hardly looks like paradise. Instead, people fear nuclear Armageddon, and the power of the atom is becoming synonymous with death and destruction. Today, nine states have nuclear weapons and many more can easily acquire those, although only five states are officially recognized as possessing nuclear weapons by the 1968 nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Those are the United States (1945), Russia (1949), the United Kingdom (1952), France (1960) and China (1964). Three states never joined the NPT but are known to possess nuclear weapons Israel (n/a), India (1974), Pakistan (1998), and North Korea (2006). Two additional states that present immediate proliferation concerns are Iran and Syria. Citizens of those states have paid a heavy price in taxes and/or sanctions and sacrificed opportunities for economic and educational development to build weapons that can destroy their lives. This paper is an overview of the 64years of proliferation history. It is intended to help understand the motives behind the decision to acquire the atomic bomb and grasp the subtle causal relationships between all actors involved in the proliferation chain. Comprehending the politics of proliferation is crucial for devising policy measures to curb the further spread of nuclear weapons. The nuclear-weapon states recognized under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty The United States (1945) from Little Boy to the W88. The vicious circle of proliferation started with todays staunchest non-proliferation exponent - the United States. In October 1939, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt received a letter from scientist Albert Einstein, prompted by Leo Szilard, that Hitlers Germany was working on building an atomic bomb.4 Stirred by the fear of Nazis acquiring the bomb first, Roosevelt launched a secret effort in cooperation with the United Kingdom. The program known as the Manhattan Project, directed by US physicist Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie R. Groves, involved over 30 different research, production, and testing sites. These included both plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities as many paths were pursued in parallel to ensure success and speed up the program. By the end of the war, four different technologies were industrialized, and implosion and enrichment strategies succeeded at about the same time. By the time the United States conducted its first nuclear test in 1945, Germany had surrendered and the threat of a Nazi atomic bomb no longer existed. However, the destructive capabilities of the new weapon were tested again in August 1945 in Japan when a uranium bomb Little Boy leveled Hiroshima and a plutonium bomb Fat Man devastated Nagasaki. The war ended, but weapons development did not stop. Once the Soviet Union had become a nuclear power, US President Truman decided to develop a more advanced type of nuclear weapon, the hydrogen bomb. The rationale was that the Soviets would be the first to do it otherwise. This fear of Nazi Germany, of the Soviet Union, of someone getting a yet bigger bomb powered the nuclear quests in virtually all countries and was eventually elevated to a strategy of its own the so-called mutually assured destruction (MAD). By 1954, the first Hbombs were successfully tested by both countries, but the world hardly became safer. The United States has produced an estimated 66,500 nuclear bombs...
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