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The discovery of radioactivity by the French physicist Henri Becquerel in 1896 led within 49 years to the detonation of the first atomic device on July 16, 1945, at Alamogordo, New Mexico. Within 5 years, a nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union had begun as both sides prepared for a long Cold War. This entry traces the intersection of global nuclear weapons development with political policies and charts the U.S. stockpile from early experimentation to a height of 32,000 warheads in 1966 to the 2012 level of approximately 5,000 warheads both deployed and in storage. In 2012, the U.S. nuclear force level consisted of approximately 4,340 strategic and 760 tactical warheads derived from 16 different warhead types, with deployed warheads ...

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