The Politics of Nuclear Weapons

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Andrew Futter

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    About the Author

    Andrew Futter is a Senior Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Leicester, UK. He is the author of Ballistic Missile Defence and US National Security Policy (2013), and has published widely on nuclear strategy, nuclear proliferation and contemporary nuclear challenges. He is an Honorary Fellow at the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security at the University of Birmingham, a member of the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative run by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the co-convenor of the BISA Global Nuclear Order working group.

    Acknowledgements

    There are many people to thank in putting this book together, but particular mention must be made of Wyn Bowen, Stephen Cimbala, Oliver Daddow, James Davidson, David Dunn, Stephen Ellis, Tom Fretwell, Nicola Horsburgh, Michael McNally, Jamie Missing, Jonna Nyman, Mark Phythian, Nick Ritchie, Nick Wheeler, Arn Wilkins, Heather Williams and Ben Zala, as well as the useful comments from the various anonymous reviewers, and Natalie Aguilera and James Piper at SAGE. Above all this work would not have been possible without the support and guidance of Jon Moran, and of my mum Alison and brother Jack.

  • Appendices

    • Appendix 1: Nuclear weapons timeline
    • Appendix 2: Glossary of key terms and acronyms
    • Appendix 3: Countries with civilian nuclear power
    • Appendix 4: Nuclear weapons in fiction, film and TV
    Nuclear Weapons Timeline
    1905
    SeptemberAlbert Einstein publishes his special theory of relativity (E = mc2)
    1938
    DecemberOtto Hahn and Fritz Strassman discover fission in uranium
    1939
    1 OctoberA letter warning about nuclear weapons by Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard is delivered to US President Franklin Roosevelt
    1941
    9 OctoberPresident Roosevelt creates the US Atomic Project
    1942
    DecemberEnrico Fermi's ‘nuclear pile’ goes critical in Chicago
    1945
    16 JulyThe USA conducts the Trinity Test in the New Mexico desert
    6 AugustThe USA drops the ‘Little Boy’ uranium bomb on Hiroshima
    9 AugustUS drops the ‘Fat Man’ plutonium bomb on Nagasaki
    1946
    JanuaryThe UN forms the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC)
    JuneBernard Baruch outlines a plan for international control of atomic weapons – the so-called ‘Baruch Plan’
    AugustThe US McMahon bill prohibits sharing any nuclear information with any other country
    1949
    4 AprilThe North Atlantic Treaty is signed creating NATO
    29 AugustThe Soviet Union detonates its first nuclear device at Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan
    1950
    JuneThe Korean War begins (1950–1953)
    1952
    3 OctoberThe UK conducts its first nuclear test in the Montebello Islands, Australia
    31 OctoberThe USA explodes its first hydrogen bomb, codenamed ‘Ivy Mike’
    1953
    12 AugustThe first Soviet hydrogen bomb test is conducted
    8 DecemberThe Atoms for Peace programme is launched by US President Dwight Eisenhower
    1954
    21 January‘Nautilus’ – the first nuclear-powered submarine – is launched by the USA
    JuneThe first nuclear power plant is opened in the Soviet Union
    1954
    MarchThe USA conducts ‘Castle Bravo’ tests in the Marshall Islands
    1955
    10 MayThe USSR proposes an nuclear test ban
    14 MayThe Warsaw Treaty Organization (Warsaw Pact) is formed
    1956
    12 JulyIndian proposal to end nuclear weapons tests
    1957
    15 MayThe UK explodes its first hydrogen bomb
    29 JulyThe International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is established
    26 AugustThe Soviet Union launches the Sputnik satellite into orbit
    SeptemberThe Mayak nuclear incident in the Soviet Union
    Pugwash, SANE and CND are established
    1958
    JulyThe USA–UK Mutual Defense Agreement (MDA) is signed
    10 OctoberThe Windscale nuclear reactor catches fire in the United Kingdom
    1959
    FebruaryThe first Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) become operational
    OctoberThe first US ICBMs become operational
    DecemberThe first US ballistic missile submarine becomes operational
    The Antarctic Treaty is signed
    1960
    13 FebruaryThe first French nuclear test is conducted in the Algerian desert
    MarchThe UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) is established in Geneva
    NovemberThe first Soviet ballistic missile submarine is launched
    1961
    JanuaryThe Goldsboro nuclear accident in the USA
    30 OctoberThe Soviet Union tests the Tsar Bomba nuclear device
    1962
    JuneThe first Permissive Action Links (PALs) are fitted to nuclear weapons
    16–28 OctoberThe Cuban Missile Crisis brings the world to the edge of nuclear war
    18 DecemberThe Nassau or ‘Polaris’ agreement is signed between the USA and the UK
    1963
    5 AugustThe USA, Soviet Union and the UK sign the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT)
    1964
    21 JulyThe declaration of the denuclearisation of Africa
    16 OctoberChina explodes its first nuclear device
    1966
    17 JanuaryA US bomber carrying four hydrogen bombs crashes at Palomares, Spain
    1967
    27 JanuaryThe Outer Space Treaty is signed
    14 FebruaryA Latin American nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ) is established
    1968
    1 JulyThe nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) opens for signature
    1969A secret agreement is reached between the USA and Israel over the Israeli nuclear programme
    1971
    11 FebruaryThe Seabed Treaty is signed
    1972
    26 MayRichard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev sign the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) I and Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty
    1974
    18 MayIndia detonates a ‘low-yield’ nuclear device under the Rajasthan desert, codenamed ‘Smiling Buddah’
    3 JulyThe nuclear Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT) is signed
    1975
    23 AprilThe Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is created
    1976
    28 MayThe Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty is signed
    JulyA.Q. Khan establishes the Kahn Research Laboratories in Pakistan
    1978
    MayThe first UN Conference on Disarmament is convened
    1979
    28 MarchThe Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in the USA suffers a partial meltdown
    18 JuneThe SALT II agreement is signed by the USA and Soviet Union
    22 SeptemberA suspected South African–Israeli nuclear test takes place in the southern Indian Ocean
    1980
    OctoberThe last atmospheric nuclear test is conducted (by China)
    1981
    7 JuneIsrael attacks and destroys the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq
    1982
    29 JuneThe START treaty negotiations begin between the USA and Soviet Union
    DecemberThe Greenham Common protests take place in the UK
    1983
    23 MarchRonald Reagan announces the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)
    NovemberAble Archer 83 – a huge NATO nuclear exercise – is conducted
    1985
    6 AugustThe Treaty of Rarotonga creates the South Pacific NWFZ
    5 OctoberSunday Times publishes Mordachai Vanunu's revelations about the secret Israeli nuclear arsenal
    1986
    AprilThe Chernobyl nuclear reactor suffers a critical meltdown in the Ukraine
    11–12October The Reykjavik summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev takes place
    1987
    8 DecemberThe Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is signed by the United States and the Soviet Union
    1991
    31 JulyGeorge H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev sign the first START Treaty
    27 NovemberThe Nuclear Threat Reduction Act is passed by the US Congress
    4 DecemberCartagena Declaration creating a NWFZ in Latin America and the Caribbean
    25 DecemberThe Soviet Union dissolves
    1992
    20 JanuaryA Joint Declaration on Denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula is signed
    17 JulyThe Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty is signed by Russia and NATO
    3 AugustFrance signs the NPT
    OctoberThe United States announces a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing
    1993
    3 JanuaryThe START II Treaty is signed by the USA and Russia
    MarchSouth Africa declares and then renounces nuclear weapons
    1995
    25 JanuaryThe Norwegian rocket incident takes place
    23 MarchNegotiations begin on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT)
    May178 nations renew the NPT in New York
    DecemberA NWFZ is established in Southeast Asia
    1996
    11 AprilThe Pelindaba Treaty is signed creating an African NWFZ
    10 SeptemberThe Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is adopted by the United Nations
    1997
    A.Q. Khan begins to transfer nuclear components to Libya
    1998
    13–15 MayIndia conducts five nuclear weapons tests
    28–30 MayPakistan conducts six nuclear weapons tests
    31 AugustNorth Korea launches the three-stage Taepo-dong ballistic missile over the Sea of Japan
    DecemberIraq expels United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) weapons inspectors
    1999
    May–JuneThe Kargil War between India and Pakistan takes place
    13 OctoberThe US Senate fails to ratify the CTBT
    2001
    11 SeptemberTerrorists attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the USA
    13 DecemberPresident George W. Bush announces the US abrogation of the ABM Treaty
    2002
    24 MayThe Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty between USA and Russia is signed
    14 AugustThe Iranian nuclear programme is publicly revealed
    2003
    10 JanuaryNorth Korea announces its intention to leave the NPT
    MayThe Proliferation Security Initiative is launched
    AugustThe six-party talks about North Korea's nuclear programme begin
    19 DecemberLibya agrees to give up its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programmes
    2004
    JanuaryThe A.Q. Khan nuclear smuggling network is revealed
    28 AprilUN Security Council Resolution 1540 is signed
    JuneA nuclear hotline between India and Pakistan is established
    2005
    MayThe third NPT Review Conference is held in New York
    18 JulyThe US–India Civil Nuclear Agreement is signed
    2006
    AprilIran announces that it has mastered uranium enrichment
    8 OctoberNorth Korea tests its first nuclear device
    2007
    4 JanuaryThe ‘four horsemen of the nuclear apocalypse’ publish their first op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal
    6 SeptemberIsrael attacks a suspected Syrian nuclear weapons facility
    The International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons is established
    2008
    SeptemberThe Nuclear Suppliers Group grants India a waiver
    DecemberThe Global Zero campaign is launched
    2009
    FebruaryUK and French ballistic missile submarine, collide in the Atlantic Ocean
    5 AprilUS President Barack Obama makes a speech on nuclear disarmament in Prague, Czech Republic
    JulyAn African NWFZ is announced
    2010
    8 AprilThe New START Treaty is signed by the USA and Russia
    12 AprilThe first Nuclear Security Summit is held in Washington, DC
    3–28 MayThe fourth NPT Review conference takes place in New York
    JuneThe Stuxnet computer virus is discovered in the Iranian nuclear programme
    2011
    11 MarchThe Fukushima nuclear disaster takes place in Japan
    MarchGermany announces that it will phase out nuclear energy by 2020
    2012
    26 MarchThe second Nuclear Security Summit is held in Seoul, South Korea
    2013
    12 FebruaryNorth Korea conducts its third nuclear test
    4–5 MarchA Conference on the Humanitarian Effects of Nuclear Weapons is held in Oslo, Norway
    28 NovemberA temporary deal is agreed between the P5+1 and Iran to temporarily freeze certain aspects of Iran's nuclear programme
    2014
    FebruarySecond meeting on the Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons takes place in Nayarit, Mexico
    MarchThe third Nuclear Security Summit takes place in The Hague, Netherlands
    Glossary of Key Terms and Acronyms

    For an extensive overview of terms relating to nuclear weapons, readers should consult Rodney Carlisle's ‘Encyclopaedia of the atomic age’ (New York, Facts on Fact Inc: 2001) or Jeffrey Larsen and James Smith's ‘Historical dictionary of arms control’ (Oxford, The Scarecrow Press: 2005).

    Able Archer 83

    A NATO military exercise in October 1983 that significantly raised tensions between East and West in the Cold War.

    Active defence

    Measures taken to lessen the impact of a nuclear attack before detonations (missile and air defence for example).

    Additional Protocol (IAEA)

    Grants the IAEA legal authority for extra monitoring and verification of nuclear facilities.

    Air burst

    A nuclear detonation above the intended target, designed to maximise the extent of blast damage.

    Air-launched cruise missile (ALCM)

    A cruise missile delivered by an aircraft that can be nuclear armed.

    Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty

    A treaty agreed in 1972 by the USA and USSR to prohibit the deployment of strategic ballistic missile defences. Abrogated by the United States in 2002.

    A.Q. Khan network

    Nuclear smuggling network established by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan which provided nuclear technology to Pakistan and a number of aspiring nuclear states.

    Atom bomb (A-bomb)

    A nuclear bomb that uses nuclear fission, such as those dropped on Japan in 1945.

    Atoms for Peace

    US President Dwight Eisenhower's programme to supply civilian nuclear technology to the world in the 1950s.

    Ballistic missile

    A missile that follows a ballistic trajectory before falling to earth to hit its target. Longer-range missiles travel into space.

    Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD)

    Systems designed to intercept and destroy nuclear-armed missiles in various stages of their flight before they hit their intended target.

    Baruch Plan

    A proposal by the United States in the late 1940s to create an international organisation to regulate all nuclear technology.

    Bolt from the blue

    A nuclear strike without any warning.

    Brinkmanship

    Pushing your opponent to the brink of disaster to test their resolve.

    Broken arrow

    The term used to describe accidents involving nuclear-armed aircraft.

    Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)

    An organisation that campaigns for the United Kingdom to unilaterally abolish its nuclear weapons.

    Centrifuge

    The mechanism used to separate different isotopes of uranium in order to enrich it.

    Chagai

    An area of Pakistan (in the Ras Koh Hills of Balochistan) that gives its name to the nuclear tests conducted there in May 1998.

    Chain reaction

    The process whereby the release of neutrons from one atomic nuclear reaction begins a nuclear reaction in another atom, which then initiatives further atomic reactions.

    Chernobyl

    A civilian nuclear disaster that occurred in the Ukraine in 1986.

    Cold start

    The Indian military doctrine that would target Pakistani nuclear forces in the event of nuclear hostilities.

    Cold test

    (also Sub-critical test) Nuclear test without an explosion.

    Cold War

    Military and geopolitical stand-off between a Western bloc led by the United States and NATO against an Eastern bloc led by the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, 1945–1991.

    Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

    Treaty to eliminate all nuclear testing, which opened for signature in 1996.

    Contamination

    Radioactive particles deposited after a nuclear blast that remain harmful and lethal to humans.

    Continuation of Government (CoG)

    Plans to ensure the continuation of government following a nuclear strike – part of civil defence.

    Continuous-at-sea Deterrence (CASD)

    Policy adopted by the UK whereby one nuclear ballistic missile armed submarine is always at sea ready to fire its nuclear weapons.

    Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities

    An international agreement that seeks to protect nuclear materials established in 1980 and updated in 2005.

    Counter-force

    Targeting strategy based on destroying the enemy's nuclear and military installations.

    Counter-value

    Targeting strategy based on destroying large population centres.

    Critical mass

    The necessary amount of fissile material required to sustain a nuclear fission reaction.

    Cuban Missile Crisis

    US–Soviet crisis over the placement of Soviet nuclear-capable missiles in Cuba in 1962. Regarded as the closest we have ever been to nuclear war.

    Dead Hand

    The name of the semi-autonomous Soviet nuclear response system. Also known as the Perimeter system.

    De-alerting

    The removal of nuclear forces from instant, hair-trigger alert, and from fire on warning.

    Decommissioning

    The process to remove nuclear weapons from active status in order to dismantle them.

    Depleted uranium

    High-density material containing very low levels of U235 used for civilian purposes and armour plating and armour-piecing projectiles. Can be produced as a by-product of enrichment.

    De-targeting

    Ensuring bombs/warheads have no fixed target before they have to be used.

    Dirty bomb

    A weapon designed to maximise the distribution of radioactive material via a conventional explosion. Also known as a radiological dispersal device (RDD).

    Doomsday Clock

    Indication of nuclear threat run by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

    Dual-use technology

    Technology that can be used for both civilian and nuclear weapons purposes.

    E = mc2

    Formula devised by Albert Einstein that paved the way for nuclear energy.

    Electromagnetic pulse (EMP)

    A burst of energy from a nuclear explosion that is highly destructive to any electric-based equipment.

    Enhanced radiation weapon (ERWs)

    Weapons designed to maximise radiation rather than blast to kill enemy forces but not destroy infrastructure. The neutron bomb was an example of an ERW.

    Enola Gay

    Name of the B-29 aircraft that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

    Extended nuclear deterrence

    The provision of a nuclear deterrent guarantee by a nuclear-armed state to another state that does not possess nuclear weapons.

    Fat Man

    Name of the plutonium atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.

    Fissile material

    A chemical element able to perform fission (be split).

    Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT)

    Treaty to ban the production of new fissile material (U235 and PU239).

    Fission

    The process whereby a nucleus of an atom is split, emitting excess neutrons.

    Force de dissuasion

    The name given to the French nuclear weapons force. Previously know as the force de frappe.

    Four horsemen of the nuclear apocalypse

    Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, William Perry and George Schultz.

    Fuel cycle

    The process from mining through to use (in a reaction or weapon) to the reprocessing and storage of nuclear fuel.

    Fukushima

    Civilian nuclear disaster that occurred at the Fukushima–Daiichi plant in Japan in March 2011.

    Fusion

    The process whereby atoms are fused together to create enormous heat and energy – used in a hydrogen bomb.

    Geiger counter

    Instrument for measuring nuclear radiation.

    Geneva Interim Agreement

    Temporary agreement reached by the P5+1 and Iran in November 2013 to halt parts of the nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.

    Global Zero

    Global movement seeking the abolition of nuclear weapons.

    Gravity bomb

    Nuclear bomb dropped by aircraft that falls to earth to hit its intended target.

    Highly enriched uranium (HEU)

    Uranium that has been enriched to very high levels of U235 (80 per cent +) for use in a nuclear bomb or warhead.

    Horizontal proliferation

    The proliferation of nuclear weapons to new actors.

    Hydrogen bomb (also known as the H-bomb, ‘the super’ or thermonuclear bomb)

    A nuclear bomb based on the process of nuclear fusion.

    Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)

    A missile able to strike targets anywhere in the world in a very short space of time. Normally armed with one or more nuclear warheads.

    International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

    International institution set up to promote and regulate the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

    International fuel bank

    (also known as nuclear fuel bank) is a proposal to manage the supply of enriched uranium.

    Isotope

    A variation of a chemical element with a different number of neutrons.

    Joe 1

    The name of the first Soviet atomic bomb exploded in 1949. Also known as RDS 1.

    Kargil War

    The only time two nuclear-armed states (India and Pakistan) have fought each other directly (in 1999).

    Kiloton (Kt)

    The unit of measurement equal to one thousand tonnes of conventional explosive.

    Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT)

    The 1963 treaty banning nuclear testing in the atmosphere, in space and under water. Also known as the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT).

    Little Boy

    The name of the uranium bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945.

    Loose nukes

    Nuclear weapons or material not accounted for after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    Low-enriched uranium (LEU)

    Uranium enriched to low levels of U235 to be used in a nuclear reactor (typically around 5 per cent).

    Manhattan Project

    The name of the US-led programme to build the first atomic bombs.

    Megaton (Mt)

    Unit of measurement equal to one million tonnes of conventional explosive.

    Meltdown

    The consequence of a nuclear reactor overheating, where fissile products are released.

    Minimum deterrence

    Smallest number of weapons needed to retain a credible nuclear posture.

    Mixed oxide fuel (MOX)

    Mixture of reprocessed uranium and plutonium fuel that can be used in a nuclear reactor.

    Multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV)

    Missile with multiple nuclear warheads that can be targeted individually.

    Mushroom cloud

    Large distinctive cloud produced by a nuclear explosion.

    Mutual assured destruction (MAD)

    Condition whereby nuclear weapons will not be used against another nuclear-armed actor because to do so would be suicidal.

    North Atlantic Treaty (NATO)

    A multi-national military and defence organisation established in 1949.

    Neutron bomb

    A bomb designed to maximise radiation and effects on humans while minimising its effect on infrastructure.

    New START Treaty

    The treaty between the United States and Russia signed in 2010 limiting deployed strategic nuclear forces.

    No first use (NFU)

    A declared policy not to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict.

    Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)

    A large group of states not aligned to any major power block, critical of the lack of progress made towards disarmament by the NWS.

    Non-nuclear-weapon state(NNWS)

    A state signatory to the NPT that can never possess nuclear weapons under the treaty.

    Norwegian Rocket Incident

    A nuclear scare in 1995 after Russian leaders mistook a Norwegian rocket launch for a NATO nuclear missile strike.

    Nuclear apartheid

    The condition whereby under the NPT some states can legally have nuclear weapons while others cannot.

    Nuclear deterrence

    Using the threat of nuclear weapons to deter nuclear use by another actor.

    Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

    The treaty opened for signature in 1968 with three main pillars: (1) signatories must work towards nuclear disarmament; (2) all signatories have the right to civilian nuclear power; (3) states must not proliferate nuclear weapons or materials to others.

    Nuclear opacity

    The policy adopted by Israel of neither confirming nor denying its possession of nuclear weapons.

    Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)

    A multinational body that controls the manufacture and sale of nuclear-related material and technologies.

    Nuclear taboo

    A normative concept that has developed against any use of nuclear weapons.

    Nuclear waste

    The by-products of nuclear fission reactions that must be suitably disposed of.

    Nuclear weapon

    A weapon that derives its power from the nucleus of an atom of a particular chemical isotope.

    Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC)

    A proposed multilateral treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons.

    Nuclear-weapon free zone (NWFZ)

    A geographical zone where the manufacture, testing, deployment and stockpiling of nuclear weapons is prohibited.

    Nuclear-weapon state (NWS)

    One of the five states legally recognised as possessing nuclear weapons under the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (the USA, Russia, the UK, France and China).

    Nuclear winter

    The possible result of large-scale nuclear use leading to reduced sunlight and cold weather for a sustained period, which in turn could lead to death and environmental destruction.

    Operation Plowshare

    The US programme to develop nuclear devices for peaceful construction and engineering purposes.

    Osirak

    An Iraqi nuclear reactor attacked by Israel in 1981.

    P5

    The five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Also the five recognised nuclear weapons states under the NPT (the USA, Russia, the UK, France and China).

    P5 process

    An initiative to facilitate steps towards nuclear disarmament by the P5 as warranted by the NPT.

    Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT)

    See Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT).

    Passive defence

    Measures taken to lessen the impact of a nuclear attack once it has happen (bomb shelters, emergency response, etc.).

    Peaceful nuclear explosions (PNEs)

    Nuclear detonations for non-military purposes.

    Permissive Action Links (PALs)

    Various mechanisms to ensure nuclear weapons cannot be detonated without proper authorisation.

    Petrochemical-3

    The code name for the Iraqi nuclear weapons programme initiated in 1990.

    Plutonium

    Predominantly man-made chemical element that can be used for atomic fission. Plutonium is separated from other products following a nuclear reaction of uranium.

    Pokhran

    Name given to the Indian nuclear tests – named after the test site in Rajasthan. Pokhran I refers to the ‘peaceful test’ of 1974 and Pokhran II to the overt weapons test of 1998.

    Radiation

    The particles released naturally by certain chemical isotopes and through nuclear reactions.

    Radiation sickness

    The severe health effects of high exposure to radiation that can lead to various illnesses and death. Also known as acute radiation syndrome (ARS).

    Radioactive fallout

    The radioactive particles of earth and other material scattered into the air as a result of a nuclear blast, many of which are highly dangerous for humans.

    Reprocessing

    The method used to transform spent nuclear fuel into either new MOX fuel for a reactor or to separate plutonium for a bomb.

    Roentgen equivalent man (rem)

    Unit used to measure ionising radiation.

    Samson Option

    The strategy of massive nuclear response purportedly to be adopted by the Israeli government if the existence of the state is threatened.

    Ship submersible ballistic nuclear(SSBN)

    A nuclear-powered submarine armed with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

    Six-party talks

    The diplomatic effort to prevent and then curb North Korea's nuclear ambitions involving the USA, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and North Korea (2006–).

    Smiling Buddha

    The name given to the ‘peaceful’ nuclear test conducted by India in 1974.

    Solimoes Project

    The name given to the secret Brazilian nuclear weapons programme.

    Sputnik

    The name of the first artificial earth orbiting satellite launched by the Soviet Union in 1957.

    Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)

    A plan to build a shield against ballistic missile attack announced by US President Ronald Reagan.

    Stuxnet

    The computer virus discovered within the Iranian uranium-enrichment programme in 2010.

    Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)

    A ballistic missile (which can be nuclear armed) launched from a submarine.

    Submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM)

    A cruise missile (which can be nuclear armed) launched from a submarine. An SLCM has a far shorter range than an SLBM.

    Suitcase bomb

    A tactical nuclear weapons that is small enough to be carried by a single person in a backpack.

    Technological determinism

    A theory that suggests that advances in technology drive social and political developments.

    The Gadget

    The name given to the first nuclear bomb exploded as part of the Trinity Test in 1945.

    Three Mile Island

    A civilian nuclear reactor meltdown in the United States in 1979.

    Threshold nuclear weapons capability

    State with the necessary capabilities to build nuclear weapons in a relatively short space of time if it chose to but is not current considered as nuclear armed.

    Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT)

    Treaty signed in 1974 limiting underground nuclear tests to a maximum of 150kt yield.

    Trinity Test

    The first test of a nuclear weapon in Alamogordo, in the New Mexico desert, USA, in July 1945.

    Tsar Bomba

    The largest nuclear weapon ever tested – detonated by Russia in October 1961.

    Tube Alloys

    The name of the secret British nuclear weapons research programme established in the early 1940s.

    U233

    A third possible source of fissile fuel for a nuclear reactor bred from thorium.

    Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (UTM)

    A militant organisation based in Pakistan believed to have discussed supplying Al-Qaeda with nuclear material.

    United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540

    The UN resolution agreed in 2004, seeking to prevent the spread of nuclear and other WMD material to non-state actors.

    Uranium

    A naturally occurring chemical element that can be enriched to be used in a nuclear reactor or a nuclear weapon. Only U235 can be used in a nuclear bomb.

    Uranium enrichment

    The process to increase the concentration of the fissile isotope U235 in uranium so that it can be used in a reactor or bomb.

    Uranverein Project

    The name of the nuclear weapons project conducted by Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

    US–India Civil Nuclear Agreement

    The agreement signed in 2005 allowing India access to US civilian nuclear technology in return for placing Indian civilian nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards. Also known as the 123 Agreement.

    Vela Incident

    Suspected nuclear detonation carried out in the southern Indian Ocean in 1979, widely rumoured to have been a joint South African–Israeli nuclear test.

    Vertical proliferation

    An increase in the numbers of nuclear weapons held by current nuclear-armed states.

    Virtual nuclear-weapon state

    A state with latent a nuclear weapons capacity – i.e. it has the fissile material and weapons complex but has not built the bomb.

    Vitrification

    Placing nuclear waste in a glass compound to ensure its security.

    Weapons of mass destruction (WMD)

    Usually refers to nuclear, but also includes chemical, biological and radiological weapons. Anything designed to cause mass casualties and destruction.

    Windscale

    The first major nuclear accident in the UK in 1957 after a civilian power reactor caught fire.

    Yellowcake

    Material containing partially refined uranium oxide.

    Yield

    Measurement of energy released in a nuclear explosion.

    Countries with Civilian Nuclear Power
    Nuclear ReactorsTotal Capacity (MW)
    USA10098,560
    France5863,130
    Japan5044,215
    Russia3323,643
    Republic of Korea2320,739
    India215,308
    Canada1913,500
    China1813,860
    United Kingdom169,231
    Ukraine1513,107
    Sweden109,474
    Germanyi912,608
    Spain87,567
    Belgium75,927
    Czech Republic63,804
    Taiwan65,028
    Switzerland53,308
    Finland42,752
    Hungary41,889
    Slovakia41,816
    Pakistan3725
    Argentina2935
    Brazil21,884
    Bulgaria21,906
    Mexico21,330
    Romania21,200
    South Africa21,860
    Armenia1375
    Iran1915
    The Netherlands1482
    Slovenia1688
    United Arab EmiratesUnder construction

    i Germany has recently declared its intention to close all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 – partly as a result of the Fukushima disaster in 2011. On this see, for example, Detlet Jahn and Sebastian Korolczuk, ‘German exceptionalism: the end of nuclear energy in Germany!’, Environmental Politics, 21:1 (2012) pp.159–164.

    Source: See International Atomic Energy Agency, ‘Power Reactor Information System’, www.iaea.org/PRIS/World Statistics/OperationalReactorsByCountry.aspx.

    Nuclear Weapons in Fiction, Films and TV

    Nuclear weapons have a rich history in popular culture, particularly in books, on TV and in film, and a selection of these – along with some non-fiction and official media – are included below. These lists are by no means exhaustive and you might also be interested in Scott Zeman and Michael Amundson (eds.) ‘Atomic culture’ (2004).

    Fiction
    Arc light’ (1994) A novel by Eric Harry about a limited global nuclear war.
    Broken Arrow (1996) A Hollywood film about the theft of two nuclear weapons.
    Countdown to Looking Glass (1984) A made-for-TV film depicting the lead-up to a limited nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.
    Crimson Tide (1995) A Hollywood film portraying the stand-off between the captain and the executive officer of a US nuclear-armed submarine following an incomplete nuclear launch order.
    Dr Strangelove (1964) A black comedy film in which a US airforce officer orders a nuclear first strike on the Soviet Union.
    Fail safe’ (1962) A fictional thriller by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler depicting an accidental nuclear attack by the United States on the Soviet Union as the result of a computer failure. The book was later made into a film (1964 and 2000).
    Fat Man and Little Boy (1989) A Hollywood film telling the story and re-enacting the Manhattan Project during the Second World War. Released in the UK as Shadow Makers.
    Hiroshima (1995) A film about the lead-up to the decision to drop the first atomic bomb in 1945.
    K-19: The Widowmaker (2002) A Hollywood thriller about the disasters that befall a Soviet nuclear submarine.
    London after the bomb’ (1982) A book by Owen Greene, Barry Rubin, Neil Turok, Philip Webber and Graeme Wilkinson about what London might look like after a nuclear attack.
    Lucky Dragon No. 5 (1959) A Japanese film based on the shipping vessel that was hit by fallout following US nuclear testing in 1954.
    Octopussy (1983) A James Bond film about a possible nuclear attack on NATO forces designed to force nuclear disarmament.
    On the beach’ (1957) A novel written by Nevil Shute depicting people in Australia as they await the arrival of deadly radiation from a nuclear exchange in the northern hemisphere. The book was later made into a film (1959) and a TV movie (2000).
    Special Bulletin (1983) A film based on the fictional live broadcasts of a terrorist plot to blackmail the US government by placing a nuclear bomb in Charleston harbour.
    The China Syndrome (1979) Thriller about a fictional nuclear meltdown.
    The Day After (1983) An American television film depicting the build-up to and the effects of a nuclear war between the USA and the Soviet Union on several groups of people living in Missouri.
    The fourth protocol’ (1984) A novel by Frederick Forsyth about a Soviet plot to detonate a nuclear bomb in the United Kingdom weeks before a general election.
    The letter of last resort’ (2012) A play by David Greig dealing the decisions taken by UK prime ministers on what to do in the event of nuclear war.
    The sum of all fears’ (1991) A novel by Tom Clancy describing a terrorist plot to detonate a nuclear bomb at an American Super Bowl game. The book was later turned into a Hollywood film of the same name (2002).
    The War Game (1965) A television docudrama depicting the effects of a nuclear war on the United Kingdom.
    The world set free’ (1914) A novel by H.G. Wells predicting a future world dominated by nuclear weapons.
    Third world war’ (1982) A novel written by John Hackett in the style of a historical account of a nuclear war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries set in 1985.
    Thirteen Days (2000) A Hollywood portrayal of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
    Threads (1984) A British television drama describing the effects of a nuclear attack on a number of different families in the British city of Sheffield.
    Trinity's child’ (1983) A novel by William Prochnau depicting the events of a fictional Third World War between East and West. It was later turned into film called By Dawn's Early Light (1990).
    Thunderball (1965) A James Bond film based around the theft of two NATO nuclear weapons.
    ‘Warday’ (1984) A novel by Whitely Strieber and James Kunetka providing a fictional account of a journey across America five years after a limited nuclear attack.
    War Games (1983) A film about a computer hacker who accidentally begins to initiate a nuclear war by hacking into the Pentagon's supercomputer.
    When the Wind Blows (1986) A graphic novel by Raymond Briggs that shows the effects of a nuclear attack on a retired couple in the United Kingdom. It was made into an animated film in 2005.
    Z for Zachariah’ (1974) The story of a 16-year-old girl who survives a nuclear war, by Robert O'Brien. It is to be made into a film in 2015.
    Non-fiction
    America's Atomic Bomb Tests (2005) A documentary looking at early Cold War American nuclear testing.
    Beating the Bomb (2010) A documentary charting the history of the British peace movement and their campaigns against nuclear weapons.
    Blowing up Paradise (2006) Archival footage chronicling French nuclear weapons testing in the South Pacific between the 1960s and the 1990s.
    Countdown to Zero (2010) A documentary film warning against the growing threat of nuclear weapons, particularly from nuclear terrorism.
    Duck and Cover (1951) An American civil defence film geared towards children.
    Nuclear Tipping Point (2010) A documentary film making the case for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
    Protect and Survive (2010) A collection of secret films made by the UK government in the 1970s providing information on what to do in the event of a nuclear war.
    The Atomic Bomb Movie (1995) A documentary film telling the story of the development and testing of nuclear weapons between 1945 and 1964.
    The Atomic Café (1982) A documentary film based on archival footage of the early atomic era.

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