Nuclear weapons are the most destructive weapons in the world. The initial blast and long term effects of a nuclear explosion are catastrophic. The aftermath of an attack by a nuclear weapon can damage the people and environment an area for years after the weapon is detonated. In the 2006 report titled Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms, the Weapons of Mass Destruction Committee (WMDC) states that
Nuclear weapons kill by the effects of heat, blast, radiation and radioactive fallout. The attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed an estimated 200,000 people, virtually all civilians. The nuclear weapons in one strategy submarine have a combined explosive force several times greater than all the conventional bombs dropped in World War II (Weapons of Terror, 32).
There are many layers to the damage caused by the detonation of a nuclear weapon. Immediately after a nuclear weapon is set off, an enormous wave of highly pressurized air radiates outward from the center of the explosion. This high powered wind knocks over resisting objects such as houses, cars, people, and anything else in its path. In addition to high winds, thermal radiation also occurs, causing objects to immediately ignite and quickly become engulfed in flames. Long lasting nuclear radiation is another harmful outcome caused by nuclear weapons. Because of the many types of radiation involved with nuclear weapons, people in the immediate and surrounding areas near the blast are affected. If they are not instantly killed as a result of the explosion, they will most likely be plagues with health problems and fall victim to sickness and health problems. Radiation's effects can contaminate the area around the blast for years, causing problems for many generations.
Nuclear weapons release enormous amounts of energy through either a process of fission or fusion. Fission is the splitting of the nucleus of a heavy atom such as uranium or plutonium in a chain reaction, whereas fusion occurs when nuclei of a light element such as hydrogen unite to form nuclei of heavier elements, creating a mega-release of energy. The nuclear bombs that the US dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945 have been dwarfed in size and destructive power by the more than 30,000 nuclear weapons now based in the US, Russia, China, the UK, France, Israel, Pakistan, and India. About 5,000 of these weapons are thought to be on hair-trigger alert, meaning that they can be launched within minutes.
Some governments, such as the United States, argue that they keep nuclear weapons in order to deter the aggression of other nations. But many other countries, as well as citizens around the world, argue that nuclear weapons must be abolished if our world is to survive much longer. Multi-lateral actions have been taken to move toward their eventual demise. Most notably, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which went into effect in 1970, requires signatories to negotiate nuclear disarmament in good faith. In May 2000, at an NPT review conference, Member States signed a document which included an "unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapons States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament to which all states are committed under Article VI." It is up to advocacy groups, as well as individuals around the world working together for peace, to ensure that this agreement is honored. Many civil society groups are working for nuclear peace around the world. Some of these initiatives can be found here. Across the globe, NGOs working towards nuclear disarmament hope that eventually the world will be such that there is no need for nuclear weapons.
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