Overview

How different are nuclear weapons from other kinds of weapon?

  • Nuclear weapons differ from other kinds (or "conventional") weapons in two main regards. One is their overwhelming destructive power. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 delivered a blast equivalent to about 13 kilotons of TNT. More than one hundred thousand people lost their lives. Since then nuclear weapons with yields of more than 50 megatons have been developed, several thousand times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Whereas conventional weapons can, at least to some degree, distinguish between military and civilian targets, nuclear weapons kill indiscriminately because of their huge destructive power, destroying all life on a massive scale.
  • The second point to emphasize is the radioactivity they leave behind. After fires caused by the explosion are extinguished and silence returns, radioactivity keeps functioning for months and can cause leukemia or other kinds of disease, even affecting people who only enter the area after the bombing. Furthermore, the diseases are often inherited by sufferers' offspring.
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When have nuclear weapons been used?

  • They have been used twice in war, on both occasions in Japan at the end of World War II. More than two hundred thousand people were killed by the two bombings. On the other hand, about a thousand nuclear tests have been conducted all over the world. In addition to the human cost, these tests have also caused severe damage to the natural environment.
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What happens when a nuclear weapon explodes?

  • A nuclear explosion produces several forms of damaging effects: blast, thermal radiation, electromagnetic pulse, direct nuclear radiation and fallout. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, upon detonation, the explosion created a fireball of intense heat, and radiation was released in winds of around 1,500 kmph. Human bodies were vaporized and even those not in the immediate area of destruction suffered from non-survivable burns, were blinded and suffered terrible external and internal injuries.
  • What happens when a nuclear bomb explodes?
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How many are there in the world?

  • According to Sweden International Peace Research Institute, there were about 20,500 nuclear weapons in the world as of 2011. Each of these weapons has many times the destructive power of the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Enough warheads exist to destroy our planet many times over.
  • http://www.sipri.org/media/pressreleases/yblaunch11
  • But to estimate the exact number is difficult. Some countries are in the process of reducing their stockpiles; others, however, seem to be developing them.
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Are there any international agreements controlling them?

  • Some agreements have been signed to reduce or restrict nuclear weapons. Two significant examples are as follows:
  • The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which came into force in 1970, allows only five countries (China, France, Russia, UK and USA) to possess nuclear weapons. These five countries at the same time undertake to pursue negotiations for nuclear disarmament. Unfortunately, the world is at increased risk of nuclear terrorism and proliferation following a long period of stagnation in efforts toward nuclear disarmament.
  • In 1996, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT) was signed. But it has not come into force because several governments have failed to ratify it.
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Why do such weapons still exist?

  • Some governments and individuals are still clinging to a nuclear deterrence theory that justifies existence of nuclear weapons for their own security. But the results of our awareness survey show the majority of ordinary young people in eight countries seek their abolition. We think a crucial role for bringing about a breakthrough can be played by civil society, which follows humanity's prosperity not the interests of governments or politicians.
  • One of the issues civil society has focused on is establishment of a Nuclear Weapons Convention, which would prohibit the development, testing, production, stockpiling, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.
  • SGI supports this initiative. We welcome your support.
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