A nuclear weapon can destroy a whole city, potentially kill millions, and jeopardize future generations' natural environment and lives through its long-term catastrophic effects.
How were Nuclear Weapons Developed?
A small group of German scientists accidentally discovered nuclear fission in 1938. They observed that a radioactive atom releases a huge burst of energy when it is split. This discovery resulted in the development of the first atomic bomb.
Later USA made an effort to develop a functional atomic bomb during World War II. It started the Manhattan project under theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer's direction and successfully detonated the first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945. J. Robert Oppenheimer is called the “father of the atomic bomb”.
Types of Nuclear Weapons
- Atomic bomb: It derives its explosive power from a nuclear fission reaction. The nuclear energy released by this process is enormous and produces a large amount of heat and electricity. Atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, by the USA.
- Thermonuclear weapons: Thermonuclear weapons gain their extreme explosive powers through the process of nuclear fusion. These types of weapons are often referred to as Hydrogen bombs or H-bombs. They are a thousand times bigger than the atomic bomb.
- Dirty bombs: Dirty bombs are non-nuclear bombs that, when detonated, spread radioactive material. It is also known as a radiological weapon. The area in which the bomb is exploded gets contaminated due to the release of reactive material, and it is difficult to clean up such nuclear waste.
- The other types of nuclear weapons are HEU gun-type, plutonium implosion, and composite pit implosion.
Effects of Nuclear Weapons
Nuclear detonation produces both immediate and delayed destructive effects. Airblast, thermal radiation, initial nuclear radiation, and prompt ionizing radiation cause significant destruction within seconds or minutes of a nuclear explosion. Residual nuclear radiation or fallout is the delayed effects of a nuclear explosion.
- Blast: The shockwaves produced due to air blast can directly injure humans by rupturing eardrums or lungs or hurling people at high speed. Still, most casualties occur because of collapsing structures and flying debris.
- Thermal radiation: A single nuclear explosion can generate an intense pulse of thermal radiation, resulting in the ignition of fire which complicates the escape of survivors. This will also cause severe skin burn over larger areas.
- Initial radiation: Nuclear explosion releases large amounts of neutron and gamma radiation which results in causalities.
- Fallout is the fall of radioactive particles back to earth after a nuclear explosion. It consists of radiated soil, weapon debris, fission products, etc.
Nuclear Disarmament Treaties
To prevent the use of nuclear weapons following treaties were signed by nations:
- Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT).
- Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
- Interim Agreement on Offensive Arms (SALT I).
- Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM).
- Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).