How Far Have We Come in the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons?

Above photo: Nuclear Bomb Test, Nevada Desert, May 25, 1953

Sept 26 is the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. The United Nations (UN) designated this day as part of their commitment to make global nuclear disarmament a high priority. This goal was first introduced at the UN in 1946 and is one of their oldest directives.

How far has global disarmament come since then? Let’s have a quick look at how nuclear weapons have evolved up until modern day.

Where It All Began

In 1940, the United States started a large-scale atomic weapons development program, codenamed “The Manhattan Project.” On July 16, 1945, the project had its first successful test of an atomic device in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

At this time, World War II was coming to an end. The Allied forces had already defeated Germany in Europe, but Japan refused to surrender. This prompted the decision to use an atomic bomb in the hope of ending the war quickly.

On August 6, 1945, an American bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima in Japan. The explosion destroyed 90 percent of the city and 80,000 people were killed immediately.

Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. It’s estimated that up to 250,000 people died altogether from the attacks, both from the initial explosions as well as from acute radiation exposure within the following months.

Radiation burns
Radiation burns caused by the Hiroshima nuclear explosion / Photo credit: Otis Historical Archives of “National Museum of Health & Medicine”, via Wikimedia Commons

International Response After World War II

After witnessing the horror of the nuclear attacks on Japan, it would be logical to assume the international community would rapidly put any brakes on nuclear armament.

What actually happened? Certain countries strengthened their own efforts to create atomic weapons. In 1949, the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic device. This was followed by the United Kingdom in 1952, France in 1960 and China in 1964.

These countries claim various reasons for increasing nuclear arms. A common reason is a concept referred to as “deterrence,” which suggests that if many countries have nuclear weapons, no one will use them because all countries involved would be essentially destroyed.

Public opposition to nuclear arms grew as international testing of these weapons increased. This culminated in 1968 when the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed by most countries.

Its aim was to end the proliferation of nuclear arms and promote disarmament. The five countries with nuclear weapons committed not to “assist, encourage, or induce” a country without nuclear weapons to acquire them. And countries without nuclear weapons agreed not to develop them.

Where Do We Stand Today?

There have been significant reductions in nuclear testing, and some countries have reduced their stores of old nuclear weapons. But not one nuclear warhead has been destroyed because of an international treaty.

In fact, about 15,000 nuclear weapons remain throughout the world today, with many countries making long-term plans to modernize their nuclear arsenals.

An additional concern is that the NPT made it the right of all countries to develop nuclear energy. This has proven to be problematic because the transition from nuclear energy production to nuclear weapons is fairly simple.

Nuclear Missile

Nuclear Weapons Continue to Advance

In 1998, India unexpectedly detonated three nuclear devices that amounted to about six times the destructive power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Pakistan responded with six nuclear weapon tests of its own.

In 2006, North Korea declared itself the world’s eighth country to hold nuclear weapons by exploding one with a power similar to the Hiroshima bomb. North Korea has also openly tested missiles that have the range to hit targets in South Korea, Japan, the US, China and many Russian territories.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons is far from over. It’s estimated the annual global expenditure on nuclear weapons is US$105 billion, or $12 million being spent per hour. Imagine what our world could look like if these funds were put towards vital services like health care, education, climate change mitigation, disaster relief and alleviation of poverty.

Hope for the Future

On July 7, 2017, two-thirds of the world’s nations adopted the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The Treaty recognizes the risk posed by the continued existence of nuclear weapons, as well as the potential catastrophic consequences to life on our planet that could result if nuclear weapons were ever used again.

All of the nuclear-armed countries boycotted the negotiations and have publicly rejected the Treaty, claiming it’s idealistic and impractical. They maintain that they need nuclear weapons to deter other countries from developing and using them.

Supporters of the Treaty hope it will help the global movement towards complete unacceptability of using nuclear weapons under any circumstances, as well as giving renewed momentum for nuclear disarmament.

How You Can Help Global Disarmament

Speak to your local government representatives. Make an appointment with your local government official to speak to them in person about your concerns and what they’re doing to support global disarmament. If they’re not available, send them an email or letter expressing the importance of eliminating nuclear weapons.

Get involved. Find out if there are any groups that advocate peace or nuclear disarmament in your local community. If not, consider joining the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which is an international coalition of non-governmental organizations that promotes adherence to and implementation of the recent UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Spread the word. Take opportunities to share what you know about nuclear weapons in today’s world. Tell your friends, write a letter to a newspaper or organize a local talk.

Start a petition. Start a Care2 petition targeting your local officials and get support from fellow Care2 members to promote nuclear disarmament.

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Elaine W
Elaine W23 hours ago

Don't count on t-rump to give up any idea of superior power.

RONALD Walker8 days ago

There will always be a little man wanting to be a big by having a nuke. It will not make this person a bigger man. But now it's all about what he has. Not how he can help his people. The other problem is old hate that's been around for thousands of years. As many Kings and dictators that want more control or more land and then more money. Greed has been a problem since people been on this earth. If we as people can stop greed most of the problems would go away. Being a community acting to help each other! There would be no problems.

Carl R
Carl R9 days ago


Elaine W
Elaine W11 days ago

We have not come far enough.

One Heart i
One Heart i14 days ago


Barbara S
Barbara S14 days ago

Thank you

Stephanie s
Stephanie s15 days ago

Thank you

Stephanie s
Stephanie s15 days ago

Thank you

One Heart i
One Heart i17 days ago


Kelsey S
Kelsey S18 days ago