NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
Enormously expensive and potentially extremely dangerous plants producing electricity from the energy released from the induced decay of radioactive elements, especially uranium. There are now much cheaper ways of producing electricity, which are also much safer and overall vastly more environmentally friendly. But a major faction of the bourgeoisie in many countries still likes nuclear power plants, and they have also fooled some naïve liberal environmental activists with quite false claims about their safety and economy.
Among the serious disasters caused by accidents at nuclear power plants are the Three Mile Island crisis in the U.S. in 1979, the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 (which led to a number of deaths and an evacuation of 300,000 people), and the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan in 2011. The serious problems of these last two disasters still continue decades later.
“The failure of nuclear power to arrive in a timely manner — indeed the
reality that it is already obsolete — was played out beautifully last week in Finland where
[the] Olkiluoto 3 [plant], having finally stuttered into life, had to be abruptly powered
down due to Finland’s 500 megawatt-hours of new wind-generated electricity contributing to
a dramatic drop in electricity prices.
“Thus, after all the waiting, the cost over-runs, the technical failures, the lawsuits and withdrawals, Olkiluoto 3 is not so much a newborn as stillborn. Too expensive, too late and effectively dead on arrival.” —Linda Pentz Gunter, “Nuclear Fictions”, CounterPunch, May 24, 2023.
NUCLEAR WAR — Close Calls
Because of the outrageous preparations by imperialist powers for yet another world war, next time almost certainly involving nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and because of the arrogance and recklessness with which these imperialist powers operate, there have already been a number of very close calls where all-out nuclear war could have easily begun. The most famous of these was the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 in which the U.S. was determined to start such a war if Khrushchev did not back down about stationing nuclear-armed ballistic missiles in Cuba (in the same way that the U.S. had already done in Turkey and aimed at the USSR). There were other very tense political periods during the Cold War as well, and serious considerations by the U.S. about using nuclear weapons in Vietnam and against China in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
In addition to these periodic political tensions and threats there were also a number of occasions when the outbreak of nuclear war through accident came close to happening. (See first quote below.)
Although the old Cold War ended with the collapse of the state-capitalist Soviet Union in 1991, a new Cold War is now gradually building up, this time between the U.S. again and China (or a possible alliance of China with Russia). The world will be very lucky indeed if an inter-imperialist world war involving the extensive use of nuclear weapons does not occur in the 21st century. Capitalist-imperialism continues to be a very dangerous threat to the continued existence of humanity.
See also: DOOMSDAY MACHINE, IRAQ—U.S. War Against (1991) [Richard Rhodes quote]
“On November 9, 1979, a computer problem led NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) to make a false report of an incoming full-scale Soviet attack on the United States. The USA made emergency retaliation preparations before data from early-warning radar systems showed that no attack had been launched. On September 26, 1983, the malfunctioning Soviet Oko nuclear early-warning system reported an incoming US missile strike. The report was correctly identified as a false alarm by the duty officer at the command center, Stanislav Petrov: a decision that has been credited with preventing thermonuclear war. It appears that a war would probably have fallen short of causing human extinction, even if it had been fought with the combined arsenals held by all the nuclear powers at the height of the Cold War, though it would have ruined civilization and caused unimaginable death and suffering. But bigger stockpiles might be accumulated in future arms races, or even deadlier weapons might be invented, or our models of the impacts of a nuclear Armageddon (particularly of the severity of the consequent nuclear winter) might be wrong.” —Nick Bostrom, Superintelligence (2014), p. 357 note 12.
“The ‘button’ can also morph into a perverse temptation for an unstable leader. In 1974, during his impeachment proceedings, President Richard M. Nixon said to reporters: ‘I can go into my office and pick up the telephone and in 25 minutes, 70 million people will be dead.’ Worried about Nixon’s state of mind at the time, Defense Secretary James Schlesinger asked to be notified before any nuclear launch order from Nixon was executed.” —Editors, “Take Nukes Off a Short Fuse”, Scientific American, March 2017, p. 10.
[During the Cold War] “Actions that were justified domestically as defensive were perceived by the other side to be hostile. In 1983, shaken by the Reagan administration’s belligerent military buildup, and misjudging the intent of a major NATO field exercise in West Germany called Able Archer, which included a practice run-up to nuclear war, the Soviet leadership under Yuri Andropov had very nearly launched a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States. Though it all but escaped public notice, the Able Archer incident was the Cuban Missile Crisis of its day. By the time Gorbachev came to power in 1985, both sides threatened each other with total and mutual annihilation. ‘If one country keeps building weapons while the other one doesn’t do a thing,’ Gorbachev told Richard Nixon in the summer of 1986, ‘the one that arms will not gain anything from it. The weaker party could just explode its nuclear stockpile, even on its its own territory, which would mean suicide for it and slow death for the opponent.’” —Richard Rhodes, The Twilight of the Bombs (2010), p. 5.
NUCLEAR WAR — Regional
[Speaking of the period after the collapse of the Soviet Union:] “While the threat of global nuclear war between two hostile superpowers had faded, the risk of regional nuclear war among nations with seemingly modest nuclear arsenals had intensified. A regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan, for example, would be unlikely to involve more than about one hundred Hiroshima-scale fifteen kiloton weapons, merely 1.5 megatons of total explosive force, less than the yield of many individual Soviet and U.S. hydrogen bombs. The primary destructive effect of nuclear weapons is mass fire, however, and with highly combustable South Asian megacities as the likeliest targets, such a nuclear exchange would kill between three million and sixteen million people. Smoke from mass fires would loft into the stratosphere, drift around the world, and darken and chill the earth for a decade, reducing global average temperatures below those of the European Little Ice Age of the sixteenth to mid-nineteenth centuries, when crops failed and millions starved. Even a ‘small’ regional nuclear war, that is, would be an unmitigated disaster for the entire world.” —Richard Rhodes, Twilight of the Bombs (2010), p. 8.
Atomic bombs (based on nuclear fission) and hydrogen bombs (or thermonuclear bombs, based on nuclear fusion), the most terrible weapons of mass destruction of our era. Their enormous destructive power comes from the transformation of fairly small quantities of ordinary matter into enormous amounts of energy in accordance with Einstein’s equation: E = mc2
See also below, and FALLOUT
“The complete banning and destruction of nuclear weapons is an important
task in the struggle to defend world peace. We must do our utmost to this end.
“Nuclear weapons are unprecidentedly destructive, which is why for more than a decade now the U.S. imperialists have been pursuing their policy of nuclear blackmail in order to realize their ambition of enslaving the people of all countries and dominating the world.
“But when the imperialists threaten other countries with nuclear weapons, they subject the people in their own country to the same threat, thus arousing them against nuclear weapons and against the imperialist policies of aggression and war. At the same time, in their vain hope of destroying their opponents with nuclear weapons, the imperialists are in fact subjecting themselves to the danger of being destroyed.
“The possibility of banning nuclear weapons does indeed exist. However, if the imperialists are forced to accept an agreement to ban nuclear weapons, it decidedly will not be because of their ‘love for humanity’ but because of the pressure of the people of all countries and for the sake of their own vital interests.” —A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement: The letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in reply to the letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of March 30, 1963 (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1963), p. 32.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS — America’s Use of in World War II
On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the first nuclear bomb used in warfare on the city of Hiroshima, Japan, destroying most of the city and killing at least 140,000 people, mostly civilians. Three days later, on August 9, the U.S. dropped a second nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, similarly destroying most of the city and killing at least 70,000 people, again mostly civilians. There were also an unknown number of allied prisoners of war held in Nagasaki, who were killed. At the time, President Truman falsely claimed that these attacks had been necessary to force Japan to end the war, and to prevent the deaths of thousands of American soldiers in an otherwise necessary invasion. There is no longer any doubt whatsoever that these were phony reasons, and that the real primary purpose for the use of nuclear weapons was to try to show the Soviet Union who was going to dominate the world after the war.
For a thorough and thoughtful exposure of the false claims by American imperialists and their apologists, see: Jacques R. Pauwels, “Mythmaking and the Atomic Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”, in CounterPunch, August 6, 2021, online at: https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/08/06/mythmaking-and-the-atomic-destruction-of-hiroshima-and-nagasaki/
“Japan was already defeated... It was’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower, speaking of the U.S. atomic attack on Japan at the close of the war. Quoted in the San Francisco Examiner, Aug 5, 1990, p. D-15.
“Truman listened carefully to [Secretary of State James F.] Byrnes’s advice. At about the date of Byrnes’s appointment, the new secretary told Truman that (these are Truman’s words) ‘in his belief the atomic bomb might well put us in a position to dictate our own terms at the end of the war.’ Later, in May 1945, during a White House meeting at which the nuclear physicist Leo Szilard was present, Byrnes, according to Szilard, ‘did not argue that it was necessary to use the bomb against the cities of Japan in order to win the war. Mr. Byrnes’ view [was] that our possessing and demonstrating the bomb would make Russia more manageable in Europe.’” —Robert Smith Thompson, The Eagle Triumphant: How America Took Over the British Empire (2004), p. 311.
“Particularly important is the light shed on the American decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945. At the time, the justifications were murky: some hoped the terrifying display would avoid what they feared would have been a bloody invasion. Others wanted to test the bombs on which so many billions of dollars had been spent. Still others had their eye on post-war diplomacy, seeking to intimidate the Soviet Union and secure American dominance. Newly declassified files show unambiguously that America was aware of Japanese attempts to sue for peace before the bombs were dropped, undermining the military reasoning for using the weapons.” —The Economist, “A Rush of Energy”, Aug. 27, 2009. [Even a reactionary publication like The Economist now implicitly agrees that this episode of imperialist mass murder and genocide must have been done primarily as a warning to the Soviet Union that U.S. imperialism would be the top dog in the post-World War II world. —S.H.]
NUCLEAR WEAPONS — Authority to Use
“As later testimony revealed, the Soviet nuclear arsenal was never at risk
during the coup [i.e., the attemped old guard coup against Gorbachev in 1991], thanks partly
to what the American command-and-control expert Bruce Blair called its ‘ingenious’ design.
Blair ... told a Senate subcommittee a month after the coup that the Soviet system’s
safeguards ‘are more stringent than those of any other nuclear power, including the United
States. The overall design of Soviet nuclear command and control is ingenious and its
designers were deservedly awarded Lenin prizes for their efforts.’ Blair and his Soviet
counterpart, command-and-control expert Gennadi Pavlov, explained to the subcommittee in
some detail how the Soviet system worked.
“‘We do not invest any authority to use nuclear weapons in a single individual,’ Pavlov began, ‘in contrast with the United States.’ In the American system, the president acting by himself can key the order to alert and launch nuclear weapons. The Soviet system was multileveled, with built-in checks and balances. At the leadership level it was a four-key system; the president, the minister of defense, and the chief of the general staff accounted for three Chegets [authorizing computer terminals], and any one of the three commanders in chief of Soviet strategic forces (the strategic rocket forces, the Air Force, or the Navy) accounted for the fourth. The three top leaders, their Chegets linked through the Kavkaz national-leadership network, had to act together to generate one combined code. That code in turn had to be combined with a code keyed into the system down the line by at least one of the three commanders in chief (CICs). A concurring CIC could authorize the alerting of only his own forces in concert with the top leadership. If he decided not to do so, then no authorization code would be generated for those forces.” —Richard Rhodes, Twilight of the Bombs (2010), pp. 92-93.
[By contrast, under the U.S. system, not only can the President by himself start a nuclear war, but in practice so can a very large number of individual military officers! As Daniel Ellsberg discusses in his book The Doomsday Machine (2017), in 1959 President Eisenhower first authorized his regional military commanders in the world, including Admiral Harry Felt, the Commander-in-Chief in the Pacific area, to execute nuclear war on their own authority if they thought it was necessary and if communications were out between Washington and their headquarters. These area commanders then seem to have tacitly done the same thing with their own subcommanders, probably all the way down to the level of individual base commanders. And, in that era at least, some of these small base commanders were indeed out of communications with their superiors at times (because of natural weather conditions). So, for example, in effect the commander of the small U.S. Air Force Base at Kunsan, South Korea, who nobody ever heard of, had the authority to launch a nuclear war if he felt it was appropriate to do so! Communications have improved, but in a crisis they may still be put out of commission. Moreover, there were no locks on nuclear weapons to prevent a rogue commander or even a single pilot from using them without authority—and there probably still is not. —Ed.]
NUCLEAR WEAPONS — Current Arsenals
As of 2016 nine countries in the world possess a total of over 15,000 nuclear warheads. The United States and Russia have 93 percent of them. Although this is down from the vast numbers possessed by the two powers in the late 1980s—around 60,000 in total at that time—there are still more than enough such weapons to destroy human civilization if not wipe out humanity entirely. And of course many more such weapons can be quickly made during any developing political crisis. The chart at the right from the NBC News website at http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/fact-sheet-who-has-nuclear-weapons-how-many-do-they-n548481 shows the number of warheads for 8 of the countries. North Korea also has a small number of nuclear weapons, perhaps as many as 25, though it has not yet demonstrated the ability to mount them on reliable missile delivery systems. Many other countries, including Japan and Germany, could very quickly produce nuclear weapons if they should choose to do so.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS — Ease of Making
In the modern technological era it is by no means as hard to make nuclear weapons as is often supposed. There are no real “secrets” to it; all the basic technical information necessary is available in books or on the Internet. It is mostly just a matter of engineering, and even that is no longer as difficult as is usually thought. Many countries have already acquired nuclear weapons, many others have at various times had programs which could have done so over time, and most of the rest of the countries of the world could create nuclear weapons if they were sufficiently determined to do so and had access to uranium (which is fairly widespread). For these reasons, humanity remains in a seriously perilous situation while nations (or even large well-funded political organizations) are motivated to acquire such weapons; i.e., as long as we remain in the capitalist-imperialist era. And far more serious even than the threat of new countries (or organizations) acquiring nuclear weapons is the continuing possession of many thousands of nuclear weapons by the major capitalist-imperialist countries themselves—none of which can be trusted one iota not to use them in one belligerent situation or another.
“In August 1994 ... Tom Graham, the ambassador and U.S. arms negotiator,
had occasion to visit, with a State Department colleague, the workshop where South Africa
had assembled its uranium gun bombs. [A uranium “gun bomb”
is a nuclear weapon on the basic design of “Little Boy”, the atomic bomb the U.S. used to
destroy Hiroshima in 1945 and genocidally murder more than 100,000 civilians, either
immediately or later on because of the effects of radiation. —Ed.] The bombs were gone and
their highly enriched uranium components melted down and stored, but the building where
Armscor [the South African armaments agency] had crafted them remained, as did the ten bank
vaults lined up behind false doors where their separated barrels and breeches had been
secured. ‘Look around you,’ Graham’s hosts told him as he entered the workshop. ‘Nothing
“‘There was nothing there that you would not find in a high-school machine shop,’ Graham recalled. ‘They showed us the cases they used to move the weapons around, so we had an idea of their size; one would have easily fit in the back of a panel truck. ‘We built six weapons,’ they said, ‘and were working on a seventh when we shut the program down. Nobody knew about it. We never had more than one hundred fifty people involved, including the janitor. We spent twenty-five million dollars. We used gun-barrel technology so we didn’t need to test—we knew the weapons would work.’ They were showing us their operation, they said, because they wanted us to understand that if a country, or even a subnational group, can acquire the nuclear material, the rest is really easy. You don’t need an infrastructure. You just need a few skilled scientists and engineers and the HEU [highly-enriched uranium].’” —Richard Rhodes, The Twilight of the Bombs (2010), p. 210.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS — First Use Policy
Most nuclear powers, including China and the old Soviet Union, have promised that they will never be the first to use nuclear weapons and that if they use them at all it will only be in retaliation for the use of such weapons against them. The one country which has never promised this, is the United States. In fact, quite the contrary, the United States has often considered using such weapons first. Not only is the U.S. the only country to have actually used nuclear weapons (against Japan during World War II), it has seriously considered using them on several other occasions, including against China during the Vietnam War. During the early 1950s the U.S. even offered two such weapons to France to use against the peasant-based Viet Minh in Vietnam. (See the second quote below.) And President Trump threatened to use them first against North Korea. The American imperialists continue to threaten mass murder and genocide, even beyond the levels they engage in on a routine daily basis.
“[U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles] was at his most zealous in
his discussion of nuclear arms policy. He proposed an unsettling shift in thinking about
America’s fearsome nuclear arsenal, moving away from the concept of doomsday weapons as an
instrument of last resort to one of first resort. The United States must reserve the right
to massively retaliate against any Soviet aggression in the world, wherever and whenever it
chose, he wrote. By making it clear to the world that Washington was not afraid to wield
its nuclear arms as if they were conventional weapons of war, the United States would gain
a commanding strategic advantage. It was the type of leverage enjoyed by a heavily armed
madman in a crowded room. But Foster had a more diplomatic way of expressing it. Weapons of
mass destruction ‘in the hands of statesmen ... could serve as effective political weapons
in the defense of peace.’
“Foster further sweetened his argument by pointing out that a nuclear-based military strategy would help contain the growing costs of America’s ‘far-flung, extravagant’ defense complex that was threatening to bankrupt the nation. Instead of maintaining an expensive troop presence at every global flashpoint, Foster wrote, all the United States had to do was keep a ready finger on its nuclear trigger.
“Even master of war Eisenhower was initially taken aback by Foster’s proposal for a ‘first-use’ nuclear strategy.... But Eisenhower did share Foster’s passionate anti-Communism. And the cost efficiencies of the massive retaliation strategy appealed to the budget-minded general, who was equally concerned about the growing burden of military spending on the economy. So began the reign of nuclear terror—or ‘brinksmanship’—that would hold the world in its grip for the next decade.” —David Talbot, Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (2015), pp. 201-2.
“From the beginning of the [Eisenhower] administration, Secretary of State
[John Foster] Dulles argued that the United States must overcome the ‘taboo’ against nuclear
weapons. At a February 1953 National Security Council meeting, just three weeks into
Eisenhower’s presidency, Foster raised what he called ‘the moral problem’ that hovered over
all nuclear decision-making. He was not referring to the profound questions about mass
slaughter and human survival. Foster meant the moral revulsion against doomsday weapons that
prevented policy makers from seriously contemplating their use....
“Foster seemed to have a chillingly remote perspective on what it means to drop a nuclear bomb. When the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu was on the verge of collapse, he offered to give two ‘A-bombs’ to French foreign minister Georges Bidault. The French official was deeply shaken by Foster’s blithe offer. Bidault responded ‘without having to do much thinking on the subject.’ He pointed out to Foster that ‘if those bombs are dropped near Dien Bien Phu, our side will suffer as much as the enemy.’ Likewise, during the Formosa Strait crisis, Foster was surprised to learn that the ‘precision’ nuclear bombing of Chinese targets that he was advocating would kill more than ten million civilians. Still, he was not chastened enough to stop his campaign to ‘punish’ the Chinese.” —David Talbot, ibid., pp. 244-5.
“What Eisenhower had learned in his two terms in office, i.e., that there could be no hope of maintaining world-wide U.S. military commitments without possession and willingness to use atomic weapons, certainly applied later as well. And in this connection ‘willingess to use’ meant and means willingness to use first, not willingness to use in response to a nuclear attack. In the long run, therefore, staying off the collision course will necessitate giving up the role of global gendarme. To persuade, and if need be force, the United States to adopt a policy of live and let live toward the forces of history is the mission which a successful peace movement must take upon itself.” —Harry Magdoff & Paul M. Sweezy, “Nuclear Chicken,” Monthly Review, September 1982 (reprinted in the November 2022 issue, p. 56).
NUCLEAR WEAPONS — Proliferation Of
The entry above on NUCLEAR WEAPONS—Current Arsenals provides information about the number of such weapons that countries have ready for use (as of 2016). However, over the past decades numerous other countries have also had programs to make such weapons. (Technologically it is not as difficult as is often supposed.) Most of these countries have been allies of U.S. imperialism, and—perhaps surprisingly to some people—the U.S. has generally opposed these programs in other countries, even allies, and in some cases has virtually forced its client states to abandon them. (A recent exception to this policy is the encouragement that President Trump has given to Japan to develop its own nuclear weapons.) Basically the U.S.—up to now, anyway—has wanted a world in which only it has nuclear weapons. The same can be said for all the other existing nuclear powers, including Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Israel.
At the present time (Spring 2018) U.S. imperialism is threatening to go to war against North Korea if it does not give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles—which it only has produced in the first place in order to try to keep the U.S. imperialists from attacking it. (Catch-22 situation.)
Where the U.S. and other imperialist powers cannot force other countries to give up nuclear weapons projects through intense economic and political pressure, they try to go further and institute all-out economic embargoes (which according to international law actually amount to acts of war). This is what the U.S. has been doing with North Korea and to a considerable degree with Iran (and is now threatening a major intensification of that pressure, or even military attacks there too).
As with most imperialist politics the logic is completely flawed: No country with modern technology can really be kept from developing nuclear weapons if it is determined to do so. And as technology advances it actually gets easier and easier for countries to do this. Every advanced capitalist country that does not already have nuclear weapons could easily develop them in a very short period; in some cases (German and Japan) in a matter of just weeks. And even many far less technologically advanced countries (following the example of North Korea) could now develop such weapons in just a few years. The imperialist goal of keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of growing numbers of countries cannot be permanently successful while captialist-imperialism continues to exist. The resort to technological embargoes to prevent this will inevitably fail eventually. Technological “solutions” to political problems are almost always failures in the end.
See also: NUCLEAR WEAPONS—Treaties, PAKISTAN—Nuclear Weapons
“Despite their seemingly implacable differences, the two superpowers
had worked both separately and jointly during the Cold War to limit nuclear proliferation,
implicitly cooperating for common security. Their most significant cooperation drove the
negotiation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), opened for signature in 1968,
which offered extensive security guarantees and the advantage of commercial nuclear power
to countries willing to forgo acquiring nuclear arsenals; by 1990, 140 states had signed
on. More than any other factor, the NPT had limited the proliferation of nuclear weapons
across the world.
“Actions had also been directed against specific states. In 1975 a threat by the United States to withdraw its military forces from the Korean Peninsula had compelled South Korea to abandon its program of nuclear-weapons development. In 1976 and again in 1987, partly under pressure from the People’s Republic of China, the United States had forced Taiwan to abandon clandestine nuclear weapons programs. Satellite images indicating an impending South African nuclear test that the Soviet Union passed to the United States for timely action in 1977 led to intense U.S. diplomatic pressure that delayed the South African nuclear weapons program by several years.” —Richard Rhodes, The Twilight of the Bombs: Recent Challenges, New Dangers, and the Prospects for a World Without Nuclear Weapons (2010), p. 5.
[South Africa did go on to create some nuclear weapons, though—for now—it has destroyed them all. North Korea withdrew from the NPT when it felt it could no longer guarantee its security without developing nuclear weapons. (It correctly understands that imperialist “guarantees” of non-interference and nonagression are essentially worthless.) In times of war and greatly heightened international tensions, it is very likely that other countries will also abandon the NPT and rush to create their own nuclear weapons. And with the continuing economic, political and military decline of U.S. imperialism and the authority of the existing World Imperialist System, it will become ever more difficult for the imperialist powers to strong-arm additional countries and keep them from launching their own nuclear weapons programs—surreptitiously or not. Permanent nuclear non-proliferation in an imperialist world is doomed to failure. —Ed.]
NUCLEAR WEAPONS — Security Of
“A second trip to NATO [by Sam Nunn of Georgia], this time as a freshman senator, left a further imprint on Nunn of concern about nuclear command and control. The chairman of the Senate committee on armed services, John Stennis, asked the young senator in 1972 to inspect NATO for the committee. Nunn focused on storage and deployment sites for the thousands of tactical nuclear weapons that the U.S. shared with its NATO allies in Europe. ‘I remember very well,’ he said later, ‘visiting with U.S. generals who explained to me that all of our tactical nuclear weapons were secure. Everything was wonderful. We had perfect security. There was no problem.’ Unfortunately for the generals, a sergeant in one of the bunker complexes where the weapons were stored surreptitiously passed Nunn a note when they shook hands. Nunn pocketed the note and read it afterward in private. It asked the senator to meet the sergeant at his barracks that evening. Nunn did. ‘He and three or four of his fellow sergeants related a horror story to me, a story of a demoralized military, a story of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, a story of U.S. soldiers actually guarding tactical nuclear weapons while they were stoned on drugs. The sergeants thought that it would take no more than a group of six to eight well-trained terrorists to gain control over one of our tactical nuclear compounds in the middle of Western Europe. The horror stories went on and on for over two hours. I came out of that session thoroughly shaken and determined to do something about the matter.’” —Richard Rhodes, Twilight of the Bombs (2010), pp. 98-99. [Possibly Senator Nunn did fix that one problem. But this is only one example of the gross carelessness of the U.S. military with regard to nuclear weapons, though of course the vastly greater danger is how they might well someday use them on purpose. —Ed.]
NUCLEAR WEAPONS — Soviet Union
See: SOVIET UNION—Nuclear Weapons
NUCLEAR WEAPONS — Tests
The United States has exploded 1,125 nuclear weapons in tests beginning with the first test (code named “Trinity”) in New Mexico on July 16, 1945. The last test was at the Yucca Flat, Nevada testing site on September 23, 1992. Although the U.S. has not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (see next entry), it—along with Russia—has voluntarily refrained from any further nuclear testing so far (as of mid-2018). This U.S. moratorium also functions as a moratorium for British nuclear tests since that country no longer has test sites of its own, and only uses the Nevada test site. [Info from Richard Rhodes: The Twilight of the Bombs (2010), p. 214.]
See also: FALLOUT
NUCLEAR WEAPONS — Treaties
There have been a variety of treaties between countries which already have nuclear weapons or which might acquire them, for the purpose of limiting or ending nuclear tests, and for the purpose of reducing the number of nuclear weapons and—supposedly—eventually eliminating them entirely. Overall, these treaties have been of only modest help in lessening the threats that nuclear weapons will eventually be used in new regional or world wars during the horrendously dangerous capitalist era. The basic problem is that the major nuclear powers are all imperialist countries which, either singly or in collusion with others of their kind, seek to exploit the people of the world at the point of a nuclear “gun”.
• The Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT). Also called the Partial Test Ban Treaty. This was signed by the Soviet Union, the United States and Britain in 1963. It prohibited testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, underwater, or in space, but it still permitted underground tests. By 1963 underground tests were all the major nuclear powers needed in order to madly develop yet more such weapons. Of more than 1,000 nuclear tests by the U.S. from 1945 to 1992, 70% were underground explosions. At least this treaty did eliminate most radioactive materials from spreading widely in the environment though fallout, etc. (Some radioactive gases and particles escape even from many underground tests, and have been detected across international borders.)
• The Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT). A proposed limitation on the size of even underground nuclear tests to no more than the equivalent of 150 kilotons of TNT. This treaty was broached in 1974 and immediately signed by the Soviet Union. The U.S., however, generally the more aggressive of the two imperialist superpowers during the Cold War, did not ratify it until 1990.
• The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Agreed to and signed by President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin in September 1996, but which has not gone into effect because in 1999 the U.S. Congress voted against ratifying it. However, both the U.S. and Russia have not actually carried out any nuclear tests since 1992. (With powerful supercomputers the major imperialist powers can now simulate nuclear testing that way, so the fact that they are not currently carrying out actual tests means less than a person might think.)
[More to be added.]
See also: NUCLEAR WEAPONS—Proliferation Of
NUCLEAR WINTER NUMEROLOGY NUREMBERG WAR CRIMES TRIALS (After World War II) “President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill were so intent
on meting out a fitting punishment [to the Nazi war criminals] that they originally
favored taking the law into their own hands and summarily shooting Hitler’s top military,
ministerial, and party ranks—Churchill estimated the number would be somewhere between
fifty and a hundred men. The prime minister thought that once the proper identifications
were made, the killing could be completed within six hours. In one of history’s deeper
ironies, it was Joseph Stalin who insisted that the Nazi leaders be put on trial,
lecturing his Western allies on the merits of due process. ‘U[ncle]. J[oe]. took an
unexpectedly ultra-respectable line,’ Churchill wrote Roosevelt after meeting with Stalin
in Moscow in October 1944. The Soviet premier told Churchill that ‘there must be no
executions without trial: otherwise the world would say we were afraid to try them.’”
—David Talbot, Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s
Secret Government (2015), p. 62. [Talbot is a liberal bourgeois writer. —Ed.] Dictionary Home Page and Letter Index MASSLINE.ORG Home Page
A severe period of climate change, lasting from many months to a number of years, caused by a imperialist nuclear war in which massive amounts of smoke, soot and other fine particles enter the upper atmosphere (especially the stratosphere) and block much of the radiation from the Sun from reaching the Earth. This could have the effect of destroying crops and vegetation in general, along with sudden freezing temperature drops, and thus also killing off large numbers of animals. It is quite possible that a nuclear winter resulting from a major thermonuclear war could kill most or all of the human beings who escape death from the original explosions and radiation, even if they are on continents far away from where the bombs fall.
However, since there has not (yet) been any massive nuclear war of this sort it is not completely clear how severe a nuclear winter might be in that situation. The fires which were set to around 600 oil wells by the retreating Iraqi army in 1991 (when the U.S. imperialists invaded the country) produced a lot of smoke, but little of this reached the stratosphere, and the climate change in the area was not as serious or as long term as some models at the time predicted. On the other hand there do now seem to be very good reasons, which are incorporated into more sophisticated climatic models, to expect that thousands of nuclear weapons going off around the world are much more likely to put massive amounts of soot into the stratosphere, and to therefore cause long-lasting and extremely catastrophic results—perhaps including the complete extinction of humanity.
NUREMBERG WAR CRIMES TRIALS (After World War II)
“President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill were so intent on meting out a fitting punishment [to the Nazi war criminals] that they originally favored taking the law into their own hands and summarily shooting Hitler’s top military, ministerial, and party ranks—Churchill estimated the number would be somewhere between fifty and a hundred men. The prime minister thought that once the proper identifications were made, the killing could be completed within six hours. In one of history’s deeper ironies, it was Joseph Stalin who insisted that the Nazi leaders be put on trial, lecturing his Western allies on the merits of due process. ‘U[ncle]. J[oe]. took an unexpectedly ultra-respectable line,’ Churchill wrote Roosevelt after meeting with Stalin in Moscow in October 1944. The Soviet premier told Churchill that ‘there must be no executions without trial: otherwise the world would say we were afraid to try them.’” —David Talbot, Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (2015), p. 62. [Talbot is a liberal bourgeois writer. —Ed.]
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