On June 16, 1945, America detonated the first atomic bomb, starting the atomic age and the biggest arms race in the world.
Although the first attempts to make atomic bomb initiated in Nazi Germany they weren’t successful until the US president Franklin D. Roosevelt in cooperation with the British government authorized the “Manhattan Project” in order to research about production of atomic bomb.
A group of top scientists of the time worked for the project with the distinguished physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer being the head of the group. They succeeded to make the first atomic bomb in the US which was detonated in what is now called Trinity in New Mexico.
Perhaps at first it was believed that the US would not use that lethal weapon against the mankind but soon people of two big cities in Japan fell victim to America’s atomic bombs.
On August 6, 1945, a bomber in US Air Force 509th Bomb Squadron called Enola Gay- which is now kept in a museum in Washington- left a US base in the south of Pacific Ocean and detonated an atomic bomb named “Little Boy” over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The direct and the indirect death toll caused by this bombardment are estimated to exceed 140,000.
This however was not the end as three days after Hiroshima bombing, another atomic bomb, called the “Fat Man” killed 73,000 and injured 74,000 people in Nagasaki, Japan, not including those who later were found to be the victims of the bombing. Of course there was another bomb made in the Manhattan Project which was never used.
Oppenheimer regretted his participation in the Manhattan project after a while and began to speak against nuclear arms, and thus was removed from the project. His regret was of no use though.
The Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb on August 29, 1949, with the help of Oppenheimer’s friend, Klaus Fuchs. To keep its superiority in the arms race, the US began the research for making hydrogen bombs and could successfully detonate it in November, 1952.
No country has so far used nuclear arms for military purposes except for the US. There is however concerns over some countries possessing nuclear arms, especially as some of them have refused to sign the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT).
“[Until September 9, 2009] there are over 20,000 nuclear weapons around the world. Many of them are still on hair-trigger alert, threatening our own survival,” said Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in the Annual DPI/NGO Conference. 18,500 of these bombs were made by the US and Russia.
All five permanent members of the UN Security Council –America, France, Russia, China, and Britain- have atomic bombs and have been recognized as nuclear powers in the NPT. The NPT recognizes the countries that owned or detonated nuclear bombs or arms before January 1, 1967 on the condition that they would gradually be disarmed and destroy all their atomic bombs.
But the nuclear powers not only did not move toward nuclear disarmament- that was demanded by Article VI of the NPT, but also in some cases defended some countries who illegally possessed nuclear arms and in some other cases rejected the right to have peaceful nuclear energy for some other countries.
This contradiction in world nuclear powers actions has put many obstacles in the ways of a group of other countries who want to have peaceful nuclear energy, depriving them even of the rights that they legally have under the NPT.
The Article IV of the NPT recognizes “the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with articles I and II of this Treaty,” and demands all the member “to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is responsible for supervising over the implementation and observation of the NPT and Additional Protocol but it is too influenced by the nuclear powers that so far have fallen short of this responsibility.
For example Iran says it is after producing and using peaceful nuclear energy and there has been no evidence that proves otherwise. The members of Security Council however neither have helped Iran in this regards nor have recognized the country’s right to Uranium enrichment although it is considered as a basic right under the NPT. But when it comes to Israel, some of the nuclear powers who object to Iran’s peaceful nuclear program consider possession of nuclear bombs as the regime’s right not caring about the fact that it is not a member of the NPT. What’s more important is that the IAEA can’t do anything about it; it either keeps silent or sides with the Western powers.
Israel that has not declared itself a nuclear state is the biggest nuclear power outside the NPT. It acquired its first primitive nuclear bomb in late 1960s and now it is estimated that the regime has over half a ton of Plutonium and unknown amounts of enriched Uranium needed for making nuclear bombs. The amount of Plutonium kept by Israel is more that the amount the five nuclear powers possess altogether. Experts believe Israel has nearly 200 atomic bombs.
India, Pakistan, and North Korea also own atomic bombs. So far 188 countries have signed the NPT but India, Pakistan, and Israel has refused to sign the treaty. North Korea also left the treaty after violating it.
It seems that this dual approach towards a significant and sensitive issue like the right of the nations in accessing nuclear energy would only result in discredit of the NPT and the IAEA which can make the future of the world insecure.