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NUCLEAR WEAPONS: History and Status

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NUCLEAR WEAPONS: Brief History and Current Status

The United States and the Russian Federation continue to lead the world in nuclear weapons. In 1942 during World War II, the United States set up the Manhattan Project to develop atomic weapons.  On July 16, 1945, America tested the world’s first atomic bomb (nuclear weapon), code-named ‘Trinity,’ which was dropped from a bomber.  A landmark in New Mexico marks the site where the bomb was exploded having a power of 20,000 tons of TNT.  (Trinity test bomb below)

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About three weeks later on August 6, 1945 the United States detonated a uranium bomb (‘Fat Man’) over Hiroshima killing tens of thousands instantly and a total of more than 140,000 people within a few months.  Japan did not immediately surrender and on August 9, a plutonium bomb was detonated over Nagasaki killing about 70,000 people instantly.  Though Japan surrendered formally September 2 and World War II was over; and though the United Nations General Assembly called for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons January 1946, America entered a Nuclear Arms race with their ‘Ally’ Russia.

Nagasaki victims; thousands simply melted (note Zechariah 14:12 what will come in the future; ‘strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem; their flesh will rot while they are still standing, their eyes will melt in their sockets…’)

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August 29, 1949, in Kazakhstan, the Soviet Union tested its first nuclear weapon; code-name ‘First Lightning.’   The United Kingdom followed in 1952, testing at Montebello Islands, Australia.  Less than a month later, America tested the first H-bomb.  The hydrogen bomb was detonated in the Marshall Islands, and was about 500 times more powerful than the Nagasaki bomb.

First Hydrogen bomb test; November 1952 (below)

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In March 1954, the United States tested a 17-megaton hydrogen bomb (Bravo) at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. A year later Albert Einstein was joined with other scientist issuing a Manifesto warning of the dangers of nuclear war; and in February 1958 the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament held its first meeting in the UK.

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In February of 1960, France tested its first atomic bomb in the Sahara desert.  It was said to measure about 65 kilotons of TNT.  Not to be outdone, October 1961, the Soviet Union exploded the most powerful bomb ever detonated.  The Hydrogen ‘Tsar Bomba’ was tested in northern Russia.

Russia’s Tsar (below: largest detonated)

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October 1964 China exploded its first H bomb in Sinklang Province.  July 1, 1968 the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was signed and went in force in 1970.  In May 1995 the Treaty was extended indefinitely and 190 countries have joined the Treaty.  The Treaty was ‘done in triplicate’ and in English, Russian, French, Spanish and Chinese.  The NPT states in part, “considering the devastation that would be visited upon all mankind by a nuclear war and the consequent need to make every effort to avert the danger of such a war and to take measures to safeguard the security of peoples, believing that the proliferation of nuclear weapons would seriously enhance the danger of nuclear war, in conformity with resolutions of the United Nations… and desiring to further the easing of international tension and the strengthening of trust between States… (for) the liquidation of …stockpiles, and the elimination from national arsenals of nuclear weapons… we agreed… (to the following articles)…”

In 1974, India conducted its first nuclear test.  In 1985, the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty was signed.  In 1986 it was discovered that Israel had nuclear weapons – as many as 200.   In 1995 and 1996 Southeast Asia, the Ukraine and 43 African nations established nuclear-weapon-free zones.   That same 1996, the International Court of Justice declared with little power that nuclear weapons are illegal; and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was passed by the United Nations. In 1998, Pakistan tested nuclear weapons.  And in 2006, North Korea conducted a nuclear test.

In 2007, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was founded in Australia.  Several international conferences followed in Norway, Mexico, Austria and other countries.  ICAN in now organized in 95 countries and the UN still seeks to control nuclear weapons and monitor the NPT through its UN office for Disarmament Affairs.

Image from FAS.org (Federation of American Scientists)

Nuclear Weapons Stockpiles years.jpg

The number of nuclear weapons in the world has declined significantly since the Cold War: down from a peak of approximately 70,300 in 1986 to an estimated 15,350 in early-2016. Government officials often portray that accomplishment as a result of current arms control agreements, but the overwhelming portion of the reduction happened in the 1990s.

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Russia’s new Satan Missile below

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According to the Congressional Research Service report U. S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments and Issues (9/27/2016), which is available to the public and our potential enemies:

“Even though the United States is in the process of reducing the number of warheads deployed on its long-range missiles and bombers, consistent with the terms of the New START Treaty, it also plans to develop new delivery systems for deployment over the next 20-30 years. The 114th Congress will continue to review these programs, and the funding requested for them, during the annual authorization and appropriations process. During the Cold War, the U.S. nuclear arsenal contained many types of delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons. The longer-range systems, which included long-range missiles based on U.S. territory, long-range missiles based on submarines, and heavy bombers that could threaten Soviet targets from their bases in the United States, are known as strategic nuclear delivery vehicles. At the end of the Cold War, in 1991, the United States deployed more than 10,000 warheads on these delivery vehicles. That number has declined to less than 1,600 warheads today, and is slated to decline to 1,550 warheads by 2018, after the New START Treaty completes implementation. At the present time, the U.S. land-based ballistic missile force (ICBMs) consists of 440 Minuteman III ICBMs, each deployed with one warhead. The fleet will decline to 400 deployed missiles, while retaining 450 launchers, to meet the terms of the New START Treaty. The Air Force is also modernizing the Minuteman missiles, replacing and upgrading their rocket motors, guidance systems, and other components, so that they can remain in the force through 2030. It plans to replace the missiles with a new Ground-based Strategic Deterrent around 2030. The U.S. ballistic missile submarine fleet currently consists of 14 Trident submarines; each carries 24 Trident II (D-5) missiles. The Navy converted 4 of the original 18 Trident submarines to carry non-nuclear cruise missiles. The remaining carry around 1,000 warheads in total; that number will decline as the United States implements the New START Treaty. The Navy has shifted the basing of the submarines, so that nine are deployed in the Pacific Ocean and five are in the Atlantic, to better cover targets in and around Asia. It also has undertaken efforts to extend the life of the missiles and warheads so that they and the submarines can remain in the fleet past 2020. It is designing a new submarine and will replace the existing fleet beginning in 2031. The U.S. fleet of heavy bombers includes 20 B-2 bombers and 76 B-52 bombers. The B-1 bomber is no longer equipped for nuclear missions. The fleet will decline to around 60 aircraft in coming years, as the United States implements New START. The Air Force has also begun to retire the nuclear-armed cruise missiles carried by B-52 bombers, leaving only about half the B- 52 fleet equipped to carry nuclear weapons. The Air Force plans to procure both a new long-range bomber and a new cruise missile during the 2020s. DOE is also modifying and extending the life of the B61 bomb carried on B-2 bombers and fighter aircraft and the W80 warhead for cruise missiles. The Obama Administration completed a review of the size and structure of the U.S. nuclear force, and a review of U.S. nuclear employment policy, in June 2013. This review has advised the force structure that the United States will deploy under the New START Treaty. It is currently implementing the New START Treaty, with the reductions due to be completed by 2018… In 1990, as the Cold War was drawing to a close and the Soviet Union was entering its final year, the United States had more than 12,000 nuclear warheads deployed on 1,875 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles.2 As of July 1, 2009, according to the counting rules in the original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the United States had reduced to 5,916 nuclear warheads on 1,188 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles.3 Under the terms of the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty (known as the Moscow Treaty) between the United States and Russia, this number was to decline to no more than 2,200 operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads by the end of 2012. The State Department reported that the United States has already reached that level, with only 1,968 operationally deployed strategic warheads in December 2009.4 The New START Treaty, signed by President Obama and President Medvedev on April 8, 2010, reduces those forces further, to no more than 1,550 warheads on deployed launchers and heavy bombers.5 According to the July 1, 2015, data exchange under that treaty, the United States now has 1,481 warheads on 741 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers.6 Although these numbers do not count the same categories of nuclear weapons, they indicate that the number of deployed warheads on U.S. strategic nuclear forces has declined significantly in the two decades following the end of the Cold War. Yet, nuclear weapons continue to play a key role in U.S. national security strategy, and the United States does not, at this time, plan to either eliminate its nuclear weapons or abandon the strategy of nuclear deterrence that has served as a core concept in U.S. national security strategy for more than 60 years. In a speech in Prague on April 5, 2009, President Obama highlighted “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. When the Obama Administration submitted the 1251 report to the Senate during the New START ratification process, it indicated that it expected to spend around $210 billion over the next 10 years (2011-2021) to maintain and modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal. This total, however, did not include most of the costs of producing and procuring the next generation of submarines, bombers, and missiles, as these activities would occur after the timeframe contained in the report. Moreover, it became evident, as Congress reviewed the Administration’s plans to modernize the nuclear enterprise, that it was difficult, if not impossible, to determine how much the United States spent each year on nuclear weapons, as the funding was divided between the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, and, in many cases, was combined with funding for other, non-nuclear activities. In other words, the United States does not maintain a single, unified budget for nuclear weapons and other nuclear activities. In response to both the growing concerns about the pending costs of nuclear weapons modernization programs and the confusion about how to calculate the annual costs of the nuclear enterprise, Congress directed the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to estimate the costs of U.S. plans for operating, maintaining and modernizing nuclear weapons, the delivery systems, and the DOE nuclear weapons complex over the next 10 years. CBO issued its report in late 2013.169 It found that the United States was likely to spend $355 billion over the next 10 years on its nuclear weapons enterprise. This total included $56 billion for command, control, communications, and early warning activities and $59 billion for additional costs based on historical cost growth of similar programs. Neither of these categories had been included in the Administration’s estimate in 2010. When CBO considered the same categories as the Administration, it estimated 10-year spending of $241 billion, a number close to the estimate provided by the Administration. CBO updated its estimate in January 2015, and reported that it calculated that the United States would spend $348 billion between 2015 and 2024; excluding command and control and cost growth, the total that was comparable to the Administration’s 2010 estimate was now $247 billion. According to CBO, around $89 billion of its $355 billion total between 2014 and 2023 would go to the modernization programs. As with the Administration’s estimate, the CBO estimate did not include procurement costs for most of these programs, as these would occur in the later 2020s and 2030s.”

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