Nuclear Proliferation

nuclear weapons

nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction powered by atomic, rather than chemical, processes. Nuclear weapons produce large explosions and hazardous radioactive byproducts by means of either nuclear fission or nuclear fusion. Nuclear weapons can be delivered by artillery, plane, ship, or ballistic missile (ICBM); some can also fit inside a suitcase. Tactical nuclear weapons can have the explosive power of a fraction of a kiloton (one kiloton equals 1,000 tons of TNT), while strategic nuclear weapons can produce thousands of kilotons of explosive force. After World War II, the proliferation of nuclear weapons became an increasing cause of concern throughout the world. At the end of the 20th cent. the vast majority of such weapons were held by the United States and the USSR; smaller numbers were held by Great Britain, France, China, India, and Pakistan. Israel also has nuclear weapons but has not confirmed that fact publicly; North Korea has conducted nuclear test explosions but probably does not have a readily deliverable nuclear weapon; and South Africa formerly had a small arsenal. Over a dozen other countries can, or soon could, make nuclear weapons. In addition to the danger of radioactive fallout, in the 1970s scientists began investigating the potential impact of nuclear war on the environment. The collective effects of the environmental damage that could result from a large number of nuclear explosions has been termed nuclear winter. Treaties have been signed limiting certain aspects of nuclear testing and development. Although the absolute numbers of nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles have declined since the end of the cold war, disarmament remains a distant goal. See atomic bomb; cold war; disarmament, nuclear; guided missile; hydrogen bomb; nuclear energy; nuclear physics.

See L. Martin, The Changing Face of Nuclear Warfare (1987); S. M. Younger, The Bomb (2009); D. Albright, Peddling Peril (2010).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Over the Horizon Proliferation Threats
James J. Wirtz; Peter R. Lavoy.
Stanford University Press, 2012
Shopping for Bombs: Nuclear Proliferation, Global Insecurity, and the Rise and Fall of the A.Q. Khan Network
Gordon Corera.
Oxford University Press, 2006
Weak Links: Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security
Stewart Patrick.
Oxford University Press, 2011
Nuclear Proliferation in the Indian Subcontinent: The Self-Exhausting "Superpowers" and Emerging Alliances
Hooman Peimani.
Praeger, 2000
Inside Nuclear South Asia
Scott D. Sagan.
Stanford Security Studies, 2009
Preventing Catastrophe: The Use and Misuse of Intelligence in Efforts to Halt the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction
Thomas Graham Jr.; Keith A. Hansen.
Stanford University Press, 2009
Best of Intentions: America's Campaign against Strategic Weapons Proliferation
Henry D. Sokolski.
Praeger, 2001
Deterrence and Nuclear Proliferation in the Twenty-First Century
Stephen J. Cimbala.
Praeger, 2001
Nuclear Proliferation: The Case of Saudi Arabia
Bahgat, Gawdat.
The Middle East Journal, Vol. 60, No. 3, Summer 2006
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Next Wave of Nuclear Proliferation
Elhefnawy, Nader.
Parameters, Vol. 38, No. 3, Autumn 2008
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
A Solution Is Sanctions: Curbing Nuclear Proliferation in North Korea
Asada, Masahiko.
Harvard International Review, Vol. 32, No. 4, Winter 2011
The Will to Prevent: Global Challenges of Nuclear Proliferation
Allison, Graham.
Harvard International Review, Vol. 28, No. 3, Fall 2006
Taking Proliferation Seriously
Sokolski, Henry.
Policy Review, No. 121, October-November 2003
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