Academic journal article Suffolk Transnational Law Review

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Toward an Achievable Ban on the Testing of Nuclear Weapons

Academic journal article Suffolk Transnational Law Review

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Toward an Achievable Ban on the Testing of Nuclear Weapons

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

On August 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber airplane dropped the first nuclear weapon bomb ever used in conflict on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, leveling much of the city, dispersing deadly radiation into the atmosphere, and killing large numbers of at least 80,000 mostly noncombatants. (NOTEREF _Ref379730389 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) One month prior, the American scientists who developed this awesome weapon conducted a highly-secret explosive test in the New Mexico desert to verify the proper functioning of the device before using it against Japan. (NOTEREF _Ref379730389 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) This test culminated the United States' nuclear weapons development effort, and gave President Truman the necessary confidence to order the weapon's employment in actual conflict. (NOTEREF _Ref379730389 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) The ensuing Cold War between the superpowers brought thousands of new nuclear tests, both from the United States and other countries who developed their own nuclear weapons. (NOTEREF _Ref379730389 \h \* MERGEFORMAT)

Nuclear weapons represent the most indiscriminate killing power ever unleashed by man; thousands of nuclear explosions starting in 1945 dispersed radiation into the atmosphere, contaminated wide tracts of land, and led to serious illness and even loss of life. (NOTEREF _Ref379730389 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) Despite the universally-acknowledged negative effects of nuclear explosions, live testing of these weapons is not yet prohibited by international law. (NOTEREF _Ref379730389 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) The international community should build on the limited progress made since the end of the Cold War to eliminate the threat posed by these destructive weapons. (NOTEREF _Ref379730389 \h \* MERGEFORMAT)

Despite the widely recognized political, environmental, and economic costs of nuclear testing, and even with a voluntary testing moratorium observed by the world's main powers, including the United States, the international community has nevertheless failed to agree on a permanent, legally binding end to this destructive practice. (NOTEREF _Ref379730389 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) This Note argues that the leading such proposal, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) pending since 1996, should be laid aside in favor of smaller, more achievable short-term steps towards a permanent ban, which is unlikely in the short term. (NOTEREF _Ref379730389 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) In part II, the Note outlines the history of nuclear testing since the first test in 1945: this history covers the Cold War, the India/Pakistan tests in 1998, as well as North Korea's nuclear activities over the last decade. (NOTEREF _Ref379730389 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) it also addresses the potential for similar trouble from both North Korea and Iran. (NOTEREF _Ref379730389 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) The Note explains why nuclear testing is a critical step in a country's nascent nuclear development effort, arguing that internationally binding restraints on testing can prevent or impede the development of ever more deadly nuclear weapons systems. (NOTEREF _Ref379730389 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) Additionally, this part details both the political ramifications from nuclear explosions and the catastrophic effects on the environment and human life. (NOTEREF _Ref379730389 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) Next, in Part III, the Note examines previous international efforts to limit nuclear testing and identifies reasons why more limited proposals succeeded while others, such as the CTBT, have not. (NOTEREF _Ref379730389 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) After discussing why the CTBT is unlikely to survive a second effort at ratification in the U.S. Senate, the Note points to a history of success with a more limited approaches, and suggests this as opposed to merely continuing along the current all-or-nothing path. (NOTEREF _Ref379730389 \h \* MERGEFORMAT) Finally, in Part IV, the Note argues that because the CTBT is so unlikely to come into force, a more incremental approach, focused on achieving some progress over the short term, might achieve positive results while advancing the international community towards a binding, permanent ban in the future. …

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