Nuclear Weapons and Law

By Arthur Selwyn Miller; Martin Feinrider | Go to book overview

12.

The Use of Nuclear Weapons Under International Law: An Annotated Bibliography

Carol A. Roehrenbeck*

The dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki raised the curtain on the nuclear age and provided the world with its first view of the effects of nuclear weapons. Despite the horror of that scene the nations of the world continued to develop nuclear arms. In 1952 the United States detonated a fusion device with a yield of about 10 megatons of TNT. 1 In 1961 the Soviet Union exploded a fusion weapon with a yield of about 60 megatons, and by 1981 the world nuclear cache consisted of “a total of between 37,000 and 50,000 warheads with an overall explosive power of 11,000 to 20,000 megatons.” 2

Unfortunately, analysis of the legal issues involved in the use of nuclear weapons did not keep pace with technical developments. In the 1940s authors published almost nothing on the subject. Peace had arrived and society had little interest in the question of the legality of the bomb. In the 1950s some discussion appeared, but it was primarily aimed at furthering nationalistic interests. Authors from countries that lacked nuclear weapons wrote in support of allowing development and use, while authors from countries that had nuclear weapons wanted to limit it. 3 By the 1960s, however, scholars could not ignore the far-reaching problems caused by nuclear weapons buildups, and many looked seriously at the broader related legal issues. Most of the analysis produced during those years focused on the application of the traditional rules of war to the use of nuclear weapons, but, unfortunately, in the 1970s this line of discussion was not followed. Scholars pursued other topics such as the war in Viet Nam, nuclear testing, or the test ban treaties.

* Associate Professor of Law, and Law Library Director, Nova University Center for the Study of Law. The author extends her thanks to the library staffs of Columbia, Georgetown, Rutgers, and Nova Law Schools and, in particular, to Pat Harris and Alma Singleton of Nova, for their help in locating and trying to locate materials.

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