Thursday, 30 October 2014

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Goodbye mushroom clouds?

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29 August 2014 – Nuclear weapons have been tested in all possible environments since 1945: in the atmosphere, underground and underwater. Onboard barges, on top of towers, suspended from balloons, on the Earth’s surface, more than 600 metres underwater and over 200 metres underground. Nuclear test bombs have been dropped by aircraft and fired by rockets up to 320 km into the atmosphere.

All in all, 2,053 nuclear tests have been performed on a global scale up until today, most of which were during the Cold War era. Today, as we celebrate the International Day against Nuclear Tests, the good news is that no mushroom clouds have been seen so far this year.

However, a large amount of nuclear weapons remain stocked, and even though several treaties have been signed (the Partial Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) in 1963, the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1970) many nations have not signed the so called CTBT, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which yet has to enter into force.

Prior to 1950, only limited consideration was given to the health impacts of worldwide dispersion of radioactivity from nuclear testing. Public protests in the 1950s and concerns about the radionuclide strontium-90 and its effect on mother’s milk and babies’ teeth were instrumental in the conclusion of the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) in 1963. But despite all the knowledge we have today regarding the threats of nuclear testing, some countries remain reluctant in joining the global test ban.

“I wish to appeal particularly to citizens of those States that have not yet ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), especially the eight remaining Annex 2 States whose ratification is required for the Treaty’s entry into force: China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States,” says UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon in his message for the international day.

Nuclear tests and nuclear weapons sadly remain contemporary threats. Due to their massive power of destruction, the use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic global consequences and would cause severe and long-lasting emergencies affecting global health, climate, social order, human development, and the economy.

“A world free of nuclear weapons would be a global public good of the highest order. Together, let us demand an end to all nuclear tests, get on with the unfinished business of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons, and usher in a safer and more prosperous future”, says Ban.

UNRIC's related Articles:

UNRIC's library backgrounder on Nuclear Disarmament
UNRIC's library backgrounder on Nuclear Non-Proliferation

UNRIC's article on the framework of the European Union Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence (CoE) initiative.
UNRIC's article on Disarmament Conference

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