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International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

Utkarsh Classes 26-09-2023
International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons Important Day 9 min read

Every year, September 26 is the International Day for the total elimination of Nuclear Weapons. According to the United Nations, "this day is an occasion to create awareness amongst people about the danger of nuclear weapons and the need to eliminate the nuclear weapons from earth."

Background to the Day 

The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution in December 2013 to observe September 28 as an International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

On September 26 2013, the United Nations General Assembly held a high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament in New York, the United States of America.

The first International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons was observed in 2014.

Scientific aspect of the  nuclear bomb

Nuclear bombs need fissile material. Fissile material is a type of nuclide capable of fission after capturing low-energy thermal neutrons. Here, fission means splitting an atom into two after being hit by a low-energy thermal neutron, releasing a tremendous amount of energy and additional neutrons. These additional neutrons hit the other atoms, and a similar process is repeated, which is called a chain reaction.

If the chain reaction is controlled, it can be used to produce electricity; if the chain reaction is uncontrolled, it becomes an atom bomb.

Thus, at present, the three known fissile materials are enriched uranium 233, enriched uranium 235 and enriched plutonium 239.

The discovery of fissile material is credited to the German scientist Otto Han. While working with fellow scientist Fritz Straasmann, Otto Han discovered Uranium's fission. Otto Han is also called the father of Nuclear Chemistry and received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1944.

However, the term' nuclear fission' was coined by a German female Physicist, Liese Meitner.

Project Manhattan  

  • Fearing that Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler was developing a secret weapon which could change the fate of the second world war, the Allied power led by the United States of America started a secret project to develop a nuclear weapon. 
  • The project was named Project Manhattan. Project Manhattan was led by Robert Oppenheimer. 
  • The project delivered the first nuclear bomb, tested on July 16, 1945, in Jornada del Muerto, United States. The test was codenamed 'Trinity'.
  • The nuclear weapon was used against Japan by the United States of America during the Second World War. 
  • On August 6 1945, an enriched Uranium bomb codenamed "Little Boy" was dropped in Hiroshima. 
  • The second, plutonium-based bomb codenamed 'Fat Man' was dropped by the US Air Force on the Japanese city of Nagasaki on August 9.
  • The two atomic bombs are said to have killed over 2 lakh people instantly.
  • The devastation caused by the bomb sparked an arms race where many countries started research and development to build an atomic bomb. 

Development of Nuclear Weapons in the World 

  • The Soviet Union (now Russia) was the second country to test a nuclear weapon. It conducted its first nuclear weapon test on August 29 1945.
  • The United Kingdom tested its nuclear bomb on October 3 1952.
  • France tested its nuclear bomb on February 13, 1960. 
  • China tested its nuclear weapon on October 16. 1964.
  • India conducted its nuclear test on May 18, 1974, in Pokhran, Rajasthan. However, the government described its nuclear test as a peaceful nuclear explosion. The test was codenamed 'Smiling Buddha'. 

Later, India conducted another nuclear test on May 11 1998, in Pokhran, codenamed Project Shakti. India officially acknowledged that it had conducted a nuclear weapon test. Every year, May 11 is observed as National Technology Day in India.

  • Pakistan conducted its nuclear test on May 28 1998.
  • North Korea tested its nuclear weapon in 2006.
  • Israel also has nuclear weapons, though it has never tested them publicly.

Thus, at present, 8 countries have confirmed nuclear weapons. 

Effort for nuclear disarmament

Concerned about the world's nuclear arms race and the devastation it can cause, there was a growing demand to do something to stop it. 

A two-pronged approach was adopted to deal with the situation. The first step was to limit and ultimately ban the testing of the nuclear bomb. Second was to try and stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

Steps to stop the testing of Nuclear bombs 

The first concrete step in limiting the testing of nuclear weapons was the signing of the 'Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water, also known as the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963'. However, it allowed underground testing of nuclear weapons.

To completely ban nuclear weapons testing, a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was signed, which came into force in 1996. CTBT bans all nuclear explosions, whether for military or peaceful purposes. At present, 187 countries have signed the CTBT. India, Pakistan, and North Korea are three countries with nuclear weapon capability but have not signed CTBT.

Efforts to stop the proliferation of Nuclear Weapons 

To limit the countries that can legally possess nuclear weapons, an International agreement named the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty(NPT) was signed in 1968. It came into force in 1970.

The NPT recognises five nuclear weapon countries: Russia, France, China, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. These countries can legally keep nuclear weapons. If any other apart from these five keeps nuclear weapons, it will be considered illegal. 

The NPT was initially for 25 years, which was extended indefinitely in 1995.

India has not signed the NPT as it considers China a security threat, and to counter China, it needs nuclear weapons. Under NPT, India is not recognised as a nuclear weapon state and cannot keep nuclear weapons.

India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel have not signed the NPT.

FAQ

Answer: September 26

Answer: 2014

Answer: CTBT bans all nuclear explosions, whether for military or peaceful purposes, anywhere on Earth or in Space.

Answer: The discovery of fissile material is credited to the German scientist Otto Han. Otto Han, while working with fellow scientist Fritz Straasmann, discovered the fission of Uranium. Otto Han is also called the father of Nuclear Chemistry and received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1944. However, the term' nuclear fission' was coined by a German female Physicist, Liese Meitner.

Answer: India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan.
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