The Right of Nations to Own Nuclear Weapons Essay

Nuclear weapons can be defined as explosive weapons that are very destructive. They derive their destructive force from nuclear reactions of fusion, or a combination of both fission and fusion. A right refers to something that is morally or socially correct or just ([1]In this paper, it will be examined whether it is morally or socially correct to use nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons have been used in the past and are still being used today. Countries or nations that possess nuclear weapons are known as nuclear club[2] According to the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), there are five states that are considered as ‘nuclear weapon states’[3]. In order of acquisition of nuclear weapons, these states are, the United States of America, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China.

 Currently, there are nine states that have detonated nuclear weapons successfully. Other countries that won nuclear weapons include India, Israel, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, Libya, Brazil, India, Pakistan and North Korea have conducted nuclear tests without being parties to the NPF treaty. North Korea withdrew its membership with the NPF in 2003. Though Israel has been believed to have nuclear weapons, it has not confirmed nor denied these speculations. South Africa developed nuclear weapons, but disassembled its weapons before joining the NPT. Nuclear weapons have varying risks. They cause human death, animals and plants destruction. Thermal effects due to intense heat produced from the weapon use may have adverse effects on the environment where the weapons have been used.

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Atmosphere and climate changes affect the normal climate conditions that are necessary for existence of all organisms in nature. Radiation emitted may cause various human, animals or plants diseases. These diseases may be incurable putting all organisms that are exposed to the radiation at the risk of both infection and even death. Mutations may change the genetic makeup of organisms.

There are five nuclear states as conferred by the NPT. They include United States, the soviet union (Russia), United Kingdom, France and china. Other known nuclear weapons that are not members of the NPT are: India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Israel is an undeclared nuclear state, having failed to either confirm or deny allegations of having nuclear weapons. Other states have been accused of currently attempting to develop nuclear weapons technology. A good example is Iran. Under NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) nuclear weapon sharing, the United States has provided nuclear weapons for some states to deploy and store. These states include, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Canada and Greece. Former soviet countries (Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine) transferred all nuclear weapons to Russia. [4]

How nuclear states acquired it through history
The United States developed its first atomic weapons during world war two. Feared that Nazi Germany would develop the weapons before it. The U.S developed its first weapons by cooperation the United Kingdom and Canada. In 1945, the United States tested its first nuclear weapon (‘Trinity’). It was the only country that has been known to use nuclear weapons against another. This was through the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki under the Manhattan project[5]). In addition, the United States was the first nation to develop the hydrogen bomb and test it, (“ivy mike”) and a deployable version in 1954 ‘Castle Bravo’. Since then, the United States has increased the number of nuclear weapons it possesses. It has been listed with about 7,000 operational and 3,000 reserve warheads (bulletin of the atomic scientists, 2004). The Soviet Union tested its first nuclear weapon in 1949. It was referred to as ‘Joe-1’. This was done in a crash project that was developed partially with espionage obtained during and after World War II. Soviet atomic bomb project. It was the first European nation to develop and test nuclear weapon. This was motivated by development of a balance of power during the cold war. It tested a primitive hydrogen bomb in 1953 ‘joe-4’, a megaton range hydrogen bomb in 1955 (‘RDS-37’) and the most powerful explosive ever detonated by humans (“Tsar Bomba”). The soviets’ weapons entered into the possession of Russia officially after its dissolution in 1991.

The United Kingdom tested its first nuclear weapon known as ‘hurricane’ in 1952. They had gained largely from collaborating with the United States during the Manhattan project. It was the second European country to have developed and tested nuclear weapon after the Soviet Union. The UK wanted to have an independent deterrent against the USSR, as well as remaining relevant in cold war Europe. Its first hydrogen bomb was tested in 1957 and since them, it has maintained four ‘vanguard’ class nuclear-powered submarines missile fleet the trident ballistic missile.

 France’s first nuclear weapon (“Gerboise Bleue”) was tested in 1960. it was motivated by diplomatic tension of Suez crisis, its allies U.S and UK, and to retain great power status during the post colonial cold war. The first hydrogen bomb (“Operation Canopus”) was rested in 1968. Nuclear weapons are still in development in France. China was the first Asian nation to develop and test a nuclear weapon ([6]). In 1964, it tested its first nuclear weapons – 596 test. China’s need to deter United States and USSR motivated its weapon development. The first hydrogen bomb was tested in 1967 at Lop Nur China is thought to have nuclear weapons currently – around 130 warheads[7]).

India is not a member of the nuclear non-proliferation treated. After testing a peaceful nuclear device known as (Smiling Buddha) in 1974, it developed its first test after the creation of the NPT. India’s secret development caused concern and angered nations that had supplied it with nuclear reactors (Canada) for peaceful and power generating needs. It was motivated as a deterrent against china and archrival Pakistan, as well as to project India as regional power. After testing its weaponized nuclear warheads in 1998 (“Operation Shakti”), it was recognized by united states as having advanced nuclear technology united states has signed a civil nuclear cooperation deal with India, hence can buy civilian nuclear technology from U.S and other nations. India was estimated to have a stockpile of around 70-120 warheads by September 2005 (Norris et al, 2005).

Pakistan developed nuclear power after establishing its first nuclear power plant near Karachi in early 1970. Though sanctions have been imposed on it denying it economic and military assistance from United States, in 1998, Pakistan did its first nuclear tests at the Chagai Hius, in response to tests conducted by India. North Korea was a member of nuclear non-proliferation treat but withdrew in 2003. It has been accused of having a secret uranium enrichment program. Motivated by intimidation by the USA, North Korea reported a successful nuclear test on October 9, 2006 (north Korean nuclear test, 2006). Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and turkey share nuclear weapons with United States. This they do by practicing handling and delivering the U.S nuclear bombs and using non-U. S war planes to deliver U.S nuclear bombs.

Excuses of nuclear countries not to sign Non-Proliferation Treaty
The non-proliferation of nuclear weapons is an international treaty whose main objective is to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. The finalization of the treaty was seen as a means to face international peace and security threats. Also it should work on complete termination of such weapons. The treaty was opened for signature on July 1 1968. Countries that own nuclear weapons have given their excuses for not signing the Non-proliferation of nuclear weapons treaty. One of the reasons is that some states may feel that they will be under closer international scrutiny. These states do not want to be restricted in their development of nuclear weapons or termination of the weapons. Their objectives do not go hand in hand with the requirements of the treaty, discouraging them to sign the treaty. They feel that their weapon development will be hindered by other states forces that have their own selfish interests at heart.

Some nations have starking differences between them. During a review conference on the treaty, nations that have different interests would try to push for policies that favor them. These nations make the treaty be seen as a vehicle that is being used by foreign nuclear countries to hinder other state from developing their own weapons.  Some nations therefore choose not to sign the treaty to prevent other nations interest interfering with their nuclear development. Some members of the NPT have accused others of violating the treaty. Also, where a state may presume another state as its arc rival, there is the tendency to avoid developing policies together with the same rival who is a member of the Non-proliferation Treaty.

The treaty has been seen as incapable of solving the challenges that it encounters .Any organization requires solutions to the problems they encounter to avoid further consequences. Where the treaty fails to solve these challenges, many states may see no need of signing the treaty .It is viewed and inefficient in carrying out its activities. Nuclear states will therefore fail to recognize the importance of signing such a treaty.

They argue that though some states have signed the treaty, they do not follow the set down guidelines of the treaty such states will feel cheated and may withdraw from the treaty. It may be thought also that the treaty is doomed to fall due to its failure to respond collectively to numerous challenges facing the treaty (during the 2005 review conference). The review conference represented a missed opportunity for its member states to address the challenges faced.

The treaty is perceived to encounter security challenges including non-compliance acquisition of nuclear material by terrorist groups and lack of progress on disarmament. This discourages some states not to sign the treaty. The states also lack confidence in the treaty, with recent divisions between the NWS (Nuclear Weapon States) and NNWS (Non-nuclear Weapon States). Other than the treaty, there are other true reasons that justify possession of nuclear weapons by some states while others don’t. Nuclear weapons states develop nuclear weapons due to the availability of accessibility of the raw materials. Other states may either lack of technological ability or finances to develop such weapons.

Some states are under very high risks of terrorism than others. In order to safeguard their security they develop nuclear weapons, which they may need to use to counteract any terror attack against them. Therefore, such states may justify developing nuclear weapons for self-defense as compared to those less likely to experience terror attacks. Nuclear weapons have assisted some states in growing into regional or global powers. This means that they can easily grow into an economic power due to their global recognition by other states.

The states may gain by developing their economy. It’s important for any state to retain its power. Nuclear weapons have been used by various states to ensure they have power over other states. They can easily monopolize business opportunities in other states. A growing economy through optimal business gains, do benefit the country greatly The international dilemma can be solved in various ways. One of the ways would be to ensure the adherence of the NPT regulations by the member states. The states can therefore limit the spread to nuclear weapons as they work on complete termination of the weapons. This would lead to a reduced rate of production of the nuclear weapons globally ([8]). It would also be good to encourage diplomatic ties between states that promote peace and harmony. For example India has been said to embark on nuclear weapon development since its archrival Pakistan was dong the same. Due to unfriendly relations between states, some states feel threatened. The need to defend themselves, result to nuclear weapons development. While some states are non-proliferation nuclear weapon treaty members, others like India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel (believed to possess nuclear weapons) are not. This means they have no restrictions whatsoever to limit the development of their nuclear weapons. To solve this international dilemma, states that possess nuclear weapons and are not signed under the treaty, should sign it. This will limit nuclear rate of production s well as later termination of the weapons.

Intimidation of some states by others encourages nuclear weapons development in order to fight back. A good example is china. China went on to test its nuclear weapon to prove to the united states had intimidated china, and at the same time doubting china’s ability in nuclear weapon development ([9]). It would help very much therefore, to discourage intimidation of some states by others. No state feels threatened in order to retaliate by developing nuclear weapons. Disarmament of nuclear weapons from the nuclear states would solve this dilemma completely. At the 1995 review and extension conference the NWS agreed to undertake ‘systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally’ (program of action in the ‘principles and objectives for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament) as part of the package to extend the treaty indefinitely[10]). Globally states should avoid addressing challenges posed by other states, through intensive military and diplomatic initiatives. For example, the united states war on terror mission, on Afghanistan. This triggered more use of nuclear weapons by the victims to retaliate (U.S National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction 2002).

Irrespective of the threats that nuclear weapons cause, certain states tend to think that it is their right to possess and use nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapon terrorism has been used and is still being used to create fear and harm the economy of the “enemy state” of the terrorists. This has in turn, encouraged the states to develop their own nuclear weapons in order to combat the terrorists or their terror attacks. In this case their citizens have the right to be protected from any activity that threatens their security or existence. The need to protect them   motivates the development of the weapons for defence. Therefore, the states that are prone to terror attacks may be seen as having the right to have nuclear weapons.

Some states having being intimidated by a particular nuclear state, may feel threatened. Due to the power retrieved from acquiring nuclear weapons, the nuclear weapons may force their policies and laws on the non-nuclear states, at the expense of that state’s economy or its citizens .It is the state’s role to protect the interests of its citizens-its their right .The state may develop nuclear weapons as a way of ensuring its citizens’ rights are not violated by the outside forces of other states.

Every state has a very critical   duty of protecting its economy. This is important in providing good living standards of the people. Nuclear weapon development gives a state both regional and global power. This helps one to establish business and trade partnerships which go a very long way to ensure the states’ economy growth .The state may be considered to have the right to nuclear weapons since, it has the right to ensure its economic growth.

On the other hand, any state may be considered to have no right to own nuclear weapons. One major reason is that it has been used as a weapon of mass destruction. This has resulted to loss of so many human lives. It is the right of every person to live. Violating this right does not in any way give states the right to possess weapons that violate human right to life. Apart from causing human deaths, they cause animals and plants death. Nature allows all organisms to co-exist together in harmony. Animals and plants are important resources for humankind survival all over the world. Destruction of these resources may result to shortage of food, drought, famine, floods, poverty, poor living conditions, increase in crimes and poor economic growth .All these will undermine the right of life to people, animals and environment. [11]

Atmospheric and climatic changes have adverse effects on the planet. Catastrophies may arise due to drastic changes in climate over time. For example typhoons, natural fires (forest and bush fires), drought may cause deaths or deficiencies in supply of materials from affected resources. Radiation causes diseases in living organisms, for example radiation components may be cancerous. Mutations may also be caused by radiation from nuclear weapons use.  This affects the genetic make-up of organisms. This is a threat to the existence and survival of species all over the world [12]

As earlier suggested, solutions to the international nuclear weapon dilemma may work if properly implemented. It would work if all nuclear weapon states (officially known or unknown) developed policies that would work towards limiting the weapons and finally they completely terminate the weapons. All Non-proliferation treaty member states would assist solve nuclear weapon problem, by adhering strictly to the guidelines of the treaty as stated. Violating the treaty guidelines act as a through way in uncontrolled nuclear weapon development.

Education and campaigns against nuclear weapon development will create awareness and induce pressure on nuclear states to dismantle their already developed weapons. Global organizations should participate in   mobilizing development of laws and policies that prevent further development of nuclear weapons. This would assist in preventing violent activities through use of these weapons whatsoever.

Solutions that face threats caused by nuclear weapons should be sought by the international communities .All states should be involved in voicing their concerns on issues related to weapon development and use. Some non-nuclear states may even be indirectly involved in nuclear weapon development. This is through their supply of raw materials to nuclear weapons. Therefore, it will require both nuclear and non-nuclear states to work hand in hand to stop the nuclear-weapon dilemna.

 It is worth noting that, a good number of nuclear states are not and would not be committed to eradicating nuclear weapons. They enjoy many benefits from possessing and using of these weapons and would not be ready to lose these benefits. These benefits include: military advantage over non-nuclear states, global or regional power over others and economic gains. Nuclear states require the technological knowledge when developing the weapons. They develop this knowledge or borrow it from their allies. This is usually a technological advantage they have over   non-nuclear states.

 Other countries would react to these solutions either positively or negatively depending on whether they gain or lose from nuclear weapons. For example those that share nuclear weapons with the United States, gain by easy access to the weapons if need arises   They deploy and store the nuclear weapons that are being developed by the United States and if need arises for them to use the weapons, easy access to the weapons can result to them using the weapons.

Economic benefits are high instates that have become either regional or global powers. Their trade and business partnerships have exposed their economy to very many opportunities that ensure economic growth. It may not be easy therefore for these countries to forego nuclear weapon development at their economy’s expense.

 Those that are non nuclear weapons are likely to support these solutions especially if they lose from nuclear weapon development of the other states. The need to protect human life, environment and nature from destruction may be a major reason for discouraging nuclear weapon development.


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            (June/July 2006) 64-67

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            1959. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press

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[1] Oxford dictionary).
[2] (Norris et al 2005).
[3] (Webster, 2003)
[4] (Holloway and David, 1994)

[5] (Groves, Leslie. 1962
[6] Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2004
[7] (Norris et al, 2006
[8] Federation of American scientists, 13 Feb 2008
[9] North Korean nuclear test, 2006: Xue, 1988
(Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty, 2000[10]
[11] accessed on April 17 2008
[12] Hansen, Chuck (1995). The swords of Armageddon. U.S nuclear weapons development since 1945. Sunnyvale, C.A: Chukelea publications