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Magazine article

Nuclear Technology: Should it Continue to be Weaponized?

The end of the world, many believe will come through nuclear war. Although this has not happened yet, the mere thought of the immense destructive power of nuclear weapons is enough to make a lot of people uneasy about the large stockpiles of weapons many countries today have in their possession. However, there are those who believe in a quite conflicting point of view: that the possession of nuclear warheads actually deters nuclear attack, mainly because it pretty much guarantees an equivalent retaliation. This belief, called Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), states that continuing to keep nuclear stockpiles up to date with the latest technological advances will assure that no one will risk a nuclear attack and, therefore, an attack on them.
The International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation, or INESAP, is just that - a non-profit, non-governmental group of scientists (and engineers) that is against all use of nuclear technology for use in weapons. Before we get into what their mission and arguments are, lets take a look at some facts.

Nuclear Weapons

Views against proliferation (INESAP):
The INESAP founding statement reads:

“Scientists and engineers were among those who
created the vast nuclear arsenals and helped in
spreading knowledge and technology for nuclear
weapons around the world.
Therefore, the international community of scientists
and engineers has a major responsibility for
stopping and reversing this spread.”

One of their main counter-arguments against those who claim nuclear proliferation is to point to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT). The purpose of the NPT is for "the acknowledged five nuclear weapon states (United States of America, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, France, and China) enter into good faith negotiations on the complete elimination of their nuclear arsenals while the non-nuclear weapon states undertake not to acquire them". The NPT, Although no one will admit it, is on the verge of collapse. The five countries who have nuclear capabilities (who are incidentally also the permanent members of the UN Security Council) continue to modernize their stockpiles and build new warheads. Other nuclear countries, such as Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea, are not bound by the NPT. INESAP maintains that it is impossible to mediate the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
INESAP on the role of technology in nuclear proliferation/nonproliferation

INESAP has three main views on how technology and scientific innovations are involved:
  • It is both part of the problem and part of the solutions to the problem. With the constant advances in military technologies, nuclear weapons can be built faster, cheaper, more efficient, and all around more deadly. As an example, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was about 13 kilotons. An average warhead today has a payload of 20-30 megatons, and the biggest bomb ever (belonged to USSR) was a whopping 50 megatons (a megaton is equivalent to 1,000,000 tons of TNT). Technological advances also create opportunities to de-weaponize the world by, for example, allowing for verification of deweaponization and more cost efficient ways of doing so.
  • It can be used for civilian and also for military purposes
  • They are often labeled as defensive although their offensive capabilities are obvious. How can, INESAP questions, the construction of more nuclear bombs be touted as ensuring peace?

Views Supporting Nuclear Weapon Proliferation
On the opposite end of the spectrum there are people like C. Paul Robinson, who is the director of Sandia National Laboratories. Sandia is one of the nation's three primary nuclear weapons labs. He is also a former chief negotiator at the U.S.-U.S.S.R. Nuclear Testing Talks in Geneva during the 1980s. He believes the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and especially smaller "strategic bunker buster" type nukes can only help maintain peace. On the subject of the need to produce nuclear weapons that can destroy targets underground, Robinson said:
"Over the past decade, nations have gone to school on our conventional military capabilities, and many of them have adopted a strategy of moving their high-value targets out of our reach by locating them in deeply buried tunnels and inside mountains...We keep having to relearn this lesson that the world is not stupid, and potential adversaries will constantly take actions to better their strategic position and counter our strengths. I would argue that the United States must respond by maintaining a robust deterrent against whatever is hidden in those underground facilities."
By this, he means that he supports developing a nuke that would kill only (italics to show sarcasm) 2,000-3,000 people whilst destroying underground bunkers where Robinson believes that countries like Libya, North Korea, and Iran are hiding weapons [editor's note: that's what they said about Iraq]. One similarity of Robinson's views with that of INESAP is that he believe the NPT is essentially worthless. On the subject:
"In truth, I believe that the NPT was intended more as a confidence-building measure than as a real arms control treaty that we were willing to bet our country's survival on. We would never have negotiated an arms control treaty with the ridiculous verification inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency prescribed in the NPT, which missed the programs in Iraq and Iran and even Israel [editor's note: lol there were no weapons in Iraq, and Iran doesn't have any either. Accusations that Iran is trying to build them is speculative and mostly media hyped. Israel, however, absolutely does have nuclear weapons.]. Where has the IAEA spent the most money in terms of inspections? In Germany, Canada, and Japan. Why? Because it is a confidence-building measure among friendly countries eager to prove they are not violating it. It was never set up to catch cheaters. That's why I disagree with people who infer that the NPT is a real arms control treaty. It's not."
In essence, Robinson believes that since no one really enforces NPT and because the U.S. wants to build new weapons, it should ignore the treaty entirely. Other nations have done this too.

Funny Pictures

Although the debate about nuclear proliferation rages on, it remains abundantly clear that there may not be any correct answer to the question. Yes, a world where nuclear weapons do not exist at all would be a much safer, peaceful, and sure one. All the billions of dollars spent building and researching these instruments of mass destruction could surely be spent in more constructive ways, like creating alternate fuel sources, space exploration, or just building better schools and communities. However, now that they do exist, the question now becomes have we passed the point of no return? Are we now in a cycle that dictates that we must constantly build and develop newer and more deadly weapons in order to keep up with (and this is a phrase I just made up, it's gonna be a thing) "nuclear status quo"? Only time will tell what path the world chooses: that of a nuke-free world, or the path of Mutually Assured Destruction.

Works Cited:

Kitfield, James. "Pros and Cons of New Nuclear Weapons Debated (8/18/03) --" Government News and Events for Federal Employees -- Web. 19 May 2011. <>.

"Organization | International Network of Engineers And Scientists Against Proliferation." News | International Network of Engineers And Scientists Against Proliferation. Web. 19 May 2011. <>.

"Anything but Disarmament | International Network of Engineers And Scientists Against Proliferation." News | International Network of Engineers And Scientists Against Proliferation. Web. 19 May 2011. <>.

Sokova, Elena. It Is 6 Minutes to Midnight | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Web. 19 May 2011. <>.

"Nuclear Weapons: Who Has What at a Glance | Arms Control Association." Arms Control Association | The Authoritative Source on Arms Control since 1971. Web. 19 May 2011. <>.