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  Volume 10 |Issue 30 | August 05, 2011 |


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The Deadly Tales of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Obaidur Rahman

It is now well-understood that out of hundreds of million of sperm cells, one single cell stands out and consequently a human life is conceived. That's how marvelous, unique, miraculous and extra-ordinary the nature of human life is. And as a tribute to this exclusivity, mankind surely has proven their excellence, nobility and merit in all aspects that concern this wonderful planet and much beyond. But tragically, as an insult to that magical exceptionality, mankind has also displayed matchless brutality and wickedness in all aspects that concerns this wonderful planet and much beyond as well. And nothing tops the menace of Nuclear Weapons (NWs), a dire threat that has the risk of absolutely vaporising our very existence from the face of the Universe once and for all. Out of all indecencies that human beings have associated themselves with, the NWs are by far the worst and without a doubt the most inhumane and appalling aspect about mankind. It has been estimated that at present there are about 30,000 nuclear warheads (officially) with a combined destructive capabilities of 5,000 megatons (5,000,000,000 tons of Tri Nitro Toluene (TNT), i.e. 5 billion!). It must be mentioned here that 1 megaton is equivalent to one million tons of TNT and 1 kiloton is equivalent to the explosive power of 1,000 tons of TNT. This difference is crucial in understanding the nature of deadliness that the present day NWs pose.

The bomb (Little Boy) that was dropped on Hiroshima in August 6, 1945, had an energy only between 13 and 18 kilotons of TNT which caused the lives of about 1,50,000 human beings. And just three days later, about 39,000 residents of Nagasaki met their tragic instantaneous demise as another nuclear bomb (Fatman), powered by 21 kiloton TNT was dropped from the fated B-29 US bomber plane. It is believed that within the first four months of the bombings, about 166,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki died due to direct and indirect affects of the lethal bombs. If just a couple of nuclear bombs with about 40 kilotons of firepower, in atomic weaponry terms, could kill about 2,50,000 human beings and alter the face of two civilised cities to virtual ruin, one can only shiver in fear imagining the level of destruction and loss of lives that today's hundreds of megaton yielding NWs could cause. And future concerning this grave matter surely looks diabolically grim as experts believe that there are around 1,700 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and 500 tons of separated plutonium in the world, more than enough to produce over 100,000 nuclear weapons.

So, what is nuclear weapon anyway and how does it work? First of all, nuclear energy is the potential energy of the particles inside an atomic nucleus that can either be used for peaceful purposes like generating electricity and betterment of lives or for violent means, i.e. to kill people. Thus, in layman's terms, a NW is an explosive device that draws it's devastatingly destructive force from nuclear reactions, which is basically an alternation in the identity or characteristics of an atomic nucleus that domino effects when it is bombarded with an energetic particle. And these reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. And NWs employ Nuclear Chain Reactions that produces nuclear fission and nuclear fusion reactions (traditionally a natural process that powers the energy production of the very stars of the cosmos) which occur when one nuclear reaction causes an average of one or more nuclear reactions, consequently leading to a self-propagating number of these reactions with devastating implications.

In general, there are two types of NWs, one that derives its energy from nuclear Fission reaction and the other employs nuclear Fusion reaction to fuel it power. Uranium-235 and Plutonium-239 are the isotopes (each of two or more forms of the same element that contain equal numbers of protons but different numbers of neutrons in their nuclei, and hence differ in atomic mass but not in chemical properties; in particular, a radioactive form of an element) most commonly used in Fission bombs which are popularly known as Atomic Bombs. It is believed that the amount of energy released by Atomic Bombs range from the equivalent of less than a ton of TNT to up to 500,000 tons (500 kilotons) of TNT. Fusion bombs, also known as thermonuclear weapons or Hydrogen Bombs, on the other hand, rely on the fusion reactions between isotopes of hydrogen (deuterium and tritium) and have the potential to be made to any yield, largest of which ever detonated was the Tsar Bomba (the biggest bomb ever to be detonated, tested on October 30, 1961) of former USSR which unleashed phenomenon of an energy that was equivalent of over 50 million tons of TNT!

To put it simply and civilly, every single nuclear bomb, is genocide in the making. It is said that the ones who endure the instantaneous death, in a nuclear tragedy, are the lucky ones. All in all, the deadly gamma ray blast, multi-spectral heat blast (X-rays and ultra-violate wavelengths), blinding light of the explosion that is much hotter and brighter than the Sun itself, along with crushing radioactive pressure wave and fierce wind (with velocities of hundreds of miles an hour), all of which accompanied by hails of firestorm with its intense heat and hurricane-force airstreams, and the sole reminisce of the locale, ranging miles after miles all around, will be the radioactive mushroom-shaped cloud pushing miles up into the sky, chillingly reminding humanity that mankind has way lot more growing up to do. And that's just the short-term affects of a nuclear bomb with 1 megaton of firepower. Imagine what NWs with hundreds of megaton would do to the Earth and earthlings (the 50 Megaton Tsar Bomba had the fallout of 1000 square kilometers. The world is close to 150 million square kilometers, and the human population covers nearly 18 million square kilometers).

Anything that has to do with such destructive weaponries is literally playing with fire. And the major players in this ghastly regard include United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China, countries which are considered to be Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) according to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), an agreement signed on 5th Match, 1970, to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. Back in 1985, there were as many as 65,000 active NWs in the world and as of 2010; it is believed that about 8,000 nuclear warheads are in active state and in addition to that, more than 22,000 total nuclear warheads possessed by the world. Up until 2009, USA was believed to have 5,113 warheads operationally deployed, in active reserve, or held in inactive storage, back in 1967; the number was a staggering 31, 225 and 22, 217 in 1989.

At present the Nato is believed to have stationed about 480 US nuclear weapons in Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, and Turkey. By July, 2009, Russia was estimated to have around 2,723 active strategic nuclear warheads along with a large and unknown number of tactical NWs. It must be mentioned here that both olden nuclear rivals have had thousands of warheads that have been now either retired or scheduled for future dismantlement. But back in the height of Cold War era, the numbers of nuclear weaponries were so high on both sides that a balance of power system known as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was developed. And this military strategy, still applicable today, revolves around the idea that any full-scale use of high-yield weapons of mass destruction by two opposing sides (in this case USA and Russia) would effectively result in the utter destruction of both the attacker and the defender, becoming thus a war that ensures no victory nor any truce but only total and absolute annihilation of each other. MAD indeed!

United Kingdom, the 3rd country which independently developed NWs, is thought to front a stockpile of around 160 active nuclear warheads and 225 non-active nuclear warheads where as France have around 300 nuclear warheads in active operational mode, making it the 3rd largest stockpile of active NWs. China, as of 2009, is thought to have about 180 active nuclear weapons and a total of 240 warheads. At present, India is believed to have a stockpile of 80-100 nuclear weapons and Pakistan about 70-90. After numerous analysis and speculations, North Korea, world's one of foremost secretive sates, is estimated to have about 6-8 NWs. And Israel, despite the country's official acknowledgement, is estimated to have around 75-400 nuclear warheads. And all of these countries can deliver their NWs through the means of wither ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles), combat aircraft or via submarines. South Africa is the only nation which despite developing six nuclear weapons between the years of 1960-1980's, voluntarily dismantled its entire nuclear arsenal before joining the NPT and lastly, Iran, at present, is at the centre stage of World's nuclear arena with its nuclear ambitions.

A lot can be said and being said regarding the political aspect of justifying the assemblage and aspiration of such deadly weapons. First of all, any conscious mind would ask, why there should even be any political debate regarding who should or should not own such deadly weapon systems that are aimed to kill civilians by hundreds of thousands. And then again, when did politics ever truly correspond to the true needs of civilians anyway, a tragedy that is applicable on every corner of this globe. It has been repeatedly stated that an all out nuclear war would bring humanity to the brink of extinction and those who will survive will live a fiercely miserable and direly reduced quality of life under a prolonged nuclear winter, the absolute doomsday scenario. What started out as a ridiculous mean to deter Hitler's even more ridiculous Nazi ambitions, has surely mushroomed into a terrible burden for all the good and grandeur that this magnificent blue planet stands for.


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