The Nuclear Age

The nuclear age is the period in which nuclear weapons were developed and used. It began with the development of atomic bombs in World War II, and was marked by growing tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The Nuclear Fuels Cycle and Emergence of Nuclear Power

The era also included the nuclear fuel cycle and the emergence of nuclear power. It was also marked by accidents like the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine and the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania that damaged public confidence in nuclear energy.

Development of Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear weapons were developed through a program called the Manhattan Project, which cost $2 billion and involved 175,000 people, including eight Nobel prize-winning physicists. The atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 killed 129,000 Japanese civilians and led to the end of World War II.

Continued Development of Nuclear Weapons

After the war, the US and its allies continued to develop nuclear weapons. They started by building large underground uranium nuclear reactors, and later they began developing the more powerful hydrogen bombs.

The Devastating Power of Nuclear Weapons

Some of these weapons, such as the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were considered to be the most devastating military weapons in history. They were also known as "super" weapons, because they contained a greater number of atomic nuclei than the ordinary bomb. These bombs, which were produced through fission and fusion reactions, could kill millions of people. They also produced a huge amount of heat, enough to destroy cities and turn entire continents into radioactive wasteland. They were built using materials such as enriched uranium, which is extracted from spent nuclear reactor fuel. The material is then converted into plutonium, which is fissile and can be exploded to produce more energy.

The Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project was a highly secretive research and development project, designed to create the first atomic bombs. It was a collaboration between the US government and universities. It also included scientists from other countries, including emigres from Nazi Germany.

The Cold War and Arms Race

During the Cold War, the Soviets and the United States fought an arms race, in which both sides sought to become nuclear superpowers. Eventually, both countries agreed to sign a series of treaties limiting their weapons production and imposing strict inspections on nuclear facilities.

Important Decisions and Actions of the Nuclear Age

There were many important decisions and actions made during the nuclear age that shaped the development of nuclear weapons and the world's non-proliferation regime. The following timeline explores some of the most significant.

The Nuclear Taboo

The nuclear taboo, or fear of the use of nuclear weapons, has prevented interstate nuclear wars from occurring for decades. It is a normative basis of restraint that has been reinforced by the fact that many nations have not acquired nuclear weapons and are reluctant to do so.

Shift in Strategy: Deterrence

This has also influenced the decision-making process, leading to a shift in strategy from reliance on conventional military forces to deterrence. This strategy, which is based on the idea that it can be difficult to win a war with nuclear weapons, became popular in the 1950s.

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