Today is a good day to talk about nuclear war

6 August 2022
Trinity Test of the Manhattan Project

The Trinity test of the Manhattan Project on 16 July 1945 was the first detonation of a nuclear weapon / US Department of Energy via Wikimedia Commons

Today is 6 August. On this day in 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima in Japan. Between 70,000–80,000 people were killed by the blast and resultant firestorm.

I’ve no doubt that the use of nuclear weapons would have become a regular feature of American warfare if not for the fact that other players on the global stage quickly acquired their own equally lethal capabilities.

The Soviet Union tested its first nuke in 1949. Estimates are that the USSR/Russia produced more than 55 000 nuclear warheads since then with at least 30 000 existing in 1991 at the end of the Cold War.

The United Kingdom had to develop their nuclear capability independently of the United States because the US wanted to keep the technology to themselves. The UK tested its first weapon on the Western Australia island of Trimouille in 1952.

France, not to be outdone, tested its first nuke in 1960. This was at the height of the Algerian War of Independence, so France used its colony as a test site .

China followed in 1964.

Israel has never acknowledged developing nuclear weapons, but is widely believed to have done so following the 1967 Six-Day War.

South Africa followed with testing of the devices scheduled to take place in the Kalahari north of Upington in August 1977 . An extraordinary feat of Cold War cooperation prevented the tests. Soviet intelligence discovered the test sites and alerted the United States. The US sent an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane which confirmed the Soviet report. Western governments then put pressure on the apartheid government to abandon the tests.

India had conducted what is known as a “ Peaceful Nuclear Explosion ” in 1974. (Yes, such things exist — they are explosions for non-military purposes.) So it was relatively easy for India to create nuclear warheads which were tested in 1998.

Pakistan, not to be outdone, tested its own nukes also in 1998 . (The weapons were tested in the Balochistan Province which is fighting a war of independence from Pakistan.)

North Korea conducted its first nuclear weapon test in 2006 . It has since conducted many other tests.

Five other countries are nuclear armed because they are host to United States weapons under NATO’s “nuclear sharing” program. These are Turkey, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, and Belgium.

Iran now claims to have the capability to produce nuclear weapons . This would probably not have happened had not the Trump administration killed the Iran nuclear deal (which I believe was the most significant achievement of the Obama administration).

J Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project and is widely considered to be the “father of the atomic bomb” quoted the Bhagavad Gita after observing the first test of his child:

"If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one "


"I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds"

Today, it also bears remembering that the only nation to ever use nuclear weapons in combat to date is the United States.

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