Nuclear bombs have been the deadliest weapons of mass destruction known to mankind. As early as 1930’s, scientists realized the knowledge of critical nature of nuclear fission and fusion reactions which released an enormous amount of energy. So hazardous was the impact of this energy that a reaction once initiated could easily engulf a whole town or city under its impact.
The infamous dropping of nuclear bombs on Japan that sealed the fate of World War II was enough for everyone to sit up and take notice of repercussions it could cause. Since then, a lot of research has gone in to making these bombs even more powerful and yet more fatal. Let us begin with the beginning of this scientific breakthrough that later changed the way a war can be fought, forever.
Nuclear Bombs : A Brief History
By the end of nineteenth century, Pierre and Marie Currie had discovered the concept of radioactivity in a certain element, Uranium. Scientists Rutherford and Soddy confirmed that the atoms of this element are breaking down further and tremendous energy was released during the process.
In 1934, Leó Szilárd patented his theory of nuclear chain reactions which formed the basis of development of Nuclear Bomb. No doubt, academicians call him the father of the atomic bomb.
In 1938, German researchers Otto Hann and Fritz Strassman, discovered Barium that was produced when Uranium was bombarded with neutrons. The process was known as nuclear fission. This made Adolf Hitler led Nazi Germany to initiate their nuclear power project.
Albert Einstein warned the then U.S President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the implication of this project.
In 1939, when the World War II broke out, scientists on either side of the military alliances contemplated the use of fission as a nuclear weapon in the war. In 1940, MAUD committee set up by British disclosed that the energy released during nuclear reaction could devastate a wide area and was accompanied by high temperature that was similar to sun’s interior. Later in 1943, British Committee joined U.S led Manhattan Project to continue research in this direction.
With the strength of the Allied powers building up, Germany finally surrendered in 1945. However, Manhattan project lead gun type fission bombs, Little Boy and Fat Man were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively which made Japan to call it quits.
All this while, Soviet Union was excluded from the Manhattan project. The period between 1950 and 1960 saw both U.S and U.S.S.R vying to be the world’s top nuclear power.
In 1951, China agreed to provide necessary raw materials to Soviet Union and in 1953; Soviet conducted its first hydrogen bomb testing. The United States tested its first nuclear fusion bomb in 1952. In the coming years countries like France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea tested and ran their indigenous nuclear power projects.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was announced in 1968 to curtail the spread of nuclear bombs.
Future : Are We In Danger?
Despite U.S efforts to limit nuclear arms spread, North Korea and Iran have carried out successful nuclear tests. Many other countries like Brazil, Argentina and South Africa have scrapped their nuclear projects after signing the pact. Biggest success comes from U.S and Russia agreeing on nuclear disarmament with both countries hoarding stockpiles of nuclear weapons.
As opposed to other nuclear superpowers, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel have not shown interest in signing the nuclear disarmament pact. Though a nuclear war in Asia, read India and Pakistan, is unlikely, same cannot be said about the Middle East countries where Israel and Iran are contending to emerge as nuclear powers.
Indeed, nuclear power can prove a boon or a curse to us. It’s ultimately in our hands on how to use it.