On August 6, 1945, Hiroshima was devastated by a most cruel and terrible new bomb, as described by Emperor Hirohito, one of the Axis leaders during World War II. Since then, nuclear weapons have become a major threat to humanity as more and more missiles, bombs, and other weapons are created by different countries. Today, many nations, including the United States and Russia, are working together to disarm their stockpile of nuclear weapons.
Germany first started developing a fission bomb in 1939. Albert Einstein, along with other scientists, realized this and wrote to President Roosevelt regarding the threat to the Allies. Shortly after, the United States began serious efforts to produce an atomic bomb, later known as the ?Manhattan Project’.
When the Manhattan Project first started, its first objective was to provide a source of Uranium 235, a highly fissionable material. Unfortunately, this compound was very rare, with only one atom of U-235 to every five hundred of Uranium 238, which was virtually worthless in creating nuclear weapons at the time. Since the the two isotopes were almost exactly the same, a chemical method of extraction could not be used. A large plant was built in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, that had the sole purpose of separating the different forms of uranium. Using a process of magnetic separation devised by H. C. Urey, Ernest Lawrence successfully solved this major problem.
Six years, and two billion dollars, were spent by some of the greatest minds in the world to create the first weapon of mass destruction. Led by J. Robert Oppenheimer, the team of scientists detonated the new bomb on July 16, 1945. Although successful, the general reaction was far from ecstatic. Many people on the project signed a petition to never use such a device. I am become death, said one person, the destroyer of worlds.
Shortly after Hiroshima was attacked, Nagasaki fell victim to this terrible weapon. Emperor Hirohita, fearing continued destruction, surrendered immediately. World War II was finally over, but the ?Atomic Age’ had just begun.
In August, 1949, the Soviet Union detonated its first nuclear bomb. As a result, the US and the USSR began a race to compile an arsenal of the most powerful weapons as possible. This led to the development of the hydrogen bomb, a much more devastating version of the atom bomb.
An H-bomb uses both nuclear fission and fusion to create a huge explosion. First, an uncontrolled fission reaction takes place, which creates extreme temperature and pressure. This massive force activates a fusion reaction, creating a very destructive blast at least five times the power of an atomic bomb.
After years of weapons research and construction, US president Ronald Reagan announces plans for the Strategic Defense Initiative, a satellite based system which would, theoretically, destroy all missiles in space before they reached America. When the Soviet Union heard this, they began a mad race to catch up. However, the country went broke trying to catch up to a project that didn’t exist, exhausting their resources immensely, and eventually causing a chain reaction that ended communism in most European countries.
In 1986 Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and United States President Ronald Reagan began the long process of disarmament, intending to greatly lessen the threat of nuclear holocaust. Many treaties have been signed to eliminate several classes of weapons, including intermediate-range, short-range, and long-range missiles. To this day, countries around the world are disarming and decontaminating missiles, and continuing the effort to conserve peace, although the path ahead is long, and certainly fraught with complications. Third-world countries are just now gaining access to nuclear technology, and some of these nations are constantly at war, home to terrorist factions, and other things that could be disastrous if nuclear technology was implemented by them.