Nuclear weapons

Countries known to have nuclear weapons and their estimated numbersCountries known to have nuclear weapons and their estimated numbersFEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS, 2012

In 1945 the first nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. This one small bomb killed about 150,000 people within the first four months. The immediate impact was 60,000 deaths - the rest were a result of radiation sickness.

A second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki nine days later and Japan surrendered, ending World War Two.

Since then, no power has used an atomic bomb in war, though many tests have been carried out on them. The smallest nuclear bomb now produced is about 20 times more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima.

Arguments for nuclear weapons

  • The possession of them has kept the major world powers from going to war since 1955, out of fear of what might happen (known as 'mutually assured destruction' or MAD).
  • The knowledge of them cannot be removed. It is preferable for the major powers to have these bombs for deterrence than for an unstable dictator to use them in war.

Arguments against nuclear weapons

  • Their destructive power is immense and long lasting. Even countries that have nothing to do with the war will be badly affected. Some people estimate that a small nuclear war could wipe out human life on Earth.
  • They are very costly to develop and maintain. The money could be spent on raising everybody’s quality of life.
  • There is no effective protection against them, nor can people control who has access to them.