Why Do We Need Nuclear Tests?

Fifty years after bombing of Hiroshima, the “nuclear option” is alive and well in the Oval Office. President Clinton set the tone in July 1993, by threatening North Korea with atomic attack. In 1995, Clinton refused to apologize for America’s use of nuclear weapons against civilian population in Japan and proceeded to approve a Nuclear policy Review that calls for expansion of the nation’s nuclear arsenal. At the same time, France and China announced their plan for large scale nuclear tests. Lots of people in different nations criticized these two countries for their actions. Contrast to what they said, I believe those nuclear tests were necessary and such tests in the future can also be justified.

Basically, there are three main reasons for conducting nuclear tests.

One is to develop new nuclear arsenal or improve an existing nuclear weapon. The French and Chinese nuclear tests come under this category. However, in more definite terms, the Chinese nuclear tests are being conducted in order to develop a new nuclear weapons system, while the French nuclear test are being conducted in order to improve on the nuclear warhead portion of the already-developed SLBM (Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile) and Air-to-Surface missiles. France expected to have to conduct some 20 tests by 1996. However, they finally cut it to eight times under the pressure from other nations.

Another reason for conducting nuclear tests is to select some of the many nuclear weapons which have already been developed and deployed, and test them to see whether the dependability and safety upon designing and production is still being maintained. A nuclear power needs to occasionally do small scale tests to verify theoretical results. No one can be sure absolutely that a specific configuration will work unless it is tested. Many of the nuclear tests conducted by American and Russia come under this category. As the British nuclear arms are leased from America, they have access to American nuclear test data, meaning that they do not need to conduct much nuclear testing of their own, but the nature of their nuclear tests would be of the same as America and Russia.

The third reason, probably the most important one of all, is deterrence. The only time nuclear weapons were used was during World War II against Japan. It effectively ended the war without future casualties for the Allies. Had America not used the nuclear weapons, the fight would be devastating for American soldiers because Japanese soldiers and civilians would fight until the last person to defend their country and their Emperor. Even after the second atomic bomb in Nagasaki, it took Japanese one week to finally surrender. Then why anyone would want to have nuclear weapons, especially after seeing what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Very obviously, it was nuclear deterrence which had prevented a major war from taking place in Europe between East and West for more than forty years. Nuclear tests today are much more powerful than the ones in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If the one country has nuclear weapons that work, others are not likely to attack them. Nuclear weapons actually serve purposes beyond that of weapons of mass destruction. They can also provide a nation with an instant voice in world, or at least regional affairs. Automatic power and recognition come with the ownership of nuclear arms, and that fact has not been lost on the world’s developing powers.

These are the primary reasons that nations should continue to pursue the development of nuclear weapons and to conduct nuclear tests today. Nuclear proliferation is also cyclical, once one nation develops nuclear weapons, its neighbors and enemies will also develop them to achieve a balance. That can easily be seen in the Cold War. Nuclear proliferation will not end anytime soon, and we must do our best to live with that fact, to continue nuclear tests.

Now the American and the Russians are disarming their nuclear warheads as they should (they had accumulated several thousand warheads which could destroy the Earth several hundred times). However, retaining some nuclear weapons is an insurance on the future though no one would want to use them first. The fact is that we do NOT know yet what the world will be like thirty years from now. Every nation has the right to develop and refine their nuclear weapons through nuclear tests to ensure the balance and peace of the future world.

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