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A Little Perspective from History:

The A-bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki effectively ended World War 2 in 1945. But what to do with this newfound capacity for Mutually Assured Destruction (aptly acronymed MAD) associated with nuclear weapons? Thus began the Cold War, officially running from 1947 till the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1990-1. Chernobyl, in fact, was instrumental in bringing about reforms and ‘glasnost’ (openness) including freedom of speech that helped trigger revolutions in the Eastern Block that led ultimately to greater democratization and the end of the Soviet Union. During the Cold War a “sustained state of political and military tension”  existed amongst the superpowers, because of the threat of MAD, but it was always very close to the surface. The closest the world came to nuclear war was during the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) and the fact that it didn’t was ‘nothing short of miraculous’.
The Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1970 was designed to curtail the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology . In his well-known book, Failed State, Noam Chomsky begins by quoting a 1955 appeal by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein who “asked the world to ‘set aside’ … strong feelings …[and] consider themselves ‘only as members of a biological species…whose disappearance none of us can desire’… that the choice facing the world is ‘stark, dreadful and inescapable: shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?’”

Jump to 2005, by which time, according to US President Jimmy Carter “…the United States…[had become] the major culprit in the erosion of the Non Proliferation Treaty. While claiming to be protecting the world from proliferation threats in Iraq, Libya, Iran & North Korea, American leaders…ha[d]…abandoned existing treaty restraints …[and]…plan[ned] to test and develop new weapons…[they] abandoned pledges and now threaten FIRST USE of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states.” (Quoted in Failed State, p78)

Chomsky does not mince his words in correlating the increase in available fissile material with the threat of nuclear terrorism. Worse, fighting terrorism is not high on the US’s agenda (you have to read the book to get his compelling evidence of that). The US and British governments’ ‘doctrine of anticipatory self-defense’ (declaring war just in case someone goes to war with us e.g. Iraq) has had the effect of fuelling global terrorism. Chomsky gives many examples, but here’s one. “After 9/11, the dominant response to Al Qaeda in the Muslim world was very hostile, specifically amongst jihadis, who regarded it [Al Qaeda] as a dangerous extremist fringe…. the Bush administration did exactly what bin Laden hoped it would do: resort to violence.” The invasion of Iraq essentially united the Muslim world, such that “85% of Saudi militants who went to Iraq were not on any [US] government watch list, Al Qaeda members or terrorist sympathizers but were radicalized by the Coalition invasion” (p20-22).
Instead of having double standards, as one might accuse, the United States has a “single standard…so deeply entrenched that it is beyond awareness… terror against us [USA] and our clients is the ultimate evil, while our terror against  them [Iraq etc] does not exist-or if it does, is entirely appropriate” (p5).

Clearly things are complex, debates are heated and we don’t know everything. Governments, who have the power, cannot be trusted to make decisions leading to the best outcomes. This is not news. In 1776, Adam Smith called it “the vile maxim of the masters of mankind: All for ourselves, and nothing for other people .”

But as history progresses, the stakes get higher. It’s no longer a village that gets wiped out in a war (bad enough as that is). Humanity’s future is at stake. Are we suddenly going to become universally peaceful? And if not, WHY normalize and promote the most dangerous killing tool ever?
If the risk of proliferation is there, and perhaps higher than we are prepared to recognise, can we afford to be passive in the face of anything that increases that risk?

Why are Hiroshima & Nagasaki relatively safe to live in. Surely they should be no-go areas as well?

a) The bombs that went off over Hiroshima and Nagasaki were air-bursts, so the neutron flux from the explosion created what is called induced radioactivity -- neutrons captured by the elements in the soil change their isotopes from stable to radioactive ones. Fortunately, induced radioactivity generally has a very short half-life (typically a matter of days), so the radioactivity decayed rapidly back to background levels. The long half-life isotopes were in the bomb itself, and those dissipated in the cloud material which drifted out to sea. And the bombs were dropped 65 years ago (See here) (However, bigger picture, the particles will continue to circulate around the world, and have been added to substantially by bomb tests, accidents involving death or damage in the world’s 435 reactors (99 so far), other radiation leaks & accidents (29), nuclear reactor attacks (8), and of course Annual Authorized Discharge Quantities (AADQ).

b) At Chernobyl, 400 times the amount of radioactive material of the Hiroshima bomb was released -- one figure indicated seven TONS (=200kg uranium) of radioactive material! The fire caused a plume of smoke containing volatilized long-lived radioactive isotopes, which settled to the ground along the trail of the smoke plume. So the ground in the area was contaminated with isotopes of plutonium-239 (the fuel), iodine-131, and strontium-90. Plutonium-239 has a half-life of more than 24,000 years, iodine-131 has a half-life of 8 days, and strontium-90 has a half-life of 29 years.

A few more links you might like to pursue:
Helen Caldicott’s story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJU3zcCNq-I&feature=related
Dangers of Nuclear energy: http://70.29.344a.static.theplanet.com/vidoemo/video.php?id=h6ecaIC0DEU
Anti-nuclear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAkfqFUnBZY
Pro-nuclear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgeR9v2TaBU&feature=relmfu
Pro nuclear: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/may/03/nuclear-power-solution-climate-change
Iran not the threat: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/258104.html
We can’t trust the superpowers: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/258067.html
America’s fundamentalism (in govt) : http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=1027900n