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Nuclear disarmament

Nuclear disarmament is the proposed undeployment and dismantling of nuclear weapons particularly those the US and USSR targeted on each other.

Proponents of nuclear disamament said that it would lessen the probability of nuclear war occurring. Critics of nuclear disarmament said that it would undermine the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction.


Arms control advocates had campaigned for the adoption of a treaty banning all nuclear explosions since the early 1950s, when public concern was aroused as a result of radioactive fallout from atmospheric nuclear tests and the escalating arms race. Over 50 nuclear explosions were registered between July 16, 1945, when the first nuclear explosive test was conducted by the United States at Alamogordo, New Mexico, and December 31, 1953. Prime Minister Nehru of India voiced the heightened international concern in 1954, when he proposed the elimination of all nuclear test explosions worldwide. However, within the context of the cold war, scepticism in the capability to verify compliance with a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty posed a major obstacle to any agreement.

Partial Test Ban Treaty, 1963

Limited success was achieved with the signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963, which banned nuclear tests in the atmosphere, underwater and in space. However, neither France nor China, both nuclear weapon States, signed the PTBT.

Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, 1968

A major step towards the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons came with the signing of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968. Under the NPT, non-nuclear weapon States were prohibited from, inter alia, possessing, manufacturing or acquiring nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. All signatories were committed to the goal of nuclear disarmament.

Negotiations for the CTBT

Given the political situation prevailing in the subsequent decades, little progress was made in nuclear disarmament until 1991. Parties to the PTBT held an amendment conference that year to discuss a proposal to convert the Treaty into an instrument banning all nuclear-weapon tests; with strong support from the United Nations General Assembly, negotiations for a comprehensive test-ban treaty began in 1993.

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, 1996

Intensive efforts were made over the next three years to draft the Treaty text and its two annexes, culminating in the adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) on September 10 1996 by the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

See also: nuclear warfare, nuclear weapon, nuclear proliferation, Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, United Nations, Disarmament of Iraq

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