What were the initial steps towards developing nuclear weapons? It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact time period when nuclear weapons began, but scientists were working on them for a long time. Scientists, primarily in Europe, were trying to develop nuclear fission to harness the power of atoms. The first nation to try weaponizing this form of energy was Nazi Germany, which forced scientists and political dissidents into exile. Many of these scientists were German Jews.
As soon as the United States and Soviet Union entered the Vietnam War, the development of rapid-reaction technology began to change the strategy for nuclear policy. Mutually assured destruction was a crucial aspect of the security strategy, since it meant that no country could make an initial strike without threatening the other with a counter-strike. In this way, the benefits of nuclear weapons decreased significantly. Although the concept of nuclear war is still prevalent today, it is a long way from its inception.
In the 1950s, the Soviet Union produced the first thermonuclear device, which was called Joe-4 by the West. It was designed by physicist Andrei Sakharov but was not a hydrogen bomb. It was a deliverable weapon with explosive yields in the hundreds of kilotons. But the Soviet Union made it a propaganda weapon despite the technological differences. Its use in the Pacific war was an immoral act, as a result of which the Soviet Union did not have an opportunity to protect itself from the new weapons.
After WWII, the U.S. nuclear monopoly impacted the diplomatic agenda. Insuring the security of Western Europe, it prevented accommodation with the Soviet Union. The new weapon was a threat to the entire world, and the fate of the superpowers in the region depended on the outcome. There was no way to predict what might happen in the aftermath of such a conflict. This is where the issue of how to stop nuclear weapons began.
When did Nuclear Weapons start? Began? Historically, nuclear weapons were first developed for use in wartime. In the 1950s, France and Britain developed bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles for use in warfare. These weapons were unreliable but did have a limited range. They were developed to strike a nation’s capital, which made national protection from nuclear attacks impractical. They quickly surpassed the capabilities of bombers and other weapons.
After World War II, world superpowers continued their development of nuclear weapons. France, Great Britain, and China all developed nuclear weapons during this period. In October 1962, the world appeared on the brink of a nuclear war when the Soviet Union installed nuclear-armed missiles on Cuba. The United States and Soviet Union fought for 13 days before the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed thousands of civilians.
During the Cold War, tensions grew and the competition for new, more powerful bombs began to rise. New hydrogen-bomb designs and fission weapons were tested in the Pacific during the 1950s. In 1954, Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian prime minister, called for a stand-still agreement on nuclear testing. The Cold War was a long and turbulent time for the development of nuclear weapons.
In the 1960s, nuclear testing exploded, and nuclear tests soared. In a year marked by the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War threat, nuclear testing peaked at 178 tests. Then, the Soviet Union tested a nuclear device with a yield of 50 megatons of TNT. It was called the “Tsar Bomba.”
The first production began during World War II, with the United States and the Soviet Union producing large numbers of nuclear weapons. During this time, most of the money went towards the development of delivery vehicles. These weapons included ballistic missiles, strategic bombers, artillery shells, depth charges, and nuclear land mines. Although the Soviet Union eventually discontinued production of these weapons, the United States still managed to build a huge nuclear stockpile.
The first nuclear test explosion occurred in July 1945. The United States hoped to retain the monopoly on nuclear weapons, but the secrets quickly spread. The United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945, followed by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and France. China eventually joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty in the late 1960s. A treaty was finally signed in 1996 to ban the development of nuclear weapons.
After World War II, the Cold War became the main force for the development of nuclear weapons. The United States and the Soviet Union were pitted against each other and their satellite states. In 1966, American nuclear weapons inventories reached a peak, with more than 32,000 warheads of 30 types. However, after the Cold War, many strategic and tactical weapons were retired or dismantled in compliance with arms control negotiations.