Living Dangerously

‘No’ to Nukes

Bharat Dogra

One extremely unfortunate aspect of the recent escalation of hostilities between India and Pakistan has been that at times threats regarding use of nuclear weapons have been exchanged in a very irresponsible way. Such threats should be avoided even in hostile conditions as the implications of use of nuclear weapons are simply too disastrous to be contemplated.

The ghastly tragedy resulting from the use of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is well known. The existing nuclear weapons have a capacity to cause destruction which is a multiples of over 10000 of what was caused in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Hiroshima, August 6, 1945 : Father Kleinsorge, a German missionary, heard pathetic voices of people asking for water. When he managed to reach the place from where the voice had come, he saw nearly 20 persons, all of them in similar condition—their faces were wholly burned, their eye sockets were hollow, the fluid from their melted eyes had run down their checks.

It is images such as these from Hiroshima and Nagasaki which lead several people to conclude that the luckiest people in a place hit by an atomic bomb are those who die instantly.

Temperature at the hypocentre of the explosion reaching the double of what it takes to melt iron, the face of a schoolgirl sitting almost a kilometer away from this hypocentre being burnt beyond recognition, skin sloughing off scalded bodies, badly injured starving people unable to swallow anything because of the stench of dead bodies—this was the devastation caused by a 12.5 Kiloton bomb in Hiroshima which killed and wounded as many people as a mass raid of 279 aircrafts, laden to capacity with bombs, striking at a city ten times as populous.

Nearly one hundred thousand people were killed within a few minutes in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after being hit by nuclear weapons in 1945, but if one counts the longer-term deaths, those caused by internal bleeding, leukaemia, various other forms of cancer, then the death toll is likely to be as high as 3,50,000. In addition the next generation continued to pay for this cruelty in the form of children born with mental retardation, physical deformities and other serious health problems.

So cruel was the devastation that all concerned people must necessarily ask—nobody certainly does want Hiroshima to happen to his friends, but do people want it to happen even to their worst enemies?

Despite this, the incredibly cruel fact remains that humankind now possesses nuclear weapons which are many times more powerful than the ones used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and efforts are constantly on to increase the destructiveness of these weapons. There are over 15000 such nuclear weapons in the world.

Not only nations but even terrorist groups have acquired an awesome capacity to kill more people than entire wars fought in earlier generations. According to Time magazine, terrorist outfits, particularly when they have the help of a foreign government, can use nuclear weapons to kill around a hundred thousand people.

Even without the wartime use of nuclear weapons, merely maintaining a huge nuclear complex either for direct military purposes or for supporting it can pose a threat to the health and well being of hundreds of thousands of people.

The efforts to reduce the risk from nuclear weapons have not made any significant progress. In fact depleted uranium weapons are being freely used, and the chances of use of tactical nuclear weapons have increased. There is no guarantee yet that full-blown nuclear weapons will never be used.

As for the actual wartime potential of nuclear weapons, it is clear that a monstrous force which is several hundred times more destructive than what was seen in Hiroshima can be unleashed in a future nuclear war. The destructive potential of nuclear weapons is already adequate to destroy almost all life on earth, by its immediate effect and longer-term impacts of environmental ruin, cancers, genetic damage, starvation and worse. So no matter where these are being produced—in which country and for what purpose—there should always be only one answer to nuclear weapons—No, no, no.

While the final aim is closely to free the planet earth entirely from the threat of nuclear weapons, more immediate efforts are also needed to ensure that whenever hostilities increase among any nuclear weapon powers, at least the use of nuclear weapons should never be considered. In addition urgent efforts are needed to prevent terrorists from gaining access to any nuclear weapons. Eliminating all possibilities of use of nuclear weapons should get top priority in the near future.

Vol. 49, No.25, Dec 25 - 31, 2016