Dangers Associated with Nuclear Weapon
One of the main dangers associated with the use and spread of nuclear weapons is its availability to terrorist groups. Terrorist attacks happen more and more frequently, but if these groups possess nuclear weapons, the consequences of such attacks will be much more severe compared to the biggest assaults during the previous years. Thus, the main concerns for states become not terrorist acts per se but those where actors can move from conventional to nuclear explosives (Doyle, 2013).
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No Effective Restraining Strategies
Whereas during the Cold War only two major nuclear powers were competing, the current situation is, from a particular perspective, much more dangerous, since approximately ten countries are currently in possession of nuclear powers (declared or undeclared). However, former and current deterrence strategies are not as effective as states and other interested actors would want them to be (Nuclear Tipping Point 2011). As Doyle (2013) points out, declassified documents from the Cold War-era indicate that nuclear catastrophe was avoided not by strategic actions but rather luck or a set of random events. The current form of deterrence, where the acquisition of nuclear warheads is explained as a tool for restraining other nuclear states from using the weapon, does not decrease the chance of an accidental or intentional launch. Furthermore, economic sanctions also do not help in deterrence, as they have not stopped North Korea from acquiring (as it states) nuclear weapons.
Materials Scattered Around the World
Materials for weapon creation are not stored in one place and one state; instead, these are scattered around the world and can be purchased or stolen by interested actors. It does not mean that it is easy to create a nuclear warhead, but the availability of materials significantly increases the chance of terrorist groups acquiring a nuclear warhead.
Destruction of Infrastructure, Social and Economic Structure
As pointed out in the video, the launch of nuclear weapons will lead to severe consequences: the destruction of houses, hospitals, roads, bridges, entire infrastructures of cities (Nuclear Tipping Point 2011). Social and economic structures of the impacted country will also be difficult to restore due to massive destruction; furthermore, nuclear fallout will also make the attacked city/country uninhabitable.
The launch of a nuclear weapon will not only destroy the infrastructure but also lead to severe casualties that will be greater than those during the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks. If some citizens do not die from the impact, they might develop radiation syndrome. The destruction of infrastructure will not allow saving and treating the majority of survivors.
Overcoming the Threats
Nuclear Tipping Point (2011) suggests the following steps as a means of overcoming the threats of nuclear weapons:
- Reduce the number of nuclear weapons.
- Secure all nuclear weapons globally to the highest standards.
- Discard Cold War practices to avoid accidental launch.
- Reduce nuclear forces in all countries.
- Eliminate short-range battlefield nuclear weapons.
- Halt the production of uranium and plutonium.
- Resolve regional conflicts.
Reducing the number of nuclear weapons and securing access to them will ensure that no accidental launch is possible. If all states agree to reduce the number of warheads in their possession, the strive of non-nuclear-weapon states to the acquisition of this type of weapons will also decrease (Baum, 2015). Decreased production of uranium and plutonium and improved security of those places where these resources are available (e.g., current or former nuclear power plants) can potentially address the danger of weapon acquisition by terrorist groups (Doyle, 2013). States’ ability to resolve regional conflicts can facilitate further nuclear weapon deterrence, especially in those non-nuclear states that planned to use it.
Despite the suggested actions that could potentially resolve the problem, it appears that the elimination of nuclear weapons will not be possible in the future. First, all of the states that possess nuclear weapons, including the USA, Russia, and China, have made slow progress toward the reduction of their nuclear arsenal (Ifft, 2017). Furthermore, despite the existing rules and procedures on nuclear deterrence, no nuclear weapon was yet dismantled under such rules (Ifft, 2017). While it is possible to increase the security of nuclear weapons and avoid accidental launch by using modern technology that will not rely on individuals only (i.e., with the help of drones, security systems, etc.), it will be less possible to reduce the number of nuclear weapons because they remain to be means of deterrence (Baum, 2015).
The nuclear deterrence doctrines, used by nuclear-weapon states, have been developed for several decades, and it is unreasonable to expect that they will readily disarm and disregard all the procedures used for deterrence. Additionally, no current regulations for global disarmament exist, and an agreement between states in possession of nuclear weapons might be developed for years if ever completed at all. At the same time, the lack of nuclear weapons (Ukraine’s disarmament in the 1990s) has directly or indirectly (along with other factors) led to the current crisis in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. Thus, future conflicts can also negatively influence the elimination of nuclear weapons and their dismantlement. Ifft (2017) suggests that a trusted international body (e.g., the UN) should be viewed as a central mediator of security and stability in this issue. The problem of available uranium and plutonium remains tied to local wars and terrorist groups’ actions; with no control over territories occupied by various terrorist groups, it is impossible to halt or even somehow control the use of these resources.
The UAE’s nuclear program, which is to be used for the country’s projected national energy consumption needs, is directly related to the problem of nuclear weapons and their spread. As Blanchard and Kerr (2010) point out, Congress expressed concerns with regard to export control. It indicated that some UAE-based entities were involved in “Iranian weapons procurement, nuclear, and ballistic missile program activities” (Blanchard & Kerr, 2010, p. 11). Therefore, the UAE can address the problem by strengthening its national export control system to ensure that no illicit proliferation activities are possible.
Due to possible suspicious transfers to Iran emphasized by the USA and Iranian nuclear program, the UAE adopted a stronger national export control law in 2007 (Blanchard & Kerr, 2010). Furthermore, the UAE is a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and its actions are monitored by IAEA safeguards. In order to ensure that the UAE’s nuclear program cannot fuel proliferation activities, it uses light-water reactors in its program, which are among the most proliferation-resistant reactors in the world. It should also be noted that the production of nuclear weapons never relied on commercial reactors (Blanchard & Kerr, 2010). Thus, the UAE can reduce the potential danger of proliferation by strengthening its export laws, regulating its nuclear program, and securing reactors used in it.
Baum, S. D. (2015). Winter-safe deterrence: The risk of nuclear winter and its challenge to deterrence. Contemporary Security Policy, 36(1), 123-148.
Blanchard, C., & Kerr, P. (2010). The United Arab Emirates nuclear program and proposed U.S. nuclear cooperation. Web.
Doyle, J. E. (2013). Why eliminate nuclear weapons? Survival, 55(1), 7-34.
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Ifft, E. (2017). A challenge to nuclear deterrence. Arms Control Today, 47(2), 6-8.
Nuclear Tipping Point 2011, online video, Nuclear Threat Initiative, Washington, Web.