A Case against Virtual Nuclear Testing; September 1999; Scientific American Magazine; by Paine; 6 Page(s)
In August 1945 the world's first military use of atomic bombs swiftly killed 210,000 people in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the ensuing decades, humanity's concentration into megacities and the vastly increased power of thermonuclear weapons have elevated the lethality of a single act of atomic violence by roughly two orders of magnitude. Today one or two nuclear weapons detonated over Bombay or Tokyo could instantly annihilate some 15 million people.
With the end of the cold war, many nations came together to negotiate a treaty permanently banning nuclear explosions worldwide. By barring explosive tests, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty severely constrains the way nations have traditionally evaluated changes in bomb designs and confirmed the performance of weapons to be stockpiled for military use. A ban on test explosions cannot alone prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, but it does pose a significant barrier to the development of weapons that rely on fusion reactions, including lighter, more compact and more powerful missile-borne nuclear warhead designs, such as those China has allegedly acquired from the U.S. through espionage and intelligence-gathering.