Technology, United States, World

An Unimaginable Threat of a Possible Nuclear War

Nagasaki atomic bombing in 1945

August 6, 1945; 21 year-old Sunao Tsuboi was walking to his classes when the 9,700 pound atomic bomb dropped; he was burned head to toe (Rich). Certain that he wouldn’t survive, Tsuboi etched onto a rock: “Here is where Sunao Tsuboi found his end”(Rich). Shigemitsu Tanaka was only 5 years old when the bomb dropped. Tanaka clearly remembers the horrific stench of burning flesh. Now the director of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survival Council, Tanaka is fighting towards the abolishment of of nuclear weapons (Rich, Tanaka). That day, around 80,000 adults and families were killed instantly; 192,020 in total died in the Hiroshima bombing (Hall). This horrific event made the United States the first and the only nation to use an atomic weapon during the war. Many historians “argue that it ignited the Cold War” ( Staff). The threat of an imminent nuclear war struck terror and anxiety to many as they all remembered the destruction of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in Japan. With Russia having around 7,500 nuclear warheads and North Korea testing out ballistic missiles, the threat of nuclear power imposes a grave danger upon the world. If used in the wrong way, it could cause massive destruction to many countries and many families.  So, how does the paradigm of the Cold War still affect our lives today? Could another Cold War take place because of the imminent and withstanding threat of nuclear weapons?

circa 1945: An atomic bomb of the ‘Little Boy’ type, which was detonated over Hiroshima Japan. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)

Consequently, nuclear weapons and the power it imposes has been a part of our world for quite some time now. Nuclear energy has been a part of our lives since nuclear fission first was introduced in the late 1800s, and has made a major impact on many lives all of the world. After World War 2, the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission helped to “explore peaceful opportunities for the same nuclear materials U.S used in Japan” (Energy). Today there are “104 nuclear reactors harnessing that same power of nuclear fission to meet the needs of our country” (Energy). In 1957, President Eisenhower began his Atoms for Peace program, paving the road for the use of nuclear electricity (Energy). Due to the strong opposition to the deadly nuclear weapons at the time, the nuclear market drastically dropped. Ever since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the constant threat of using nuclear weapons, leading to an unimaginable nuclear war, has become prominent. During World War 2, the United States dropped a devastating atomic bomb on the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In those bombings alone, around 220,000 civilians died, some almost instantly, and others because of nuclear poisoning. This atomic bomb, made from uranium, had an “explosive yield equal to 15,000 tonnes of TNT… and caused an estimated 140,000 deaths by the end of 1945 along with increased rates of cancer and chronic disease… a slightly larger plutonium bomb exploded over Nagasaki three days later… [levelling] 6.7 kilometers squared” (Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombings). Are countries really willing to bring back the massive amounts of deaths and the horrific destruction caused from these nuclear weapons? Are all of those deaths really worth it?  

Boy pointing fake gun at American Soldier

In the past weeks, North Korea, led by dictator Kim Jong Un, has threatened the United States of an imminent nuclear attack on U.S. soil. Shaped by the Soviet government during the Cold War and following its core principles, the North Korean government follows the communist ideologies under the tyranny of Kim Jong Un. During World War 2, the United States and the Soviet Union acted as joint team against the Allies; however, after World War 2, the American people feared for Joseph Stalin’s despotic tyranny towards his goal to control the world. This heightened fear fueled the “containment” strategy as the best defense against the Soviet Union(Cold War). The “containment” strategy also led to the arms buildup in the United States. For years, both the United States and the other countries have tried “to negotiate an end to North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and its export of ballistic missile technology”(Davenport). In 1994, North Korea opted out on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which led the push for the creation of their many plutonium and ballistic missiles. Even under agreements and treaties like the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the United States found evidence of uranium hexafluoride received by Libya but suspected to be from North Korea; U.S. technical teams found small amounts of uranium on aluminum tubes that North Korea shared with the United States (Davenport). Right after the start of the Cold War, marked the beginning of the Korean War; North Korea looked to remove and liberate “the South from the clutches of the U.S.”, and in doing so to remove America’s intervention in Korea altogether (Buthcoe). The country’s dictatorship began with  Kim ll-

North Korean Missile Ranges

SUng, who strictly followed a despotic and totalitarian regime. The Soviet Union, in turn, played the role as the “puppeteer”, having complete power and brutally controlling North Korea. In 1968, North Korea’s capture of an U.S. recon vessel portrayed as an opportunity to a war with America; this single event would later be the key cause to the many future conflicts between America and North Korea in the future (Buthcoe). Even with the end of the Cold War and the tyrannic Soviet Union, Sung saw the US acting as “puppeteers” with South Korea and being in the way of North Korea’s peace overtures (Buthcoe). On the other hand, well before the Cold War, America had already showed its strong dislike to the communist ideologies, as it acted as a clear threat to the strong and withstanding democratic ideals in America. President Harry S. Truman followed this dislike with a well-known document: the Truman Doctrine, a policy to stop the expansion of the Soviet Union. All in all, North Korea’s hatred to the United States still remains today, greatly influenced by the communist ideologies laid by the Soviet Union and the events between these two nations during the Cold War.

North Korean Military Parade

Consequently, North Korea’s threats of their nuclear weapon capacity shadow the beginnings of the next Cold War; is history repeating itself?  Ishaan Tharoor of the Washington Post sees it as “a nuclear North Korea… bringing back the Cold War paranoia”(Tharoor). On the 15th of January this year, an emergency alert of a missile attack rang the phones of the 1.5 million people living in the state of Hawaii. Gladly, the alert was a false alarm caused by human error; but, many felt like this alert paralleled the similar missile alerts from the Cold War. The American people are terrorized by the fact of an imminent nuclear war; secretary state of defense during the Clinton administration, William J Perry, declared: “we are at a greater risk of nuclear catastrophe than we were during the Cold War”(Perry).  North Korea has already warned “of a pre-emptive nuclear attack on the US in response to the… joint military exercises between South Korea and the US (How Potent…). Leader Kim Jong-Un has yet again, personally cautioned the US: “The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat.” Even with these ‘threats’, many experts are still questioning and researching North Korea’s true nuclear and military capabilities. In September of 2017, North Korea carried out their biggest nuclear test yet; this hydrogen bomb “put up at 100 kilotons… By comparison, the bomb dropped by the U.S. on Hiroshima had a yield of 16 kilotons (Ratner). North Korea has great cyberattack capabilities. In the past 2-3 years, experts and military analysts know that North Korea is “truly a country built for war” and would opt for a nuclear war instead of a conventional war against the United States of America (Ratner). With all this knowledge of the horrific statistics on deaths and long-term illnesses from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, is another nuclear war worth it? Students, parents, teachers, societies all together, should come together to not allow for this to take place. As a country, we should stand together to allow for the passing of more Nuclear Proliferation Acts and reduce the number of nuclear warheads a country has. You can contact your state representative or governor to find out more information about what’s happening right now between North Korea and America and help to put an end to a possible recurring Cold War.

Article by Shaina Shah

Video by Megan Nowag

Works Cited

“Atomic Bomb Dropped on Hiroshima.”, A+E Networks, 2009, Accessed 2 Feb. 2018.

Butchcoe, Houston. “North Korea Before, During and After The Cold War: Relations With The U.S.” Washington State University, 19 Jan. 2015, Accessed 26 Jan. 2018.

Energy, Duke. “A Brief History of Nuclear Power in the U.S.” Duke Energy, 31 July 2012, Accessed 26 Jan. 2018.

Hall, Michelle. “By the Numbers: World War II’s Atomic Bombs.” Cable News Network, Turner Broadcasting System, 6 Aug. 2013, Accessed 26 Jan. 2018.

“Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombings.” The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Accessed 2 Feb. 2018.

“How potent are North Korea’s threats?” BBC News, 15 Sept. 2015, Accessed 26 Jan. 2018.

Hyon, Kim Kwang. Boy pointing toy gun at USA Soldier. 23 6 2012. Washington State University,

The nuclear bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, 9th August 1945 during world war two. Independent, Accessed 2 Feb. 2018.

Ratner, Paul. “Here’s What Experts Think Are the True Capabilities of the North Korean Military.” BigThink, Big Think Edge, 1 Jan. 2018, Accessed 26 Jan. 2018.

Rich, Motoko. “Survivors Recount Horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” The New York Times, New York Times Company, 27 May 2016, Accessed 26 Jan. 2018.

Tharoor, Ishaan. “A Nuclear North Korea is Bringing back Cold War Paranoia.” The Washington Post, Accessed 26 Jan. 2018.

One Comment

  1. I agree that many security concerns could be resolved with more Nuclear Proliferation Acts, however, this would require a tremendous amount of cooperation between nations around the globe. Such pacts would be useless without everyone participating. If one country retains its nuclear capabilities, others are inclined to maintain their nuclear weapons as well for the good of their own country. Nuclear Proliferation Acts and others like them require those who recognize it to follow through as well. A country may agree, but later renounce its recognition, similarly to how Germany turned against Russia during World War II. All in all, denuclearizing the world could result in peace, but can only exist in an ideal society, one that we currently do not reside.