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HomeVideoShould More Countries Have Nuclear Weapons? (feat. It's OK to be Smart!)

Should More Countries Have Nuclear Weapons? (feat. It’s OK to be Smart!)

What are the rules that govern who has nukes and who doesn’t?

TEACHERS: Get your students in the discussion on KQED Learn, a safe place for middle and high school students to investigate controversial topics and share their voices.

North Korea has been making headlines recently, mostly due to its nuclear weapons. In early January, the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, boasted of his ability to reach the U.S. with nuclear-armed missiles. Then in March — in an apparent 180 — he told South Korean officials that he would be willing to negotiate with the U.S. to completely denuclearize.

What are the rules that govern who has nukes and who doesn’t? And why do some countries maintain huge nuclear arsenals, while many other countries don’t have any nukes? Joe Hanson of It’s OK to Be Smart joins Myles to investigate.

ABOVE THE NOISE is a show that cuts through the hype and investigates the research behind controversial and trending topics in the news. Hosted by Myles Bess.


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When were nuclear weapons first developed?

In 1945, on a summer night in the desert of New Mexico, the USA tested the world’s first atomic bomb. It took some of the brightest scientists of the day — and over 22 billion dollars in today’s money — to make it happen.

How do nuclear weapons work?

Nuclear weapons create massive explosions by altering atoms. These nuclear reactions, as they’re called, come in two forms. With fission, 1 atom is split into 2 new atoms. The two bombs the US dropped on Japan in WWII were fission bombs — they killed more than 200,000 people. Fusion, on the other hand, combines 2 atoms into 1. These hydrogen or thermonuclear bombs have the potential to be a THOUSAND TIMES more powerful than fission bombs.

Are there any rules governing which countries can have nuclear weapons and which can’t?

In 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was introduced for countries to sign. By doing so, countries with nuclear weapons agreed to take steps to get rid of them. Countries without nukes agreed not to pursue developing or maintaining nukes of their own. Every country has signed the treaty, with a few notable exceptions — India, Pakistan, and Israel. North Korea did sign, but withdrew in 2003. All four of them went on to develop their own nuclear weapons.

What is nuclear deterrence?

Nuclear deterrence is the theory that what makes nuclear weapons so useful is not using them in war. Instead,, nuclear weapons are intended to deter other states from attacking with their nuclear weapons, through the promise of retaliation.

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

The Calculus of Nuclear Deterrence

The Myth of Nuclear Deterrence

Fission VS. Fusion

Timeline of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

Nuclear Weapon Cheat Sheet

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About KQED
KQED, an NPR and PBS affiliate in San Francisco, CA, serves Northern California and beyond with a public-supported alternative to commercial TV, Radio, and web media. Funding for Above the Noise is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Silver Giving Foundation, Stuart Foundation, and William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.