United Nations: Nuclear Policy

Kevin Palma
March 15, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2016


Fig. 1: Atomic bomb explosion Castle Romeo, 25 Mar 54. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

On August 6th and 9th of 1945, the first and second atomic bombs would be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. These were the first and last demonstrations of the vast amount of power this type of weaponry possessed. The atomic bomb has the potential to leave a thriving metropolitan city in ruins. One bomb can kill millions, and devastate the natural environment with radiation for years to come (see Fig. 1). Following the end of World War II, a major concern among all nations was the containment of this nuclear power. In 1946, the United Nations established a commission to handle problems relating to nuclear energy.The goal of this commission was to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only, they also sought the elimination of atomic weapons and all other major weapons capable of mass destruction. [1] Treaties such as: Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Partial Test Ban Treaty, and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, have been enacted to control this powerful source.

Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

With the main goal of disarming the world of nuclear weapons, the United Nations began to draft a treaty to promote peace through the disarmament process. According to Gerald Johnson, disarment was the best solution to riding the world of nuclear weaponry. [2] In 1968, 190 parties agreed to sign the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty. The treaty's main intent is to prevent nuclear warfare by reducing arms. The danger of nuclear bombs has the potential to destroy the planet. The treaty then goes on to address that a country has an opportunity to research nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, as long as they follow the safeguards put in place by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Another goal the United Nations sought was to prevent nuclear testing. The Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water, was created in 1963. The purpose of this treaty was to prevent nuclear testing by the nations who possessed nuclear weaponry at the time. [3] In 1996, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty added an extensive process to ensure that all parties abided by the original treaty banning nuclear testing. This allows the all parties under the treaty to be subjected to minor non-intrusive inspections. [3] These inspections will be made by the conference, which is constructed with 1 representative from each signed party. These representatives set the regulations and procedure for inspections.


Nuclear weaponry is a very dangerous instrument of warfare. Although only two atomic bombs have been used to date, the world has a clear idea of the destructive potential these bombs have. In order to control these powerful weapons, the United Nations have created various treaties to contain these nuclear arms. The Non-Proliferation Treaty banned the use of nuclear weapons in all parties. The Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water prevented the signing parties from testing nuclear bombs in any portion of land. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was essentially an extension of the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests, by adding a conference of representatives to create policies and procedures to ensure that everyone abides by the treaty and there is no nuclear weapon testing. These treaties serve as guidelines to prevent the use of nuclear weaponry.

© Kevin Palma. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] G. P. Shultz et al., "A World Free of Nuclear Weapons," Wall Street Journal, 4 Jan 07.

[2] G. W. Johnson, "Nuclear Test Moratoria, Test Bans and the Non-Proliferation Treaty," in Space and Nuclear Weaponry in the 1009s, ed. by C. Schaerf, G. Longo and D. Carlton (Palgrave Macmillan, 1992), p. 150.

[3] W. Hoffmann, Wolfgang, R. Kebeasy, and P. Firbas, "Introduction to the Verification Regime of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty," Phys. Earth Planet. Int. 113, 5 (1999).