Debate:Should the world be nuclear free?

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Driven by the recent UN assembly and current climate issues it is pertinent to consider the issue of nuclear technology, both weaponised and energy wise. Personally I think it is very premature and irresponsible to have a nuclear free world. Imagine if you will, a world where all nations have given up nuclear weapons and the ability to produce nuclear weapons. What happens then if we actually require such a fire power? An asteroid approaches or, silly but not unthinkable, a hostile alien species arrives. Is it the smart thing to do to give up our nuclear technology? Is there such public hysteria over nuclear technology that we may be missing an opportunity to advance our energy needs? Ace McWickedCurrently Lurking..... 12:06, 25 September 2009 (UTC)

Personally I think nuclear weapons have stopped wars that would have happened without them. Look at the sort of large scale wars we had in the beginning of the twentieth century compared to the second half. There was no US-USSR war, the Arab nations now maintain a respectful distance to Israel, the UK, France and Germany are BFFs, and Pakistan and India are actually talking to each other. Isn't the world overall more peaceful? - π 12:27, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
There would seem to be a difference between the peaceful and warlike uses of nuclear energy. I quite like the energy producing use but not the weapons. Using them for asteroid defense may not be the best way to keep asteroids away.--BobNot Jim 12:30, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
It is a bit hard the threaten an asteroid. - π 12:31, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
Granted you cant threaten an asteriod, but what if we have a 24 hour warning of a major asteriod impact but have no defense against it? Ace McWickedCurrently Lurking..... 12:34, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
If we ever have less than 24 hours warning of a killer asteroid strike, we're fucked anyway. You can't prepare even a desperate last ditch strike using ariane 5's with huge nukes in the nose in that time, not that that would do any good at all against any asteroid big enough to threaten us. In any case, we're almost certainly never going to get less than a decade's notice of that kind of thing, and Jupiter does a nifty job of hoovering up most of the big crud that comes our way. It's probably why we're here in the first place. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 12:46, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
Agreed, but nonetheless, is that a reason to ditch the technology? Can we be trusted to possess such firepower? My point being, what if it is needed? Ace McWickedCurrently Lurking..... 12:49, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
I can't think of a scenario that doesn't involve killing other people/sentient beings that requires us to have nukes on short notice. This may not be a good reason to disarm, but it certainly isn't any kind of reason to remain armed. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 12:58, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
Perhaps not "remain armed" but at least have the ability to rearm. Its a little naive and idealistic to think we wouldn't need too. Ace McWickedCurrently Lurking..... 13:02, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
Well, I'm not sure how you propose any society that is rich which doesn't have the ability to develop nuclear arms on short order. That genie is totally out of the bottle. As I understand it, any muppet can build a gun type device given enough enriched uranium. While building your butch thermonuclear arms might be a bit more complicated, nobody is proposing we try and forget all the physics that make that possible. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 13:12, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
(EC) There's a good argument to be made that the first and second world wars weren't separate conflicts at all, but one conflict. Kind of like the hundred years war, periods of violence with armed-to-the-teeth armistices between. I'm not convinced there has actually been any reduction in warfare attributable to nuclear arms. Would the cold war have been an actual armed conflict without nukes? Hard to say. None of the western European powers were really in much of a state to put up a fight against the Soviet Union. Would the USA really have been prepared to commit troops to conventional warfare for the sake of principle? I tend to think they would have simply come to an understanding with the Soviets, and carry on with business as usual. Are nuclear weapons really the reason Israel isn't beset by her neighbours? We've had a couple of instances now where their conventional weapons carried the day, and Israel is now conventionally stronger and her Arab neighbours weaker than they were back then. What's the stat? That the world knew something less than 3 months of peace last century or something? And this century isn't exactly off to a great start on the peace front either... --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 12:41, 25 September 2009 (UTC)

I think there are three issues that we have started up on simultaneously: Do we need civilian nuclear power. Are nuclear bombs good for keeping the peace? Are nuclear bombs good for something else? I think we should split them up.--BobNot Jim 12:48, 25 September 2009 (UTC)

Firstly I think civilian nuclear power is a great idea. For example I saw a magazine article where it is technically possible to create a small nuclear reactor that can sit at the bottom of a large apartment complex and power said complax for 10,000 years but never go meltdown because it is too small. Because of public hysteria over such projects it was never implemented. Ace McWickedCurrently Lurking..... 12:53, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
Secondly, as stated above, we would be premature to ditch our nuclear arsenal. Ace McWickedCurrently Lurking..... 12:55, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
I don't think you can argue we've had nuclear weapons and no major wars between superpowers for the last sixty years, therefore nuclear weapons kept us from fighting those wars. Correlation is not causation, after all. There are lots of possible reasons why World War III--direct shooting between the USSR and the USA--didn't break out. And like someone said, it's not like we've spent the years since 1945 holding hands and singing Kumbaya. War has, if anything, gotten way more nasty, with civilians becoming a greater and greater majority of war casualties since 1945. Besides that, what's the difference between the idea that nukes keep the peace and the idea that an armed citizenry keeps the peace? No nukes (weapons, that is..) no guns, for me...RaoulDuke 13:03, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
I think your magazine article contained some element of journalistic fantasy, there's no way you could build a reactor to last 10,000 years. That's crazy talk. The reactor would have to be decommissioned after 50 years at most, and you'd probably have to shut down the apartment block after that and seal the area over with concrete. Plus, it's hardly hysteria to fear having a nuclear reactor under your feet, even if it's a pebble bed type design which almost certainly can't go critical. A coolant/exchange medium leak after a few years of operation can still kill you. Hell, when I was a kid I went to visit a nuclear power station, and we got to look over the reactor floor (very pretty!) and on the way out the radiation scanner emitted a very unpromising bleep for me, which I guess means I picked up a fair dose of radiation just from a quick tour of a normally operating facility. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 13:08, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
Indeed a pebble bed design but I didnt make myself clear (I realised this after I typed). The point being that we could make one that small and install such things under an apartment block, for example, but due to public hysteria over nuclear energy such things will never be investigated or explored because "nuclear" conjures hideous images of meltdowns. Ace McWickedCurrently Lurking..... 13:20, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
JeevesMkII, on "going critical", please read Criticality. Furthermore: 1. A former reactor site does not have to be poured over with concrete, see [1]; 2. The first nuclear power station was started up only 57 years go, so no reactor can be older than 60 years. The initial estimate of 40 years lifetime was far too low - NRC is already thinking about extending licenses to 80 years after case-specific review, see [2]; 3. There are many things that can trip up a scanner, such as a watch with radium-painted hands. --Tweenk (talk) 22:15, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
I wouldn't let that worry you, Geiger counters tend to click at random intervals when they have picked up enough radiation to register the next count. - π 13:18, 25 September 2009 (UTC)

'I tend to think they would have simply come to an understanding with the Soviets, and carry on with business as usual.' @Jeeves - I think this would have been impossible. The US. simply couldn't have afforded to sacrifice western Europe to the Soviets. 'Capitalism in one country' couldn't work, and Latin America (An American sphere of influence) would have been too poor to have any meaningful trade relationship with. America needed French wine and cheese and British beer. (Excuse the exceedingly poor stereotyped trade metaphors) There was an economic as well as a national need to protect western Europe. Lunacy 15:10, 25 September 2009 (UTC)

You're asking the wrong question[edit]

Asking whether the world should be nuclear free is a little like asking if the world should be murder free. The obvious answer to both is yes. I could never understand the CND's reasoning when it came to its arguments for total nuclear disarmament. In the real world, International accord is held together by alignment. The western powers rely on the United States and their nuclear arsenals (Britain and France as well) and in the old Cold War system the eastern powers were aligned under Russia. Although things are much different now, the prospect of a Nuclear Iran is frightening to say the least. Pakistan has the Nuke and its probably the main reason why they get away with so much crap from the west.

This will sound extremely controversial, but realistically its not: Nuclear weapons save lives. No two major powers with Nukes have ever went to war with one another. The reason is mutually assured destruction. WWIII was prevented due to rational self preservation from both the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It was replaced by espionage, proxy wars, big words and mutual distrust. But no nukes.

The real question is what would be achieved if Nukes disappeared. How would the power vacuum be replaced? The only thing preventing a third world war would be the size of conventional armies: And that has never stopped anyone before (Hitlers Germany had an army similar in size to Poland, France had an army much superior to the Nazi's)

Nukes are a part of this horrible world, flawed as they clearly are, but the alternatives are worse. Lunacy 15:05, 25 September 2009 (UTC)

Until someone uses the bloody things. RaoulDuke 15:28, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
No, the thing stopping a third world war is that territorial expansion is hugely costly, and in the modern era totally valueless. We no longer live in an era where the majority of wealth comes from trade in physical goods. The wealth of first world nations is built on the backs of the trade of non-physical commodities. Ideas and financial instruments. There is no point in going to war to capture such and such an oil field, or such and such a uranium mine. You can do it from the comfort of your own home with financial machinations. The age of empires is well and truly over, and unless we get in to a serious mess over energy concerns in the future then it isn't coming back. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 15:41, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
Who said a third world war would be about territorial expansion? Its about hedgemony and to a lesser extent ideals. Soviet Russia didn't have these financial institutions you are talking about but if the opportunity came in the 80s for them to kick the western world in the arse and install Russian military bases all over the place then they would have done it, nukes or not. Its about control. You're deluding yourself if you think the Age of Empires has gone: China is investing heavily in Sub-Saharan Africa and claiming all manner of natural resources for themselves. America invaded Iraq so as to guarantee her long term oil supply by installing a pro western Iraqi government. Its much more than energy. Its about securing the home nations future wealth, prosperity and power.
There is also the danger of militarisation. Military build ups in themselves cause wars - thats effectively why WWI happened (German expansionism and western reactions to that) The difference nowadays is that the United States is far away much more superior technologically to any other army. China might have more men but it would struggle in a fight with the US air force and navy, which makes land forces sitting ducks. If China seriously went about building up its navy and air force then you'd see a similar buildup in arms from adjacent nations and the United States. This is a timebomb. Wars rarely have rational causes. They stem from primal insticts and fed by fear and ignorance. Lunacy 18:20, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
You're also overestimating the value of ideas and institutions. If anything, the last couple of years has displayed the elusive weaknesses and fragility of western capitalism. The western financial system simply couldn't have survived without huge and substantial socialist intervention. Some countries seem to have copped on that the world has changed; America will soon too. Lunacy 18:25, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
Jeeves has this one right. What's the point of spending the money going to war to capture an oil field, when you ship the oil over here for a nickel? Z3rotalk 15:47, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
MC, I'm not convinced you know what you're talking about. As far as I'm concerned, all the important "battles" of the cold war were economic, and the Soviets ended up winning quite a few of them. Far from having a primitive understanding of financial manipulation, they were masters at it. Sugar was perhaps the most important battleground of the cold war. It was the manipulation of the price of sugar that ended up toppling the western aligned government in Pakistan. It was also all important in propping up soviet aligned Cuba. Incidentally, isn't it funny that most of the developing world countries we think of as "bad" these days were on our side during the cold war? Sometimes, I wonder if the cure was worse than the disease.
Also, just because certain financial institutions have made extremely bad decisions of late doesn't undermine their importance to the economy. Half the USA's GDP depends on what might loosely be termed the "new economy", and only a quarter on industry and agriculture (the rest obviously being the service economy and government.) This is pretty much the same in every first world country now. Since GDP grossly underestimates the value of the less tangible results of the information economy, you can pretty much see how reliant we are on these things for our wealth. Despite the general economic downturn, the trend is still that this "new economy" sector makes up a larger slice of the pie year on year.
Oh, and lastly... quit it with the "Iraq was about oil" thing. If America just wanted their oil, they could have secured it at a far lower cost by sleazily dealing with Saddam. It's a nonsense to suggest that the invasion has had any effect on US energy security. Production remains more or less the same, and doesn't look to change much in the future. The US is still beholden mostly to the Saudis for their oil. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 19:08, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
Right, the Cold war was about sugar. To get back to the original point (Which I think has been lost in the internet jousting) Nukes prevented a catacylsmic global conflict because both sides were guaranteed complete destruction. You make the point that the Age of Empires is now over - this is an opinion of yours which I'm sorry to say is simply wrong. China is essentially buying large parts of Africa to guarantee its economic future. Modern wars are not about simply taking territory - this hasn't been the case for centuries (Its rather naive to think such) Modern wars are wars of hedgemony. They are about expanding the aggressor nations sphere of influence and dominance. Its about guaranteeing markets and security. Its not about building colonies or installing viceroys.
The global financial crisis has displayed that capitalism and the free market is unworkable without a government safety net. Capitalism is fragile and so is the current economic system - you cannot predict the future and simply state that war is no longer feasible as it isn't economically rational. That is nonsense.
As for the Iraq being about oil thing - yes, you are right. America could have done a sleazy deal with Saddam. But Saddam wasn't interested and was unpredictable. America is beholden to the Saudi's because they've long persued a foreign policy that posits them right by their side. They are comfertable and hierarchal - a democratic revolution is nigh on impossible (A democratic revolution would only mean bad things for America) I've little doubt oil was the biggest factor in the US' mind. Iraq now has a pro western government which can guarantee oil supplies for generations. US troops will be there indefinately and will prevent an extremist government takeover. This was an entirely rational, almost bloodless invasion. In scientific terms, indigenous casualties only serve as bad PR to the aggressor (The US) What really matters is military casualties, which are incomparable to similar types of wars (It dwarfs the Vietnam body count) Iraq is the ultimate modern occupation, a perfect example of a hedgemonic war based mainly on guaranteeing long term energy supplies for the agressor nation.
I'm not convinced you're arguing with any conviction. (The whole, 'you don't know what you're talking about spiel') To be honest, I think you're simply displaying your displeasure with a man you regard as a troll cluttering up your website. Lunacy 22:10, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
Right, but the fact that the Iraqis are sitting on the largest, easiest-to-get, untapped oil reserve in the world can't be discounted. Yes, the US could just have bought the oil from Saddam--and did, up until a few weeks before the invasion. But the fact that a weak regime that had been seen as a thorn in the American side for more than a decade was also sitting on a giant gas station had to play in the decision to invade. You can't just blame it on oil, that's too simplistic--but you can't discount oil as one element in the confluence of events and situations that brought the war around...RaoulDuke 19:14, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
Is this it? Has RW descended into apathy and internet memes once again? Lunacy 10:23, 27 September 2009 (UTC)
Lunacy, actually there was one conventional war between two nuclear powers, specifically the w:Kargil War between Pakistan and India. However, the interesting thing about it is that the fighting was limited to the disputed area, and once the Pakistani were thoroughly owned the Indians did not dare to advance beyond the unofficial border. --Tweenk (talk) 22:20, 20 October 2010 (UTC)

Editors note....[edit]

When I started this thread last night I was completely and utterly annialated. Just thought you should know....Ace McWickedCurrently Lurking..... 22:34, 25 September 2009 (UTC)

All great ideas stem from intoxication. Lunacy 22:44, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
Yeah but i got it all wrong - the question, my response, everything. Now I cant even go into the bathroom because the light bouncing off the white tiles is too bright and hurts my head. I'll have to piss in the garden. Ace McWickedCurrently Lurking..... 22:45, 25 September 2009 (UTC)
You're making me think of the US president calling the drunk USSR president in Dr. Strangelove. Corry 23:09, 25 September 2009 (UTC)


From where I see things, at the present time, Nuclear is the best of the bad options we have for power. Granted, the trash takes thousands of years to finially be gone, and there is always a risk with the running, but aside from thermal pollution of rivers and the aforementioned nuclear waste, nuclear produces no pollution. I personally look forward to solar becoming the primary source of energy for this world, but that is still a distance away. (and getting into bombs now) the threat of a mutually assured destruction, however ominimous (sp?) is a stern "keep away" warning. (Plus, I have a nuke option as my way of deleting things. I don't want to get rid of that!) ĵ₳¥ášÇ♠ʘ the most colourful sig on RationalWiki! 17:19, 30 September 2009 (UTC)

Waste is not such a problem as they paint it. I personally look forward for (hot, very hot) fusion as the ultimate source of energy - more environment-friendly than solar. Editor at CPOh, Finland! Why? 08:17, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
Why burn the hydrogen here when 'ole Sol is doing it for us? ħumanUser talk:Human 10:03, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
Solar aint particularly energy rich. Takes a lot of space and a lot of panels. Fusion would be the real money-maker. Ace McWickedThe Liquid Room 10:05, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
It's not dense, but there's all we need landing every day. Long-term, I think it's the "solution" (that, and getting back down to less than a billion human germs per planet). Short term, yeah, fission, hot fusion, etc. will be very important. But the goal would be to rely only on what our little star sends our way for our daily bread. Yeah, I'm an idealist, I guess. ħumanUser talk:Human 10:15, 4 October 2009 (UTC)

My Two Cents[edit]

Well Ace, what do you mean by nuclear free? If you're talking about Nuclear Energy then I say that we put it good use. The more green alternatives we have to fossil fuel the better. Now with nuclear weapons, to say that nuclear weapons will ensure that their is no nuclear war or that nukes save lives is an extremely naive thing to say. Nuclear war is something that can happen. It's not the ultimate unthinkable, it is simply put, thinkable. In the great documentary "The Fog of War" Robert McNamara talks about a meeting he had with Castro during the 30th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and he asked Castro three choice questions: 1. Did you know the nuclear warheads were there? 2. If you did, would you have recommended to Khrushchev in the face of a U.S. attack that he use them? 3. If he had used them what would have happened to Cuba? Castro replied with: 1. I knew they were there. 2. I did recommend to Khrushchev that they should be used 3. What would have happened to Cuba? Cube would've been totally destroyed. As McNamara put it, it was luck that prevented nuclear war. Now as for nuclear weapons being used to deflect an incoming giant asteroid, there is a way that solution can screw us over. Ryantherebel (talk) 01:05, 21 October 2010 (UTC)