Anniversary of the Trinity Test and the Dawn of the Atomic Age

Posted by Blake Narendra
July 20, 2012
Trinity Test

The United States conducted the world's first nuclear explosive test, codenamed "Trinity," 67 years ago this month in the southern New Mexico desert. The atomic age was born.

The former Soviet Union conducted a test of its own nuclear device four years later, sparking an arms race that saw more than 2,000 nuclear explosive tests in the decades to follow.

The Trinity Test had an explosive yield of 10 kilotons (releasing an energy equivalent of 10,000 metric tons of dynamite). The test was literally an earthshaking feat in the fields of science and technology, but also a sobering moment for those involved. It ushered in nearly two decades of further atmospheric testing of nuclear devices.

"[It was] an awesome and foul display," Harvard Physicist and Trinity Test Director Kenneth Bainbridge said.

In the years since 1945, thinking about nuclear testing has evolved -- so much so that the United States has not tested a nuclear weapon for nearly 20 years.

Concerns about the effects of atmospheric testing grew in this country and elsewhere during the early years of the atomic age. Earlier this year, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of President Kennedy's historic speech at American University, where he called for the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) to ban nuclear explosive testing in the atmosphere, outer space and under water. The long series of U.S. and Soviet atmospheric tests, initiated with Trinity, ended with the LTBT's entry-into-force in 1963.

As an outgrowth of the LTBT, the United States and the former Soviet Union signed and later ratified the Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT). It entered into force in December 11, 1990. The Treaty caps the nuclear yield of underground nuclear test explosions at 150 Kilotons (or 150,000 metric tons of dynamite).

The TTBT was a critical mutual step to ease tensions between the Cold War rivals. Just as importantly, it is also the first bilateral arms control treaty under which the United States and Soviet Union exchanged information to aid in the verification of treaty requirements on nuclear testing.

The United States has observed a self-imposed moratorium on all testing of its nuclear weapons that would involve a nuclear explosion since 1992, moreover, the United States also is committed to the ratification and swift entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). As President Obama said during the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit in March 2012, "my administration will continue to pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty." The CTBT would create a legally binding prohibition on nuclear explosive tests for all its parties. The advancement of the U.S. stockpile stewardship program during the past eighteen years has given scientists the tools for the United States to maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent in the absence of testing. Monitoring for nuclear explosions also has improved. Over 80 percent of the International Monitoring System stations (IMS) are now online. Combined with other verification tools, they make it extremely difficult for states to conduct explosive nuclear tests that escape detection.

At the June 2012 P5 Conference in Washington D.C., China, France, Great Britain and Russia joined the United States in stating that there are "no substitutes for legally binding obligations under the CTBT." As the United States and its partners no longer conduct explosive testing, many Cold War era sites such as the Nevada Test Site have been transformed to reflect the national security challenges of today. From 1951 to 1992, U.S. atmospheric and underground tests were primarily conducted at the Nevada Test Site just outside of Las Vegas. In 2010, the Nevada Test Site was renamed the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), to reflect the site' expanded mission and the fact that the United States abides by its nuclear explosive testing moratorium issued in 1992.

The United States recently briefed the other P5 States -- China, France, Great Britain and Russia -- on the new diverse functions at the Nevada site, including testing of equipment for nonproliferation and arms control uses. This is just one example of how we have moved beyond outdated Cold War thinking in pursuit of a world less reliant on nuclear explosive testing and nuclear weapons. All of the P5 nuclear states continue to observe their respective moratoria on nuclear testing; their work and cooperation will accelerate CTBT's entry into force.

For the United States, pursuing entry into force of the CTBT and a broader agenda of nuclear disarmament is not about just about policy. In Seoul, President Obama called the pursuit of a world without nuclear weapons a "moral obligation." He said it as the President and as the Commander-in-Chief, but then personalized the statement further, "Most of all, I say it as a father, who wants my two young daughters to grow up in a world where everything they know and love can't be instantly wiped out."

Comments

Comments

small65
July 20, 2012

W.W. writes:

for an ending era a beginning one

welcome to electromagnetism

the adjustment bureau

-for immediate release-

The United States of America will work closely with Russian administration to solve current western and mideastern issue lasting from the end of WWII and more

The United States administration recognize several foundamental problem into the west that violate any form of constitutional law

The intent of this administration is to fight those problem to seek a vision of a global prosper secure and peaceful future-

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 21, 2012

Eric in New Mexico writes:

There's a quote in my mechanic's garage that reads;

"The problem with geting it done right the first time is that no one appreciates how difficult it was."

Fact is Trinity was of the "fat man" design that was dropped on Nagasaki, and "little boy" as such, would be today regarded as a "crude nuclear weapon". Never tested, never dropped out of an airplane before is was used to help end a war that had taken 50-70 million lives 2.5 years sonner that expected and saving at least 5 million lives among the Japanese and a million among American and allied armed forces by eliminating the need to forcibly invade the Japanese home islands.

(Based on US army casualty estimates)

Something for those involved in non-proliferation, keeping Iran from getting a nuclear weapons capability and keeping the peace of nations intact, might want to consider the following regardless of what nation they call home;

Back in the day the US gov put a bunch of folks who's average age was 25 out in the back of beyond to build a city from scratch to design, build and deliver a weapon that no one knew would work, with only theories and probabilities to draw upon; and they got it done in 27 months, in almost total secrecy where no one in the entire production chain other than the principal scientists and engineeers involved actually knew what it was they were trying to construct..."the gadget"...and the whole program wasn't even let known to Harry Truman until he became President.

And when folks consider all these things in relative context to today's world, black market nuclear proliferators, working designs floating about, the ill intent of certain nations seeking to aquire the tools of mass destruction, the dictators that have them (as there are worse things than nukes for lethal effect among large populations), the status quo of mutually assured destruction as a deterrent policy manifest in international relations, a diplomatic cold war among the perm5 in the UN over what to do about everybody's worst nighmare incarnate in Syria...

The world again finds itself on the cusp of catastrophe of the likes that will be remembered for generations if folks don't get a grip on it right now and stop the bickering abot that hard thing you must all now take responsibility for, before another dictator repeats the process that made the Manhattan Engineer District become a necessity in the first place.

One would hope that having built the foundations for human extinction by building better and more efficiant was to achieve civilization's demise, Humanity would have inpetus to lear how to get along with each other and not let history repeat itself, or even come close to rhyming (hat tip to the honorable late Mark Twain for the caveat).

It's not like nations need further prove their common dysfunctionality by becoming witness to wholesale slaughter seeking "peace in our time" and failing to do the hard things to assure that for one and all.

Even if it means "militarizing" one's aproach to that problem in order to remove the capacity to make war from those who would wage it upon their own people or their neighbors.

What my granddad worked to achieve up on "the hill" was no less than to end humanity's thirst for waging war upon itself, by creating one of the most inhumane weapons ever created in human history, changing the very parameters of humanity's existance in the process.

In some respects it has created the conditions in which no sane government would contemplate going to war, but sanity is not universally found on the international stage, as becomes self evident in all its unfortunate manifestations.

The choice is your's as to what kind of world you will create for future generations yet unborn.

Can we get this one done right the first time?

Three times a UNSC veto does not a peaceful transition make, and other means to secure the peace are now required of the willing.

EJ

Ashim C.
|
India
July 21, 2012

Ashim C. in India writes:

How I regret it ever happened and somebody could even think of a weapon as deadly as this, which led to Hiroshima and Nagasaki... But if US had not done it, some other country would have done it. But I am happy the bomb has been an effective deterrant. Since this deterrant is there, th existing arsenal of nuclear weapons should be shared under an international mechanism. US should start. Why not put to positive use what is a good resource.

year29
July 21, 2012

W.W. writes:

atomic era ? Assad goes chemical and biological

Turkish sources say two generals were among the refugees in flight from Syria Saturday. One, Gen. Mustafa Sheikh said Assad's forces were moving chemical weapons across the country for possible use in a military retaliation for the killing of four top security officials. "They want to burn the country. The regime cannot fall without perpetrating a sea of blood,” he said.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 22, 2012

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Ashim,

As far as the world becoming a safer place to raise kids in if everyone has nuclear weapons...there's an old saying out here in the wild, wild, West;

"A man with a gun in his hand is bound to use it eventually."

And so I must discourage your premis on the grounds that the greater the numbers of weapons in the hands of ethical infants as well as responsible governments pretty well assures that nuclear weapons will be used again despite the best efforts of those seeking global disarmament.

The probabilities become problematic to the continuance of civilization as we know it should your theory become implemented.

I suppose in theory if everyone had missile defense that worked populations might sleep better, but it's a lot less expensive to simply create a muke -free planet, and get rid of the other forms of WMD's while humanity is at it.

@ WW; Given that the WMD's were moved before, or being moved when the top Syrian military leadership was blown to bits during a meeting (of which probability would suggest these WMD's were a subject of their discussion); it may be that they decided to use them one minute, and the next they were talking with Allah about it and he probably told them "you don't get to do that." Before he sent them strait to the Islamic version of Hell.

Now are their other genocidal idiots that will do Assad's bidding? Undoubtably...

Folks are caught in a grand catch-22...to intevene in order to secure WMD's would require by some estimates the kind of on-the- ground footprint found on the scale of Desert Storm (about 100,000 combat troops from various nations), which isn't even now waiting in the wings to act pre-emptively to prevent their release. And you have the quandry of whether you can prevent them from being used even if you do your best to secure them by force.

But waiting and hoping and reminding Assad of his "responsibilities" is allowing the region to be held hostage and pretty well flat assures one and all that they will be used at a time of Assad's choosing.

Russia ans China cannot be blind to the fact that their latest veto nixes any possibility of diplomacy removing Assad from power through any political transition prior to his forcible removal by the people of Syria, or with outside intervention being used.

Yet they vetoed this because both those governments fear the green light they'd be giving to their own people to rise up in protest against them, should they dare to take the side of the Syrian people and actively support their democratic aspirations.

Wheras the reality circumstance offers them in the aftermath of failing to take responsibility to secure the peace will most probably result in both those nation's peoples rising up and removing those governments should they find their government to be partially responsible for allowing WMD's to be used anywhere on this planet.

As I am sure it also would reflect badly on the US and the friends of Syria for not having pre-empted such an event, should Assad be allowed to use his WMD's.

Most would say it reflects badly on the entire international community for having allowed Assad to take things to this point in the first place without "all neccessary measures" being agreed upon unanimously in order to halt his crimes against his own people.

EJ

Bryce
|
California, USA
July 23, 2012

Bryce in California writes:

Isn't this a bit of a sham as long as Israel's stockpile of nuclear weapons is not being addressed?

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 24, 2012

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Bryce in Cali.,

The sham you refer to is the reality nations exist with every day of the week.

If you are referring to "double standards" , I kind of doubt Israel has any nuclear weapons to declare or address, regardless of whether they maintain the urban myth of such capability or not.

See, you gotta ask yourself why would they need them when America would always have their back if seriously threatened, and for all intents and purposes has Israel covered under its treaty obligations in so far as they are for all practical purposes under our "nuclear umbrella" in extremis of war.

Besides, what would they do with one, nuke Hamas in the Gaza strip? Might as well nuke themselves given the close proxinity of their declared enemies.

Nuke Iran? I think everyone knows that if Iran were to ever try and nuke Israel, Amererica would simply nuke Iran (in triplicate) the very next day.

And then consider the military actions Israel has taken over the years and not even the Arab states are worried about whether Israel has nukes or not, because if they had them they probably would have already used them if it were in the realm of sound strategy in winning conflicts.

Being that nukes cost a pretty penny to build and maintain, why would anyone spend billions if you didn't need what you cannot use in the first place and remain civilized?

Anyway, just something for you to consider seeing as how sometimes the answer is easier to come by than one might think.

Best,

EJ

Ashim C.
|
India
July 24, 2012

Ashim C. in India writes:

@ Eric,

Without nuclear arsenal, India & Pakistan three undeclared & one declared wars. Since both countries acquired nuclear weapons & delivery systems, India and Pakistan have not fought any full scale war. hencey my belief. If our threat perceptions are taken care off vis a vis both China and Pakistan by putting under international defence unbrella with or without nuclear and missile weapons systems with India sharing equally the joint command of that defence system with power that be, hopefully India and similarly placed countries anywhere would save hugely from defence budget, which can be diverted for purchasing technology for solution of peoples basic and other problems. This would help nuclear haves in export of technology driven products and services. This is my idea of positive use of nuclear weapons. Since idea of joint command system is implicit in this, chances of misuse would be much less, which, I agree, is probable when joint commmand systen is not there. Defense spending of countries like India is bleeding them white. Imagine a situation, where an internationally sponsorec is allowed to have millitary base in Indian Kashmir, India will get rid of problem of proxy war in Kashmir.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 26, 2012

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Ashim,

I hear what you are saying and understand why you come to the conclusion you do, but I also know just how hard my government worked to "stop the car in time" back in late 2001-early 2002 (when I wrote the following to my government...among a whole lot of other things in a very long letter that was for all intents a "citizen's NIE (national inteligence estimte)" covering a wide spectrum of issues confronting humanity, that this governmment was doing it's best to deal with and was looking to get completely out of control.

With me, I offer no complaint without solution attached, hope you can envision the great "what if?" involved.

Best,

EJ

"As for Pakistan and India, rather than just asking them to get it together, and stand down, there may be the need for the U.S. to consider other options, to prevent the Asian subcontinent from becoming uninhabitable.

In my opinion, nuclear war is the ultimate terrorist act.

If these two nations cannot see the way to peace, then we just have to convince them, if need be, to prevent the loss of life and ecosystem, that cannot be replaced. If that worst case scenario occurs, the results of nuclear war having
been studied, I don't need to remind any one of the possible irreversible environmental damage, loss of life, etc. Just add to that a few Chernobyls on top, in the case of this war, considering the nuclear power plants in the area.
If they choose war, we must I believe, if we have the time and capacity to stop it, act in a considered and concrete way to prevent holocaust. In the fact that the timing of this situation stinks, I have to wonder if it smells of Al-Quaida, the resulting evidence of the groups responsible for the attacks in India, and their known support by both Pakistan and the Taliban suggests to me a connection. Done to help bin Ladin escape? Pakistan helps the U.S., Pakistan is targeted, via India.

Despite the reliance on prophesy and questionable psychic resources, bin Ladin's not to be underestimated, he knows how to play a situation for all it's worth, I think it's evident to most Afghans at this point, that as a "guest" he broke every rule, including wrecking the host's dwelling. He may believe that widening the conflict will serve his ends, in the short term at least, I think it has. Until the Pak intelligence service is totally purged of all individuals supporting terrorism, we still will have serious problems down the road as well.

India's not much better in some regards, if they have acted so wisely in Kashmir, why the conflict? M. Gandhi taught them nothing?

There's only one thing they can do with Kashmir to end this once and for all, that's to turn it into a "co-national park" with internationally (interim) monitored local rule. They either learn to share, or lose it forever, as the case may be if war happens.

I hope that if the situation is not resolved by dialog, they'll end up thanking the U.S. in the long run, for stepping in to stop it. By whatever conventional military and diplomatic means available.

We've been accused of playing world cop, as a nation. If you ask any officer on any street in the U.S. what his/her least favorite call to get is and they'll more than likely say, "Domestic disputes". This is the only politically correct way I can think to describe the current world situation. If we must play that role, they need to understand that there's a new sheriff in town, determined to prevent domestic violence.

This goes as well for the Mideast, the Korean, and other long standing conflicts.

To "protect and serve humanity, and ensure the preservation of civilization, of all cultures, and ways of tradition that an individual or nation has the inalienable right to choose for themselves as they see fit, so long as it harms no other individual's, or nation's ability to do so."

With this as our philosophy, as policy, the "undiscovered country" may become reality. This is not a role that should be played unilaterally, as it is essentially all nation's task."

EJ- Jan 2002

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 26, 2012

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Ashim,

I forgot to add a couple thoughts for your's and the general readership's consideration;

Why is it that governments must scare the hell out of their population's and each other before "cooler heads" prevail?

I must herby take note that their just isn't a "Betty Ford clinic" for dictators and their addictions to power nor institutionalized standards for declaring them "unfit to serve" due to phycological dysfunctionality on any number of levels of manifestation.

What worse is when the international response does all the right things, tries every diplomatic approach, renders all kinds of aid, tries to reason with the insane and failing that cannot reach consensus on even a basic political approach and renders international mechanisms impotent in as much as the UNSC is looking about as effective as the old "League of Nations" was in stopping the slaughter in the Ukraine during the winter-spring of 32-33 when aprox 7 million died in less than a year at the hands of Stalin.

You'd think folks would have learned their lessons from history by now...

Well judging by Secretary Clinton's recent remarks, she's kind of wondering the same thing if they have or not?...so I gotta comend her instigating this conversation in international fora...'bought past due to have it as it is...

The reason America should be the one to instigate some kind of global understanding to prevent little Hitlers from achiving their potential for harm in their quest to commit suicide by government...our's as it generally turns out to be historicly..., but who ya gonna call? the "Ghost Busters"?

I mean footing of civilization is uncertain as the world stage is getting a bit slippery with slime while the solutions to our common problems seems to be riding on the back of a snail in their speedy delivery to populations in harm's way...

This is not the time to simply treat the symtoms, when "chemo-therapy" is the dictator's preferred choice in dealing with "external aggressors" of which he considers his own population to be controlled by in their seeking to topple Assad from power.

Seems to me the man is trying to manufacture an excuse to use them.

And that's just a sure-fire way to commit suicide by government, when one really stops and thinks about it.

EJ

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 27, 2012

Eric in New Mexico writes:

"Now, this gathering is yet another example of what the museum does so well. It brings us face to face with a terrible chapter in human history and it invites us to reflect on what that history tells us and how that history should guide us on our path forward. As Sara said when we were walking in this morning, human nature did not dramatically and profoundly change in 1945. We still struggle with evil and the terrible impulses and actions that all too often result in atrocities and violence and genocide."

-Sec. Clinton

Remarks at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Forward-Looking Symposium on Genocide Prevention, July 24, 2012

"http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2012/07/195409.htm"

.

Latest Stories

July 12, 2009

President Obama in Ghana

Writing for the U.S. Department of State DipNote blog, DipNote Bloggers provide quotes and background from President Obama's speech in… more
July 10, 2009

Listening To Learn the Language

Writing for the U.S. Department of State DipNote blog, Foreign Service Officer Aaron Snipe recounts a conversation during his flight… more

Pages