The International Day Against Nuclear Tests on August 29th raises awareness and educates about the harmful effects of nuclear testing. The first nuclear test was carried out by the United States in July 1945, followed by the Soviet Union in 1949, the United Kingdom in 1952, France in 1960, and China in 1964.
Since 1945 more than two thousand nuclear tests have taken place. When nuclear testing first began, scientists knew very little about its harmful effects. Through the years, increasing concern and evidence points to the devastating impact of nuclear testing.
More than 60 sites around the world bear the scars of these tests. Even those that have been closed for decades and partially cleaned up remain uninhabitable. Tests have been carried out onboard barges, on top of towers, suspended from balloons, on the Earth’s surface, more than 600 metres underwater and over 200 metres underground. Nuclear test bombs have also been dropped by aircraft and fired by rockets up to 320 km into the atmosphere.
A 1991 study by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) estimated that the radiation and radioactive materials from atmospheric testing taken in by people up until the year 2000 would cause 430,000 cancer deaths, some of which had already occurred by the time the results were published. The study predicted that roughly 2.4 million people could eventually die from cancer as a result of atmospheric testing.
On 2 December 2009, the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly declared 29 August the International Day against Nuclear Tests. The resolution calls for increasing awareness and education “about the effects of nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions and the need for their cessation as one of the means of achieving the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.”
Moreover, “convinced that nuclear disarmament and the total elimination of nuclear weapons are the only absolute guarantee against the use or threat of nuclear weapons,” the General Assembly designated 26 September from 2014 as the “International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons",
The main mechanism for eradicating nuclear weapons testing is the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996. To date, 185 countries have signed the treaty and 170 have ratified it. Only one state, North Korea, has violated the treaty’s norm in the 21st century.
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