IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Bringing nuclear risks back into popular imagination  

10th August, 2020 Editorial


  • ‘Little Boy’ was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 at 08:15 hours. This was followed three days later by the dropping of ‘Fat Man’ on Nagasaki, at 11:01 hours.
  • The two nuclear bombs vaporize around 150,000 people, who were going about their morning business; 130,000 others succumbed to burns, radiation sickness, and other ailments that the collapsed health system could not treat.


Dangers of unintended use

  • Among the risks of nuclear use, the highest likelihood is that of inadvertent escalation due to miscalculation or misperceptions.
  • It is less likely that adversaries will launch premeditated, deliberate nuclear attacks because each understands that a splendid first strike is impossible and that nuclear retaliation cannot be escaped.
  • Possibilities of unintended use are exacerbated by many factors: stressed inter-state relations, unchecked strategic modernisation as arms control arrangements wither and nation’s hedge against each other; adoption of nuclear postures that peddle the benefits of ‘limited’ nuclear war; and emergent technologies creating new anxieties.
  • Advancing capabilities of cyber attacks on nuclear command and control, blurring lines between conventional and nuclear delivery, induction of hypersonic missiles capable of high speed and maneuverability, incorporation of artificial intelligence in nuclear decision-making are new developments that threaten to create unknown risks.


The Cold War and after

  • During the Cold War, citizens of affected nations were made to undergo regular nuclear drills. As sirens blared, everyone had to rush to bunkers created in homes, schools, hospitals, etc.
  • There were guidelines on what to equip these nuclear shelters with so as to be able to sustain lives in case mushroom clouds went up.
  • These graphic depictions kept nuclear weapons and their highly destructive nature alive in the consciousness of the people.
  • The end of the Cold War pretty much brought down the curtains on nuclear weapons for the common man.
  • General awareness of the horrors accompanying nuclear weapons needs to be revived since a high level of public apathy and political complacency have brought us to the threshold where the risks remain high but the desire to address them is low.


A media campaign

  • It is necessary to expose leaders and societies to the full range of physical, economic, social, political, health, environmental and psychological effects of nuclear weapons.
  • This could be most effectively done through use of popular media. This will help on three counts: compel leaders to rationalise their weapon requirements; force nations to find ways of reducing nuclear risks; and gradually pave the path towards elimination of nuclear weapons.
  • Creative media can help by tapping available modern means of mass communication to create stories with identifiable characters and situations that tug at the heart and instill a larger respect for humanity.