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Nuclear Weapons after the Cold War

Bikram Phookun

By the Movement in India for Nuclear Disarmament
Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 2005, pp. 56, Rs. 99.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 12 December 2005

Nuclear weapons as a constant malign presence, the shadow of a cloud always on the verge of deadly precipitation, is a metaphor that comes naturally to those of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s. Those writers of this book no doubt did, unlike its intended readers, who would probably have been born mostly after the end of the Cold War. It is certain, however, that after a brief respite during which this cloud seemed almost to have been blown away it has once again begun to reappear on the horizon. The fear now is that a conflagration will start if rival nuclear states like India and Pakistan find themselves in a corner and decide to push the nuclear button, or if some terrorist organization like the al-Qaeda, abetted by a rogue state, gets its hands on a nuclear weapon and decides to use it against the “civilized” world. (That this civilized world is as likely to use nuclear weapons is sometimes forgotten!) Be that as it may, a nuclear war, if it begins and is not rapidly contained, will affect everyone in the world; it is therefore everyone’s business: we all need to know why a nuclear war is fundamentally different from a conventional war, and how such a war and the research that leads to it can affect the world.       The urgency and importance of being educated on nuclear weapons is the premise of Living in the Nuclear Shadow , a publication of the Movement in India for Nuclear Disarmament (MIND). It is a pastiche of exhortation, information, statistics, cost tables, what-if scenarios, critical analyses, photographs, survivors’ tales, and beautiful line drawings. Following an advisory introduction are some horrifying photographs of the immediate aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and an equally fearsome tale of a Japanese woman who survived the bombing. The next section deals with the development of nuclear technology in the subsequent decades, often without adequate safeguards, with a flashback to the workings of Little Boy and Fat Man, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The immediate manifestations of an atomic explosion – the unbelievably destructive light, heat, radiation, and fallout, and the long-term effects of radiation on the earth and its life are described in some detail. Following this is a chapter entitled Commonly Asked Questions, which in fact consists primarily of three critiques: the first of the most common justification for nuclear ...

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