Chemical vs. Nuclear Weapons: Are Weapons Really Necessary?

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Difference between Chemical Weapons and Nuclear Weapons

Chemical and nuclear weapons are categorized as weapons of mass destruction. A nuclear weapon derives its energy from a fission reaction. The history of warfare has witnessed only two offensive detonations of nuclear weapons in two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Only eight countries in the world possess nuclear weapons viz. US, UK, France, North Korea, Soviet Union, India, Pakistan and China. Chemical Weapons are generally in the form of poisonous gases or bacteriological harmful substances that are used to inflict death or are harmful to human beings. Use of chemical weapons in warfare has been condemnedby civilized world.        

Chemical Weapons
Nuclear Weapons

Lethality

Chemical weapons are so lethal that at the start of World War II it was said that if these were used in war the entirety of Europe would turn into a lifeless wasteland. An accidental release of mustard gas from US vessels caused over six hundred deaths in 1943. Some of these weapons are also used to alter the mind of enemy who does not complete his mission once infected. The lethality of nuclear weapons on the other hand can be judged by the fact that the first nuclear test released energy comparable to twenty thousand tons of TNT. A thousand kilograms of nuclear explosive can cause same devastation as that from 1 billion kilograms of regular explosives. Bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused around 200,000 deaths. 

Control

Steps have been taken to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Many treaties have been signed by various countries keeping in mind the devastation caused by these weapons. Partial test ban treaty was introduced in 1963 which restricted all tests to being done underground to save the environment. Other treaties such as the Nuclear Non Proliferation, Comprehensive test ban treaty, SALT 1, Start 1 were introduced as and when these were required to suppress the growth in number of these weapons. A protocol in Geneva was signed in 1928 which condemned the use of chemical weapons in warfare. The most recent organized check on chemical weapons is the CWC: Chemical Weapons Convention. This convention prohibits the use, stockpiling or production of chemical weapons. It is administered by OPCW (Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) based in the Hague.  

Types

Chemical weapons are of two types, viz. unitary munitions and binary munitions. The latter contains two isolated non lethal chemicals which are dangerous only when mixed. Unitary units, on the other hand, are standalone. Nuclear weapons are categorized in two types. Those derived from nuclear fission reactions are the atom bombs and the others from nuclear fusion reactions which are called thermonuclear or hydrogen bombs.  

Summary 

Nuclear Weapons

  • First nuclear test released energy comparable to twenty thousand tons of TNT.
  • Bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused around 200,000 deaths. 
  • Nuclear Non Proliferation, Comprehensive test ban treaty, SALT 1, Start 1 are some of many treaties signed to control.
  • Atom bombs and hydrogen bombs are the two types derived from fission and fusion reactions respectively.

Chemical Weapons

  • An accidental release of mustard gas from US vessels caused over 600 deaths in 1943.
  • The most recent check on chemical weapons is CWC: Chemical Weapons Convention.
  • Chemical weapons are of two types - unitary munitions and binary munitions.
Which class of weapons is the most frightening?
  • Chemical Weapons
  • Nuclear Weapons
 
 

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