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Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement

    History

    • The nuclear weapons that ended WWII became dangerously ominous during the Cold War in the 1950s. Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union produced massive amounts of nuclear warheads as a deterrent to the other side, leading to a scenario where nuclear hostilities would have led to mutually assured destruction. In light of this situation, the NPT process was launched in 1958 although it took over a decade for it to become operational, and it was not until 1992 that all five nuclear super-powers of the time had signed the treaty.

    Principles

    • The main objective of promoting nuclear disarmament is supported by the three pillars of the treaty. First, non-nuclear states agree not to develop nuclear weapon technology. Second, nuclear nations agree to a gradual reduction of their own stockpiles and to a prohibition on the trade of weapons with non-nuclear states. However, in recognition of the great potential of nuclear technologies, subscribers to the treaty agree to foster research and development for peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

    Participants

    • Participants of the NPT are divided into two categories. There are five nuclear weapon states, the United States, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom, and there are 184 non-nuclear weapon states. It are also nations that are not parties to the treaty. India and Pakistan have openly tested nuclear weapons, and North Korea, formerly a member of the treaty, withdrew in 2003. Israel, having a policy of opacity regarding its weapons program, also declined to join the treaty.

    Provisions for Peaceful Use

    • While the potential risk posed by nuclear weapons must be controlled, it is important to avoid hobbling the research on peaceful uses of nuclear technology, with their potential for generation of abundant and clean energy. To promote co-operation in the field of peaceful nuclear technology while balancing the need for security, the Treaty establishes a safeguards system under the aegis of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), with periodic inspections and safeguards preventing the diversion of fissile material for weapons use.

    Reviews

    • The treaty also contains provisions for its own administration, providing for a review conference every five years. During these reviews, the Treaty undergoes updates in response to changes in technology or the geopolitical landscape. For instance, the 1995 review conference extended the Treaty indefinitely, and a 2010 Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington made provisions for dealing with the threat of nuclear terrorism.

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