Nuclear Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Counterterrorism: Impacts on Public Health

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Publish Date : 05/22/2022 10:52
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Nuclear Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Counterterrorism: Impacts on Public Health

there have been efforts to outlaw weapons of mass destruction and terror, starting with the first Hague Peace Conference in 1899 and the 1925 Geneva Protocol to prohibit the use of chemical and biological weapons. These efforts were extended to nuclear weapons, the most devastating weapons of all, in the immediate aftermath of World War II. In November 1945, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada proposed the establishment of a United Nations (UN) Atomic Energy Commission for “entirely eliminating the use of atomic energy for destructive purposes.” 1This was followed by a call from the General Assembly of the UN for the elimination of atomic weapons and other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction in January 1946. Stopping short of elimination, the Baruch Plan, suggested by the United States in 1946, proposed placing all nuclear weapons and energy under international ownership and control. None of these initiatives came to fruition, however, and by the 1950s both the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union had tested their own nuclear weapons, with China and France following suit in the 1960s. Because of the existence of nuclear weapons, controlling their spread and use became urgent international goals. A wideranging set of activities has evolved over the decades to pursue these goals, including nuclear arms control, nonproliferation, and counterterrorism measures. International institutions, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN 1540 Committee, have grown to support their implementation. A broad range of motivations underlies the almost universal support for efforts to control the spread and use of nuclear weapons. These include increasing security for all states, maintaining a balance of power, and a moral imperative to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether. Although states may have different reasons for wanting to control nuclear weapons, there is widespread agreement on the need to do so, and most believe that these treaties and agreements make the world a safer place. However, these activities have other, less recognized benefits as well. Indeed, we argue that the public health benefits are significant both in avoiding events that would have major public health impacts and in supporting the transfer of beneficial technology to the less-developed world.

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“ Nuclear Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Counterterrorism: Impacts on Public Health ”