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Nuclear Timeline

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Aug 23, 2006
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Pre-1940s

1896
Discovery of radioactivity.


1929
July 24: Kellogg-Briand Pact, which bans war as an instrument of foreign policy, is proclaimed.


1939
August 2: Albert Einstein sends a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt informing him of German atomic research and the potential for a bomb. This letter prompts Roosevelt to form a special committee to investigate the military implications of atomic research. (DOE)

1940s

1940
Brazilian President Getulio Vargas initiates a national nuclear program. He allows the United States to mine Brazil’s large uranium reserves in return for American nuclear technology. (FAS)


1942
July 13: The Manhattan Project, the top secret project to build an atomic bomb, gets officially underway.

December 2: A Manhattan Project team headed by Enrico Fermi produces the first artificial fission reaction at the University of Chicago. Soon after, a complex of top-secret nuclear production and research facilities are built by the Manhattan Project across the country. By 1945, the operation would have a payroll, facilities, and labor force comparable in size to the American automobile industry. (DOE)

1943
November: The Clinton Pile (located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and renamed Oak Ridge National Laboratory after the war) begins operation. It is the first true plutonium production reactor. (DOE)


1944
March 13: Homi Jehangir Bhabha initiates efforts to start nuclear research programs in India.

December 8: Joseph Rotblat, Polish refugee and physicist, resigns from the Manhattan Project because he believes that Nazi Germany would not succeed in developing an atomic weapon. Rotblat was thereafter barred from entering the United States for twenty years. (NF)


1945
April 12: When President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies, Harry S. Truman becomes the U.S. president. He was never briefed by Roosevelt on the development of the atomic bomb or other key issues.


July: Clement Attlee becomes the British Prime Minister, replacing Winston Churchill.


July 16, 5:29 am: The United States conducts the world’s first nuclear test explosion at Alamogordo, New Mexico.




August 6: At 8:15 a.m., Japanese time, a B-29 bomber flying at high altitude drops the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The gun-type uranium bomb, called Little Boy, is detonated 1,900 feet above the city. It has a yield of approximately 15 kilotons TNT.

More than 4 square miles of the city are instantly and completely devastated. From 90,000 to 100,000 persons are killed immediately; about 145,000 persons will perish from the bombing by the end of 1945. (Trinity: Manhattan Report and NF)


August 9: At 11:02 a.m., another B-29 drops the second bomb, a plutonium device dubbed "Fat Man," on the industrial section of the city of Nagasaki.
The bomb totally destroys 1 1/2 square miles of the city, killing 39,000 persons, and injuring 25,000 more. (Trinity: Manhattan Report)


August 10: The Japanese government requests that it be permitted to surrender under the terms of the Potsdam declaration of July 26th which it previously ignored. (Trinity: Manhattan Report)

August 14: Japan surrenders, though on terms different from the Potsdam declaration. The emperor is allowed to remain at the head of the government, although American military forces occupy the nation and the Japanese constitution prevents the development of a military.

December 19: Nuclear research begins in India with the establishment of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research with Homi Jehangir Bhabha as its first director. (NF)


1946
January 24: The UN General Assembly adopts its first resolution, which calls for ‘the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction.’ (NF)

March: The Acheson-Lilienthal Plan results from US Secretary of State James Byrnes’ committee to study the "control and safeguards" of atomic information. The plan calls for the international sharing of this information. However, it is presented to the United Nations by Bernard Baruch in a revised form that is unacceptable to the Soviet Union. In June, the Soviets present the Gromyko plan, but negotiations break down.

July: The Atomic Energy Act is passed, establishing the Atomic Energy Commission. The AEC replaces the Manhattan Project on December 31, 1946. Further development of nuclear technology is under civilian (not military) control. (DOE)


1947
January: Vincent Auriol becomes French president.

August: The United Kingdom’s first atomic reactor at Harwell comes into operation. (NF)

August: After India gains independence, Jawaharlal Nehru becomes India’s first prime minister.


August: Liaquat Ali Khan becomes Pakistan’s first prime minister when it is granted statehood.



1948
June: The Soviet Union begins the Berlin Blockade, cutting West Berlin off from West Germany. The United States conducts a vast airlift to keep West Berlin supplied with food and fuel. The airlift continues until May 1949, when the Soviets lift the blockade. American officials discuss the possibility of the use of tactical nuclear weapons if the conflict escalates. The incident encourages American policymakers to place nuclear weapons in Europe as a tripwire to deter the conventionally superior Soviet Union from invading.


David Ben-Gurion become Israel’s first prime minister when Israel gains nationhood status.


Kim Il Sung becomes North Korea’s first premier and ruler.



1949
January: United States President Harry Truman is sworn in for his first full term.

August 29: The Soviet Union detonates its first atomic bomb in Kazakhstan.

October 1: Mao Zedong becomes the chairman of the newly founded People’s Republic of China.


The Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel actively supports nuclear research.

1950s

1950
January: President Harry Truman orders the Atomic Energy Commission to develop the hydrogen bomb. The development of the bomb will be led by physcist Edward Teller, who believes that it is vital for the United State to develop the hydrogen bomb before the Soviet Union does. (PBS, DOE)

April 11: A B-29 Bomber carrying a nuclear bomb crashes into a mountain near Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. The bomb is destroyed but the accompanying nuclear capsule, which has not been inserted into the bomb, remains intact. (NF)

June 25: The Korean War begins when North Korea invades South Korea.

December 9: General Douglas MacArthur requests discretionary authority to use atomic weapons during the Korean War. (NF)


1951
Sen. Brien McMahon calls for an "all-out" nuclear weapons program. (Schwartz 19)

Winston Churchill regains the post of British prime minister.

Guy Mollet succeeds Leon Blum as French premier.

April 6: President Harry Truman approves military request to use atomic weapons in Manchuria if large numbers of Chinese troops join the Korean War or if bombers are launched against United Nations forces from Manchurian bases. (NF)

April 11: President Truman discharges General MacArthur for insubordination after MacArthur repeatedly criticizes the limited objectives of the war in Korea. (NF)

October 16: Khan is assassinated. Khwaja Nazimuddin succeeds him as Pakistani prime minister.


1952 November 1: The United States detonates the first hydrogen bomb, 10.4 megaton Mike, at Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The explosion is nearly 700 times more powerful than the bomb exploded at Nagasaki. (NF)



1953
January: Dwight D. Eisenhower is sworn in as U.S. president.


March 5: Joseph Stalin dies. Initially Nikita S. Khrushchev, Georgi M. Malenkov and Lavrenti P. Beria collectively share power. Beria is accused of conspiracy and shot in December.


July 27: An armistice is signed ending the war in Korea. (NF)

August: General Edmundson leads ‘Operation Big Stick’, which is a mission to destroy the Communist supply complex based on Sibyon-ni section of Korea and regain Kaesong. The mission requires him to take twenty B-36s, armed with nuclear weapons, to Okinawa in Japan. (NF)

August 8: Soviet Premier Georgi Malenkov announces that the USSR possesses the hydrogen bomb. It is tested nine months later. The development of the hydrogen bomb in the United States and the Soviet Union is regarded as the start of the Cold War arms race. (PBS)

December 8: President Dwight Eisenhower, in a United Nations address, proposes Atoms for Peace, a program to extend American aid to other countries for establishing nuclear reactors for peaceful research. Eisenhower calls for the nuclear weapons states to give part of their nuclear stockpiles to a United Nations-supervised bank of fissionable materials in an attempt to strip nuclear energy of its military casing and adapt it to the arts of peace. (NF)

Muhammad Ali succeeds Khwaja Nazimuddin as Pakistani prime minister.


1954
January: U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles announces U.S. policy of massive retaliation. The policy shifts the focus from large, local military commitments to deterrence through the threat of massive retaliation -- possibly, and even probrably, including nuclear force.

January 21: The USS Nautilus (SSN 571), the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, is launched by the United States Navy. (NF)


April 10: President Dwight Eisenhower sends Secretary of State John Foster Dulles to offer two atomic bombs to the French for use in their war against the Vietnamese. The offer is refused. (NF)

September 12: U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend using atomic bombs on China in conflict over Chiang Kai-shek’s troops on Quemoy and Matsu islands. (NF)



1955
February: Malenkov is forced to resigned and Khrushchev becomes the undisputed leader of the USSR.


March 15: U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles tells press that the U.S. is seriously considering using atomic weapons over Quemoy-Matsu dispute with China. (NF)

March 16: President Eisenhower states publicly, ‘A-bombs can be used… as you would use a bullet.’ This causes an international uproar. NATO foreign ministers oppose a nuclear attack on China. (NF)

July 9: The Russell-Einstein Manifesto calls on legislators, scientists, and the general public to resolve that "In view of the fact that in any future world war nuclear weapons will certainly be employed, and that such weapons threaten the continued existence of mankind, we urge the governments of the world to realize, and to acknowledge publicly, that their purpose cannot be furthered by a world war, and we urge them, consequently, to find peaceful means for the settlement of all matters of dispute between them."


Winston Churchill resigns. Anthony Eden becomes British Prime Minister.


Muhammad Ali’s term as Pakistani prime minister ends. A period of frequent cabinet crises and widespread corruption ensues.


1956
July 27: A U.S. bomber crashes into a storage igloo containing three Mark 6 nuclear bombs at Lakenheath Royal Air Force base in the United Kingdom. The resulting fire damages the bombs, but fails to ignite their conventional explosive triggers. (NF)

November: The Soviet Union threatens to use rockets against London, Paris and Israel if the three nations do not end their invasion of Egypt during the Suez Canal crisis. Although the threats are generally regarded as a bluff (and did not specify a nuclear attack against the targets), the overall danger of a Cold War escalation influenced the United States to pressure France and Britain to accept a cease-fire.


1957
January: Eisenhower is sworn in for his second term as U.S. president.

January: Anthony Eden resigns. Harold MacMillan succeeds him as British Prime Minister.


March 10: A U.S. Air Force B-47 bomber flying from Florida to Europe with two capsules of nuclear materials for bombs fails to meet its aerial refueling plane. No traces are ever found. (NF)

May 15: The United Kingdom tests its first thermonuclear weapon at the Christmas Islands in the Pacific. (NF)

July 29: The United Nations establishes the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to promote peaceful uses of nuclear energy. (NF)

September: The United States sets off its first underground nuclear test in a mountain tunnel in the remote desert 100 miles from Las Vegas. (DOE)

September 29: A breakdown in the cooling system of a tank holding 70,000-80,000 tons of radioactive sludge causes an explosion at the Mayak complex in the Soviet Union. A plume of radioactive fallout is released. (NF)

October: The Soviet Union stuns Americans by launching a missile carrying the earth’s first artificial satellite. If Soviet scientists could launch a Sputnik, U.S. analysts reason, they would soon be able to loft nuclear warheads to the United States. The implications are profound: warning times decrease from hours to minutes and, more importantly, there is no known means of defending against a ballistic missile attack. (Schwartz 16)


November 8: The United Kingdom successfully tests its first hydrogen-fusion weapon.

Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.



1958
January 15: Linus Pauling and his wife Eva Helen Pauling present to United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold a ‘Petition to the United Nations Urging the International Agreement to Stop the Testing of Nuclear Bombs Be Made Now,’ signed by 11,021 scientists. (NF)

March 11: A B-47 bomber accidentally drops a nuclear weapon over Mars Bluff, South Carolina. The conventional explosive trigger detonates, leaving a crater 75 feet wide and 35 feet deep. (NF)

March 25: The German Bundestag approves deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in West Germany. (NF)

September 6: In the second Quemoy-Matsu crisis with China, General Twining of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff asks President Eisenhower to give the 7th Fleet Commander authority to order nuclear strikes against China. Eisenhower refuses. (NF)

September 7: The Soviet Union informs Eisenhower that they will come to China’s aid in the event of a U.S. nuclear attack on China. (NF)

October: Gen. Muhammad Ayub Khan takes control of the Pakistani government, asusming presidential powers and ruling by decree.

October 31: President Eisenhower declares a moratorium on all nuclear testing with the understanding that the Soviet Union will also honor the moratorium.

China breaks with the Soviet Union.


1959
January: Fidel Castro topples the Batista regime and takes control of Cuba.


January: Charles de Gaulle declares the Fifth Republic and succeeds Rene Coty as French president.


October 31: The United States deploys the first operational intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Atlas D.


December 1: The Antarctic Treaty, which prohibits nuclear explosions and disposal of radioactive waste in Antarctica, is signed.

1960s

1960
February 13: France explodes its first atomic bomb in the Sahara desert. It has a yield of 60-70 kilotons. (NF)

June: Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev pledges support for "wars of national liberation" in an address to the United Nations. (DOE)


October 5: A radar malfunction causes the central war room of NORAD to receive a false top priority warning from the Thule, Greenland Ballistic Missile Early Warning System station, indicating a massive missile attack has been launched against North America.

December: The Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff complete SIOP 62. This war plan calls for the launch of more than 3,000 nuclear weapons – including hundreds of hydrogen bombs – to attack 1,000 separate targets in the Communist bloc in the first few hours of conflict. (NF)


1961
January 3: Control rods are removed in error from the core of a military experimental reactor near Idaho Falls, Idaho, causing a steam explosion that kills three technicians. One of them is impaled by a control rod. (NF)

January: John F. Kennedy is sworn in as U.S. president.

January 23: A B-52 bomber carrying two 24 megaton bombs crashes at Goldsboro, North Carolina. On one of the bombs, five of six interlocking safety devices fail, and a single switch prevents detonation. (NF)

April: The Bay of Pigs Invasion fails. A group of Cuban exiles, trained by the CIA and supported by the American government, attempted to invade Cuba and overthrow Castro; they were quickly killed or captured. The debacle may have helped pave the way for the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.

June 23: Antarctic Treaty enters into force.

September: Both the United States and the Soviet Union resume testing, breaking their 1958 moratorium.

September 20: The United States and the Soviet Union sign a ‘Joint Statement of Agreed Principles for Disarmament Negotiations’, the McCloy-Zorin Accords. It outlines a program for general and complete disarmament. (NF)


1962
June 4: A nuclear power source atop a Thor rocket booster falls into the Pacific Ocean when the booster has to be destroyed. (NF)

June 20: A second Thor rocket booster fails, and the nuclear power source falls into the Pacific. (NF)

September: As part of a campaign to reduce the United States’ vulnerability to nuclear attack, President Kennedy advises Americans to build fallout shelters. President Kennedy’s letter in the September issue of Life magazine sets off a wave of "shelter-mania" which lasts for about a year. (DOE)

October 16-29: The Cuban Missile Crisis. A tense standoff begins when U.S. reconnaissance discovers Soviet missiles in Cuba. The United States blockades Cuba for thirteen days while Kennedy and Khrushchev work out a behind-the-scenes deal whereby the Soviet Union publicly removes its missiles from Cuba and the United States privately removes missiles from Turkey. The crisis brings the two nations to the brink of nuclear war.


1963
April 10: An American nuclear submarine, Thresher, sinks in the North Atlantic, killing all 129 crewmen. (NF)

April 11: The Vatican releases the Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris by Pope John XXIII which calls for an end to the nuclear arms race. (NF)

June 10: President Kennedy declares a unilateral moratorium on atmospheric nuclear testing. (NF)

June 20: The United States and the Soviet Union establish a radio and telegraph Hot Line between the two governments to prevent possible accidents.

August 5: The Partial Test Ban Treaty , or the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water, is signed in Moscow. It enters into force on October 10. (NF)

November 22: Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Lyndon B. Johnson assumes the U.S. presidency.

Harold MacMillan resigns as British prime minister.

Ben-Gurion resigns. Levi Eshkol succeeds him as Israeli prime minister.


1964
October: Khrushchev is removed from power due to domestic opposition. Leonid I. Brezhnev, though sharing power with Alexei Kosygin, emerges as his successor as Soviet leader.

October 16: China explodes its first atomic bomb at Lop Nor testing site in Sinkiang Province. (NF)

Harold Wilson becomes British prime minister.

Shri Lal Bahudur Shastri succeeds Nehru as Indian prime minister after the latter’s death.

1965
January: Johnson is sworn in for his first full term as U.S. president.

Between 1957 and 1965, 100 kilograms of uranium 235 disappears from a nuclear scrap recycling plant in Apollo, Pennsylvania. The material was weapons grade and suitable for making more than one bomb. The president of the firm was reported to have close ties with Israel. The mystery was never solved. (NF)

December 5: A nuclear-armed airplane rolls off the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga and sinks in 16,000 feet of water off the coast of Japan. (NF)


1966
January 17: A B-52 bomber carrying nuclear weapons has a midair accident while refueling and drops four nuclear weapons on Palomares, Spain. Although no nuclear explosion occurs, conventional explosions in two of the weapons scatter radioactive material over a populated area. (NF)

Indira Gandhi succeeds Shastri as Indian prime minister after the latter’s death.

B.J. Vorster becomes prime minister of South Africa.


1967
January 27: The Outer Space Treaty, or the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, is signed in Washington, Moscow and London. It enters into force on October 10.

February 14: The Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America, or Treaty of Tlatelolco, is signed at Mexico City.

June 17: China conducts its first thermonuclear weapon test. (NF)

October 5: Failure of a sodium cooling system causes a partial core meltdown at the Enrico Fermi demonstration breeder reactor 30 miles from Detroit. (NF)


1968
January 21: A B-52 bomber crashes on the sea ice off Thule, Greenland, after the crew bail out over the Thule Air Force Base. The high explosive components of all four nuclear weapons aboard detonate scattering plutonium over the ice. The United States must remove hundreds of tons of radioactive ice. (NF)

March 8-10: A Soviet Golf-II class submarine with three nuclear-armed missiles aboard sinks 750 miles off the coast of Oahu in the Hawaiian island chain. (NF)

April 22: The Treaty of Tlatelolco enters into force.

May 21: The American nuclear submarine Scorpion sinks in the Atlantic near the Azores, killing 99 crewmen. (NF)

May 24: An accident aboard the Soviet nuclear submarine K-27 kills five crew members. After unsuccessfully attempting to repair the submarine, the Soviets scuttle it along with its nuclear fuel near Novaya Zemlya. (NF)

July 1: The Treat on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is signed at Washington, Moscow and London.

The coaster Scheersberg-A sets sail from Antwerp to Genoa with two hundred tons of uranium. The boat does not arrive in Italy as scheduled but in Iskenderun, Turkey, empty of its cargo. Years later the owner of the ship was located in a Norwegian prison and identified as an Israeli secret agent. (NF)

August 24: France tests its first hydrogen bomb at Fangataufa Atoll in the South Pacific. (NF)

Production of nuclear weapons begins in Israel.


1969
January 14: A bomb is accidentally dropped on the deck of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, killing 25 and wounding 85 crewmen. (NF)

January: Richard M. Nixon is sworn in as U.S. president.

April: Georges Pompidou succeds Charles de Gaulle as French president.

Eshkol dies. Golda Meir succeeds him as Israeli prime minister.

Gen. Ayub Khan resigns and Gen. Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan succeeds him as Pakstani leader.

Hot cells, used to reprocess reactor fuel to make plutonium for nuclear weapons, begin operation in Argentina. They will remain in operation, without safeguards, through 1972.

1970s

1970
March 5: The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty enters into force.

April 12: The Soviet nuclear submarine K-8 sinks in the Bay of Biscay, killing 53 crew members. (NF)

April 16: The main rounds of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) open in Vienna. (NF)

August 19: The United States deploys the first missile with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), the Minuteman III. (NF)


1971
February 11: The Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Seabed and the Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof is signed in Washington, Moscow and London.

September 30: The Agreement on Measures to Reduce the Risk of Outbreak of Nuclear War Between the U.S. and USSR is signed in Washington and enters into force. The US and the USSR also update their Hot Line.

December: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto comes to power in Pakistan.


1972
May 18: The Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Seabed and the Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof enters into force.

May 26: The first round of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I) ends with President Richard M. Nixon and General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev signing the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, the SALT Accord and the Interim Agreement on Strategic Offensive Arms. The ABM treaty enters into force on October 3. (NF)


1973
January: Nixon is sworn in for his second term as U.S. president.

June 22: The International Court of Justice, at the request of Australia and New Zealand, states that France should avoid nuclear tests causing radioactive fallout in the South Pacific. (NF)

October 6: Yom Kippur War. Israel goes on nuclear alert for the first time, but succeeds using only conventional forces. When Brezhnev threatens to airlift Soviet forces in to aid the Egyptian army, Nixon brings the United States to a world-wide nuclear alert. A cease-fire ends the crisis. (FAS)

Edward Heath replaces Harold Wilson as British prime minister.

1974
May 18: India conducts a nuclear test, dubbed the "Smiling Buddha." The government claims it is a peaceful test but it is in fact part of an accelerated weapons program. (FAS)

May: Valery Giscard d’Estaing succeeds Georges Pompidou as French president.

July 3: The Treaty Between the USA and the USSR on the Limitation of Underground Nuclear Weapons Tests (Threshold Test Ban Treaty) is signed.

August 8: Nixon announces he will resign as a result of the Watergate scandal. Gerald R. Ford assumes the U.S. presidency.

October: Harold Wilson returns as British prime minister.

Meir resigns. Yitzhak Rabin succeeds her as Israeli prime minister.


1975
March 22: A technician using a candle to check for air leaks sets fire to electrical insulation at the Brown’s Ferry reactor in Decatur, Alabama; cables controlling safety equipment burns out, and the cooling water falls to dangerous levels before a makeshift system is devised. (NF)

June 27: Brazil signs an agreement with West Germany to obtain significant nuclear technology. The United States objects, but can only pursuade West Germany to impose safeguards.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group meets for the first time.


1976
March 31: The Threshold Test Ban Treaty enters into force.

April: Harold Wilson resigns and James Callaghan succeeds him as British prime minister.

April 16: A nuclear warhead on the cruiser USS Albany is damaged. (NF)

May 28: President Gerald Ford and General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev sign the Underground Nuclear Explosions for Peaceful Purposes (PNE) Treaty. The treaty clarified and expanded the Threshold Test Ban Treaty.

September: Mao Zedong dies. Hua Guofeng succeeds him as Chinese chairman.

October: Deng Xiaoping and his followers push Hua Guofeng aside and rule China.


1977
January: Jimmy Carter is sworn in as U.S. president.

July 7: The United States announces it has tested a neutron bomb. The neutron bomb is essentialy a hydrogen bomb which lacks the shield that ordinarily absorbs neutrons to increase the blast. As a result, the explosive power of the bomb is much less and its immediate dose of radiation much more powerful, making it a weapon that can be used to kill or wound soldiers in the field.

September 8: A Soviet Delta class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine accidentally jettisons a nuclear warhead near Kamchatka in the Pacific. The bomb is recovered.(NF)

Menachem Begin replaces Rabin as Israeli prime minister.

South Africa tests its first full-scale nuclear explosive device based on a gun-type design. Accounts differ as to whether the government had yet switched the goal of their nuclear program from peaceful to military; that decision was taken between 1973 and 1978. In August, after Soviet discovery of the test site leads to international pressure, South Africa abandons the test site. (CNS)


1978
April: South African defense minister P.W. Botha approves adoption of a three-phase nuclear deterrent strategy. In phase one, the government will neither acknowledge nor deny its nuclear capability. If South African territory were threatened, the government would move to phase two and consider privately revealing its nuclear capability to certain international powers, such as the United States, to catalyze international intervention. If aid were not forthcoming, the government would move to phase three and consider demonstrating its nuclear capability in public, perhaps by conducting an underground nuclear test. (CNS)

April: The United States cancels development of the neutron bomb.

May 23 – June 30: First UN Special Session on Disarmament. The session establishes the Disarmament Commission, a deliberative body created to "consider and make recommendations on various problems in the field of disarmament" and the Conference on Disarmament, a multilateral negotiating body.

Gen. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq deposes Bhutto and declares martial law in Pakistan.

P.W. Botha succeeds Vorster as South African prime minister, then president. [botha.jpg]

1979
May: Margaret Thatcher replaces James Callaghan as British prime minister.

June 18: President Jimmy Carter and General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev sign the Second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II) I in Vienna. (NF)

August 7: Highly enriched uranium is released from a secret nuclear-fuel plant near Erwin, Tennessee, and about 1,000 people are contaminated with up to five times as much radiation as they would normally receive a year. (NF)

September 22: A nuclear explosion occurs over the South Indian Ocean off the Cape of Good Hope, possibly conducted by Israel, with the assistance of South Africa. (NF)

November 9: A simulated missile attack accidentally fed into the American early warning system fools operators. During the six minutes it takes to discover that the attack is not authentic, fighters from bases in the United States and Canada take off, and missile and submarine installations worldwide are placed on alert. (NF)

December: President Jimmy Carter requests a considerable increase in defense spending and signs Presidential Directive 59, calling on the United States to develop and maintain the capability to wage a protracted nuclear war. (Schwartz 16)

December 27: President Jimmy Carter withdraws the SALT II Treaty from consideration by the Senate for ratification as a result of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. (NF)

Nine kilograms of weapons grade uranium are found to be missing from a nuclear fuel plant in Erwin, Tennessee. (NF)

The Conference on Disarmament is formed.

Saddam Hussein assumes control of Iraq.

The Ayatollah Khomeini comes to power in Iran, deposing the Shah

1980s

1980
March 3: The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials is signed at New York.

May 20: The Brazilian-Argentine Agreement on the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy establishes technical cooperation and coordination of nuclear policy. (FAS)

June 3: A 46-cent computer chip fails, causing the mistaken detection of a Soviet missile attack by the NORAD system. About 100 B-52 bombers are readied for take off along with the President’s airborne command post before the error is detected. (NF)

September 20: A technician dropping a wrench and breaking a fuel tank causes an explosion in the silo of a Titan II ICBM. The explosion blows off the 740 ton silo cover and sends the reentry vehicle with its 9 megaton warhead 600 feet into the air. The accident kills one man and injures 21 others. (NF)

September 30: Iranian F-4 fighter aircraft bomb Iraq’s Osirak nuclear research center. (CNS)

December: The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (also known as Superfund) is passed in response to the discovery in the late 1970s of a large number of abandoned, leaking hazardous waste dumps. Under Superfund, the Environmental Protection Agency identifies hazardous sites, takes appropriate action, and sees that the responsible party pays for cleanup. (DOE)


1981
January: Ronald Reagan is sworn in as U.S president.


April 9: The USS George Washington, a submarine carrying 160 nuclear warheads, collides with a Japanese freighter in the East China Sea. (NF)

May: Francois Mitterand succeeds Valery Giscard d’Estaing as French president.


June 7: Israeli F-16 aircraft destroy Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor.

November 2: An American Poseidon nuclear missile being winched from the submarine support ship USS Holland falls seventeen feet when the winch runs free. The automatic breaks on the winch bring it to rest just above the submarine’s hull. (NF)


1982
June 7 – July 10 Second UN Special Session on Disarmament

July 20: President Ronald Reagan removes the United States from the ongoing Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Talks in Geneva. This action ends two decades of negotiations. (NF)

November: Brezhnev dies. Yuri V. Andropov succeeds him as Soviet leader.


1983
March 23: President Ronald Reagan delivers "Star Wars" speech, in which he calls upon the scientific community to devise a space-based defense system capable of protecting the United States from intercontinental ballistic missiles and making nuclear weapons obsolete. (NF)

November 23: Deployment of Pershing II nuclear missiles begins in Germany. In response, the Soviets discontinue the arms control talks in Geneva. (NF)

Yitzhak Shamir replaces Begin as Israeli prime minister.



1984
February: Andropov dies. Konstantin U. Chernenko succeeds him as Soviet leader.

March 21: The aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk collides with a Soviet attack submarine. The submarine is carrying nuclear armed torpedoes and the carrier is armed with several dozen nuclear weapons. (NF)

March 24: Iraqi warplanes attack Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power complex. The attack will be repeated on February 12, 1985; March 4, 1985; and November 17, 1987.

July 17: The US and the USSR expand and improve their Hot Line

October: Indira Gandhi is assassinated. Her son, Rajiv Gandhi, succeeds her as Indian prime minister.



1985
January 10: An American Pershing II missile catches fire near Heilbronn, West Germany, hurling white hot rocket parts to within 250 yards of a store of nuclear warheads. (NF)

January: Ronald Reagan is sworn in for his second term as U.S. president.

March: Chernenko dies. Mikhail Gorbachev succeeds him as Soviet leader.


July 10: The Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior is devastated when two explosive devices are detonated on it. One photographer is killed. The ship was docked in Auckland, New Zealand, and was on its way to the Murorua Atoll to protest French nuclear tests. An inquiry by New Zealand officials leads to the general acknowledgement that the attack was planned and carried out by the French Secret Service. Two agents are convicted of arson and manslaughter and sentenced to ten years in prison. The French Defence Minister resigns. In 1987, an international arbitration panels orders the French government to pay Greenpeace $8.159 million; the agreement also reduces the sentences of the two agents to a three year term in French Polynesia. By 1988, both agents are free and returned to France.

August 6: The Soviet Union declares a unilateral moratorium on all nuclear tests on the 40th anniversary of Hiroshima bombing and invites the United States to join in. The U.S. continues nuclear testing. (NF)

August 6: The South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty is signed at Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.

November 29: Brazilian President Jose Sarney and Argentine President Raul Alfonsin sign the Joint Declaration on Nuclear Policy of Foz de Iguacu, resulting in reciprocal visits by leaders and technicians to nonsafeguarded nuclear installations.

December 10: The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War receives the Nobel Peace Prize. (NF)


1986
January: Soviet President Gorbachev calls for disarmament by the year 2000. (DOE)

January 4: A cylinder of Uranium hexafluoride, a chemical used in nuclear-fuel production, is improperly heated at a Kerr-McGee plant at Gore, Oregon. One worker dies and 100 are hospitalized. (NF)

September 26: The Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident is adopted. It enters into force on October 27, 1986.

September 26: The Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency is adopted.

September 30: Israeli agents kidnap Mordechai Vanunu, a nuclear technician at Israel’s Dimona nuclear installation from 1976 to 1985. Days later, the London Sunday Times publishes the evidence he released, which leads experts to conclude that Israel may have stockpiled up to 200 nuclear warheads. Vanunu is tried in secrecy in Israel, convicted of treason and espionage, and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment. (NF)


October 3: A fire breaks out aboard the Soviet Yankee Class nuclear submarine K-219 in the Atlantic about 400 miles east of Bermuda. Heroic efforts by crew members prevent a reactor meltdown that could have contaminated the East coast of the U.S. and Canada. The submarine sinks three days later. (NF)

October 11-12: President Ronald Reagan and President Mikhail Gorbachev meet at Reykjavik, Iceland. At the summit, the two presidents seriously discuss the possibility of nuclear abolition, only to have the talks break down over Reagan’s refusal to abandon his plans to develop the Strategic Defense Initiative. (NF)


1987
February 8: Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material enters into force.

February 26: The Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency enteres into force.

April 16: The Missile Technology Control Regime is established.

September 15: Secretary of State George Schultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardmadze sign the Agreement on Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers at the White House Rose Garden. (NF)

December 8: The Soviet Union and the United States sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty at Washington.

Stonewalled by the United States Navy’s "neither confirm nor deny" policy, the New Zealand Labor government passes the world’s first statute barring entry to all nuclear powered and nuclear armed naval vessels on the basis of the responses a ship’s captain gave to questions about the nature of the ship’s propulsion and armament. Because the United States refuses to compromise its position even for vessels known not to be nuclear powered or capable of carrying nuclear weapons, this effectively bans port visits by all United States Navy ships until George Bush’s 1991 retirement of most nonstrategic naval nuclear weapons. (Schwartz 475)

1988
May 31: The Agreement Between the U.S. and USSR on Notifications of Launches of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles is signed and enters into force.

May 31 – June 25: Third UN Special Session on Disarmament

June 1: The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty enters into force.

September 21: The Joint Protocol Relating to the Application of the Vienna Convention and the Paris Convention, which would link the Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage and the Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy, is adopted. It is not yet in force.

Gen. Zia ul-Haq dies in a mysterious plane crash in August. In November, Benazir Bhutto, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s daughter, comes to power as Pakistani prime minister.


1989
January: George H.W. Bush is sworn in as U.S president.


April 7: The Soviet nuclear submarine Komsomolets sinks 300 miles off Norway, killing 42 crewmen. (NF)

June: Jiang Zemin succeeds his mentor, Deng Xiaoping, as the head of the Chinese government.


September: At a meeting of his senior political aides and advisors, President F.W. de Klerk declares that in order to end South Africa's isolation from the international community, both the political system of apartheid and the nuclear weapons program must be dismantled. (CNS)

Vishwanath Pratap Singh replaces Rajiv Gandhi as Indian prime minister. [singh.jpg]

F.W. de Klerk succeeds Botha as South African president.


Khomeini dies and is succeeded by Iranian President Khamenei and then President Rafanjani.

India and Pakistan begin creating real nuclear arsenals by stockpiling complete, ready-to-assemble weapons.

1990s

1990
June 1: President George Bush and President Mikhail S. Gorbachev sign new protocols to the Threshold Test Ban Treaty and Underground Nuclear Explosions for Peaceful Purposes Treaty which provide for advance notification and onsite inspection of tests above 35 kilotons. (NF)

September: Brazilian President Fernando Collor de Mello symbolically closes a nuclear test site. In October, he formally exposes Brazil’s atomic weapons plan.

September 25: U.S. ratifies the Threshold Test Ban Treaty. It enters into effect on December 11.

November: Nawaz Sharif replaces Bhutto as Pakistani prime minister.


November: Margaret Thatcher resigns and John Major succeeds her as British prime minister.

November 28: Brazilian President Collor de Mello and Argentine President Carlos Saul Menem sign the second Foz do Iguacu declaration (the Argentine-Brazilian Declaration on Common Nuclear Policy of Foz do Iguacu), which commits the two countries to an exclusively peaceful use of nuclear energy and the creation of a Common System for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials. (FAS)

Singh resigns and P.V. Narasimha Rao succeeds him as Indian prime minister.


1991
January 18: Gulf War – Operation Desert Storm. Israel is on nuclear alert for the duration of the war and apparently threatens nuclear retaliation if Iraq used chemical weapons on the Scud missiles fired at Israeli cities. (FAS)

June 3: France announces that is will accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a Nuclear Weapons State. (NF)

June: The dismantling of South Africa’s nuclear weapons program is "essentially complete." (CNS)

July 10: South Africa accedes to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state. (NF)

July 18: Presidents Collor de Mello and Menem establish the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials, which enters into force on December 12. The next day, the two nations enter an agreement with the IAEA to allow full-scope safeguards for their nuclear installations, while retaining rights over technological secrets. (FAS)

July 31: Using pens made from melted down SS-20 and Pershing II missiles, President George Bush and President Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I). (NF)

August 10: China announces that it will accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a Nuclear Weapons State. (NF)

September 27: A missile misfires on a Soviet Typhoon class nuclear-powered submarine carrying several nuclear weapons. (NF)

September 27: President George Bush announces cancellation of the MX rail-garrison and short-range attack missile (SCRAM II) programs and the withdrawal of all remaining Army ground-based tactical nuclear weapons and Navy tactical nuclear weapons worldwide…He also ends the 24-hour alert status of B-1B and B-52 bombers. (NF)

October 5: President Mikhail Gorbachev announces that the Soviet Union will initiate a moratorium on nuclear testing, and eliminate or reduce or range of tactical nuclear weapons based on land, sea, and air, and will exceed START requirements. He also pledges to cut the number of Soviet strategic warheads to 5,000 within seven years. (NF)

December 4: Heads of State of the Andean countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela) adopt a Declaration on the Renunciation of Weapons of Mass Destruction at Cartagena, Colombia. (NF)

December 13: Accord between Brazil and Argentina for the Exclusive Pacific Use of Nuclear Energy is ratified. (NF)

December 25: Gorbachev resigns. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the creation of the the Commonwealth of Independent States, his position is formally superfluous. He had also sustained an attempted coup in August. As a result of the coup and of Gorbachev’s resignation, Russian president Boris Yeltsin’s authority is greatly increased. Yeltsin was elected to the presidency in 1990 by the Russian Republic’s Supreme Soviet and retained his seat in 1991 in a popular election.



1992
January 28: President George Bush in his State of the Union Address announces the following: cancellation of the Midgetman Missile Program; no additional production of W-88 warheads or MX2 test missiles; termination of the B-2 bomber program after 20 planes are built (in about 1996); and cessation of production of the advanced cruise missile at 640 missiles. (NF)

February 7: Foreign Secretary Shahryar Khan of Pakistan admits in an interview with the Washington Post that his country has the components to assemble at least one nuclear bomb. (NF)

February 17: The Joint Declaration for a Non-Nuclear Korean Peninsula enters into force between North and South Korea. (NF)

April 8: French Premier Pierre Beregovoy announces that France will suspend nuclear testing. (NF)

June 15: Defense Minister Tom King of Great Britain announces that the British Navy will no longer routinely carry nuclear weapons on their surface ships and that the weapons previously earmarked for this role will be destroyed. (NF)

June 16: President George Bush and President Boris Yeltsin agree on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. (NF)

August 4: The U.S. Senate votes 68 to 26 for a nine-month moratorium on nuclear weapons testing beginning October 1, 1992, and a final cut-off of all testing by September 30, 1996. (NF)

Rabin replaces Shamir and becomes Israeli prime minister for the second time.


1993
January 3: President George Bush and President Boris Yeltsin sign the Strategic Arms Reduction Treat (START II), which reduces their nations’ arsenals of long-range nuclear weapons to 3000-3500 and eliminates all MIRVed land-based missiles over the next ten years. (NF)

January 17: The United States launches 45 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Iraq’s Zaafaraniyeh industrial complex, which is believed to be involved in producing uranium enrichment equipment. (CNS)

January: William J. Clinton is sworn in as U.S. president.


March 12: North Korea announces that it will withdraw from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. On June 11, just one day before its withdrawal goes into effect, it announces it will "suspend" its withdrawal.

March 20: A Russian Delta III class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine collides with the USS Grayling, a nuclear-powered attack submarine in the Barents Sea. (NF)

July 17: The French nuclear attack submarine, Rubis, collides with a tanker and has to undergo extensive repairs. (NF)

September: Russian nuclear specialists find that increased radiation levels at the Ukrainian ammunition depot at Pervomaisk are due to poor safety and maintenance procedures. (NF)

October: Two nuclear warheads emitting dangerous levels of radioactivity are kept for two weeks inside a railroad car on the Ukraine-Russian border, as admitted by Colonel Yevgeny Maslin, chief of the Russian General Staff’s nuclear ammunition department. (NF)

December 5: Ukraine officially accedes to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear state.

December 7: The U.S. Department of Energy reveals that the United States conducted 204 secret underground nuclear tests over a 45-year period. These bring the total number of U.S. nuclear tests to 1051. The Energy Department also reveals that the U.S. deliberately exposed some Americans to dangerous levels of radiation in medical experiments without their consent.

Bhutto returns as Pakistani prime minister.


1994
January 14: President Bill Clinton and President Boris Yeltsin announce that, by the end of May, no country will be targeted by the missiles of the United States or Russia. (NF)

February 14: Kazakhstan accedes to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear state. (NF)

April: Nelson Mandela succeeds de Klerk as South African president.


April 5-6: The Negative Security Assurance is signed.

June 3: India test fires its Prithvi medium-range missile. (NF)

August: David Kyd, spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, is quoted in New Scientist magazine as saying the agency had found 80 cases of nuclear crime involving 20 European countries since November 1991 that were worthy of its interest.

September 20: The Convention on Nuclear Safety is signed.

Kim Il Sung dies and his son, Kim Jong Il, takes over leadership of North Korea.


1995
January 25: Black Brant XII, a Norwegian-U.S. joint research rocket launched from Norway’s northwest coast, is initially mistaken by the Russians as a nuclear attack. Russian strategic command notifies President Yeltsin, and for a few tense moments Russians consider launching a counter-attack against the U.S. (NF)

May: Jacques Chirac succeeds Francois Mitterand as French president.


May 15: China explodes a nuclear device in the 40-150 kiloton range, despite its pledge just days prior at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference to ‘exercise utmost restraint’ regarding future nuclear testing. (NF)

June 13: French president Jacques Chirac declares that France will end a three-year moratorium and resume nuclear testing in the South Pacific triggering worldwide protest. (NF)

July 9: About 150 French commandos storm and tear gas the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior II after the ship enters the 12-mile exclusion zone around the French nuclear test site at Moruroa Atoll, off the Cook Islands in French Polynesia. French forces continue to board the ship for several months.


August 10: France announces its support for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. (NF)

September 5: France breaks its three-year moratorium on nuclear testing with a 20 kiloton explosion at the Moruroa atoll in the South Pacific. More testing occurs through the end of the year. (NF)

November: Rabin is assassinated. Shimon Peres succeeds him as Israeli prime minister.


December 8: A defective weld on a coolant tube results in a large-scale sodium leak in the fast breeder nuclear reactor Monju in Japan. The leak causes the sodium to ignite, filling the room with deadly fumes and temperatures as high as 1500 degrees Celsius, melting steel structures in the room including the thermometer tube, ventilation duct inlet, and the floor directly beneath the breached tube. The Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation describes the accident as ‘a minor leakage in the secondary sodium loop [that] caused some fumes.’ (NF)

December 10: Pugwash, with founder Joseph Rotblat, receives the Nobel Peace Prize.

December 15: The nations of Southeast Asia sign a treaty that designates an area stretching from Burma in the west, Philippines in the east, Laos and Vietnam in the north and Indonesia in the south as a nuclear-weapons-free zone. (NF)


1996
January 19: A French Mirage 2000-N nuclear bomber crashes in southern France after flying into a flock of birds. French officials state that there were no nuclear missiles on board when the plane went down. (NF)

January 29: Under massive international protest, especially from Europe and the Pacific countries, France ends its series of nuclear tests. (NF)

April 11: Representatives of 43 African nations sign the Treaty of Pelindaba in Cairo, establishing an African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. It has not yet entered into force. At the same time, the signatories issued the Cairo Declaration, which called for a nuclear-free world.

May: H.D. Deve Gowda replaces Rao as Indian prime minister.

July: Yeltsin is reelected as Russian president.

August 14: Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons finds that nuclear weapons diminish the security of all states, including the nuclear weapons states. (NF)

September: The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is signed.

October 24: The Convention on Nuclear Safety enters into force.

Benjamin Netanyahu replaces Peres as Israeli prime minister.



1997
January: William J. Clinton is sworn in for his second term as U.S. president.

April: I.K. Gujral replaces Gowda as Indian prime minister.

May: Tony Blair replaces John Major as British prime minister.


November: Gujral resigns as Indian prime minister.

Sharif returns as Pakistani prime minister.

Mohammed Khatami replaces Rafsanjani as Iranian president.


1998
April 6: Pakistan announces that it has successfully test-fired a medium-range 1,000 mile surface-to-surface missile that is believed to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. (NF)

April 6: Britain and France become the first nuclear weapons states to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. (NF)

May 11: India conducts three underground nuclear tests, its first in 24 years. It conducts more tests later in the month. (NF)

May 28-30: Pakistan conducts six nuclear weapons tests. (NF)

June 9: Eight nations (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, South Africa, and Sweden), calling themselves the New Agenda Coalition, call for the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide. (NF)

June 22: Iran test-fires a medium-range missile, the Shahab-3, that explodes about 100 seconds into the flight. (NF)

August 31: North Korea tests a middle-range missile, Taepo Dong 1, with a range of up to 1,240 miles. The U.S. intelligence community is shocked.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee becomes Indian prime minister.



1999
March 31: In response to the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, the Chairman of Russia’s General Staff Anatoly Kvashin says that Moscow no longer rules out launching a preemptive strike against a potential enemy. (NF)

April 11: India successfully test-fires an intermediate-range ballistic missile, the Agni II, from a rail platform located at a new test site on Wheeler Island in the Bay of Bengal. (NF)

April 15: Pakistan conducts its second test of a nuclear-capable missile successfully test-firing its Shaheen short-range ballistic missile.

May: Ehud Barak replaces Netanyahu as Israeli prime minister.


October: Gen. Pervez Musharraf deposes Pakistani prime minister Sharif in a bloodless coup.


October 18: The U.S. Senate rejects the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty with 51 senators against and 48 for ratification. (NF)

November 17: During a training flight a British Tornado fighter plane crashes into the North Sea, a half-mile off-shore from a Scottish nuclear power plant. In their official report, British officials put the distance at one mile, which is the statutory distance military aircraft must maintain from nuclear power plants. (NF)

December 31: Yeltsin announces his resignation. Vladimir Putin succeeds him as Russian president.


North Korea agrees to a long-range missile test moratorium as a result of U.S. efforts.

During a ‘mini-war’ called Kargil between India and Pakistan over the disputed terrritory of Kashmir, the two nations may have been on nuclear alert. According to Indian journalist Raj Chengappa, the Indians were at Readiness State 3, "meaning that some nuclear bombs would be ready to be mated with the delivery vehicle on short notice…A trajectory was worked out so that the two stages that are detached after burnout did not fall on Indian territory and hurt anyone. Pakistan is learnt to have kept its nuclear weapons in an advanced state of readiness." (Weapons of Peace 2000 in NYT 7/15/01 ‘For the Newest Nuclear Powers, A Little Chat’ Barry Bearak)

Thabo Mbeki succeeds Mandela as South African president.


2000s

2000
February 7: Pakistan test fires a new, more accurate short-range surface-to-surface missile, Pohkran-2. (NF)

March: The Russian Federation ratifies START II.

May: A raging wildfire enters the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (LASL) compound, a 43-square-mile U.S. nuclear weapons facility in New Mexico and consumes some historic lab buildings relating to the Manhattan Project. The fire was deliberately set by forest rangers to clear dry brush in the Bandalier National Forest surrounding the lab. A LASL spokesperson says most of the three tons of plutonium on the lab grounds were stored in stainless steel cans in fireproof concrete bunkers and that the fire came within 30 yards of that storage facility. Tritium is similarly stored at LASL. (NF)

August 12: The Kursk, a Russian nuclear-powered submarine, plunges to the bottom of the Barents Sea. It may have carried nuclear warheads. (NF)


2001 January: George W. Bush is sworn in as U.S president.




Ariel Sharon replaces Barak as Israeli prime minister.

June 15: Bush administration lifts remaining sanctions on India, imposed following an Indian nuclear test in 1998.

September 11: Terrorists hijack planes and crash them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Twin Towers collapse and the Pentagon burns for days. President Bush declares a "war on terrorism."

November 1: The last nuclear missile silo in Ukraine is destroyed.
November 5: At the UN the U.S. loses a vote 140 to 1 to keep the CTBT off the agenda of the General Assembly.

November 11: The U.S. boycotts a UN Conference on Advancing Entry into Force of the CTBT.

December 13: The U.S. officially announces that it will withdraw from the Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.


2002
March: Controversy explodes in the media over information leaked from the January 2002 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which identifies possible use of nuclear weapons against other nuclear powers China and Russia, as well as Iraq, Iran, Syria, and the DPRK, and development of new tactical-use nuclear weapons, signaling that nuclear weapons will be actively integrated in war planning.

May 24: Putin and Bush sign the Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty (SORT), designed to reduce the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons in Russia and the U.S. to between 1700 and 2200 each, by 2012.


September 16: Iraq agrees to allow the return of UN inspection teams, absent since 1998.

September 20: The Bush administration releases an updated National Security Strategy , outlining stronger counterproliferation initiatives and preemptive measures to stop the spread of WMD.

October: North Korea admits to Bush administration officials that it has established a uranium-based nuclear weapons program.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.


November 8: UN Resolution 1441 is passed, threatening Iraq with serious consequences if it does not comply with strict new inspection standards.

November 25: Inspections resume in Iraq.

December 11: Release of the U.S. Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction , reconfirming counterproliferation initiatives of the September National Strategy and setting forth new U.S. commitments to using nuclear weapons to counter attacks by chemical or biological agents.

December 21: At Yongbyon, North Korea, the IAEA announces, monitoring equipment and reactor seals have been removed.

December 27: IAEA officials are removed from North Korea as the nation announces plans to restart reactors and enter into a program to process plutonium for weapons use.

2003
January 16-19: IAEA inspector discover Iraqi warheads designed for chemical weapons use and ask for disclosure of weapons materials planned for this purpose. U.S. declares Iraq in material breech of its commitments made after conclusion of the 1991 Gulf War.

January 27: Hans Blix, chief IAEA inspector in Iraq, issues his report on Iraqi compliance with inspections. Blix asserts that Iraq has yet to comply with many requests, but denounces U.S. announcements that the Iraq is in material breech.


March: The IAEA challenges U.S. evidence that Iraq sought weapons components (centrifuge technology from various sources and enriched uranium from Niger).

March 18: Russian Duma delays ratification of the SORT/Moscow Treaty in response to the U.S. war on Iraq.

March 19: The Bush administration is denied a Security Council Resolution condoning military action against Iraq and announces plans to undertake an invasion unilaterally.

March 20: The United States and Great Britain invade Iraq.

April 10: North Korea's withdrawal from the NPT becomes official.

May: Russian Duma ratifies SORT.

The U.S. 1993 Spratt-Furse Amendment is repealed, lifting restrictions on U.S. research and development on low-yield nuclear weapons (less than 5 kilotons).

May 31: Following a June 12 meeting in Madrid, the Bush administration announces officially that it will pursue interdiction of arms being transported on the high seas, in concert with willing international partners, known as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

June: No significant weapons stockpiles are discovered in Iraq. A debate begins on the reliability of U.S. intelligence collection and analysis, and whether Iraq truly posed a WMD threat.

June 30: Hans Blix retires from UNMOVIC, stating that although Iraq proved obstinate to reveal details of its weapons programs, that this fact did not directly lead to conclusions that they were hiding anything at all.

October: Iran agrees to cooperate with IAEA inspectors and to disclose information about nuclear programs.

December: Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qadhafi announces plans for his country to dismantle and destroy the WMD programs it had pursued from the 1970s.

2004
January: Libya ratifies the CTBT.

U.S. scientific team visits North Korea informally, returning with the belief that the country may have been able to manufacture weapons-grade plutonium, referred to by North Korean scientists as a "deterrent," from reactor rods previously supplied by the U.S. under the 1994 Agreed Framework. No evidence is found or provided that North Korea has developed a nuclear weapon.

David Kay, former U.S. chief weapons inspector in Iraq, announces his belief that no major evidence of WMD is likely to be found in Iraq.


February: A U.S. cargo plane removes WMD components from Libya, to the U.S. for destruction.

Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan confesses to have shared nuclear secrets with North Korea, :wall: Libya and Iran.
 

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