1960 to 1991: The Nuclear Arms Race

1960 to 1991: The Nuclear Arms Race

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Bomb test

March 9, 1979

Temporary injunction granted by US court against The Progressive Magazine for attempting to publish designs for H-bomb. The story contained information about the still-classified "Teller-Ulam" design principle and configuration.

April 7, 1978

Production of "neutron bomb" is cancelled by US President Jimmy Carter. The Neutron bomb is a type of thermonuclear weapon designed specifically to release a large portion of its energy as energetic neutron radiation (fast neutrons) rather than explosive energy. Although their extreme blast and heat effects are not eliminated, it is the enormous radiation released by ERWs that is designed to be a major source of casualties.

May 18, 1974

India tests its first "peaceful nuclear device" (PNE), dubbed Smiling Buddha. The Smiling Buddha was the first confirmed nuclear test by a nation outside the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

May 26, 1972

US President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev sign the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) and the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT), both of which were important steps in slowing the nuclear arms race between the US and the USSR.

March 5, 1970

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signed two years earlier enters into force. The treaty allowed sharing of atomic technology for "peaceful purposes" to non-nuclear nations under the agreement that these nations would never develop an atomic weapons program.

August 24, 1968

France tests its first hydrogen bomb, code named Canopus, at the Fangataufa atoll. The device was suspended from a large hydrogen filled balloon and produced a 2.6 megaton yield at an altitude of 1800 feet. As a result of the successful detonation, France became the 5th thermonuclear nation.

July 1, 1968

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is opened for signature. A total of 190 parties have joined the Treaty since 1968, with five states being recognized as nuclear-weapon states: the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China (also the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council).

January 21, 1968

A B-52 carrying four hydrogen bombs crashes in Greenland, causing the conventional explosives aboard to detonate and the nuclear payload to rupture and disperse, which resulted in radioactive contamination.

June 17, 1967

China tests its first hydrogen bomb. It was a fully functional, three-stage hydrogen bomb, tested just 32 months after China had made its first fission device. China thus produced the shortest fission-to-fusion development known in history.

January 17, 1966

A B-52 crashes over Palomares, Spain, dropping four hydrogen bombs. Of the four Mk28 type hydrogen bombs the B-52 carried, three were found on land near the small fishing village of Palomares. The non-nuclear explosives in two of the weapons detonated upon impact with the ground, resulting in the contamination of roughly 1 square mile area by plutonium. The fourth, which fell into the Mediterranean Sea, was recovered intact after nearly a 3-month-long search.