History

History

This section provides an overview of the history of the Manhattan Project, the key organizations involved, the science behind the bomb, and more.
The American nuclear football

Nuclear Briefcases

During the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union created briefcases that allowed their respective leaders to order a nuclear attack within minutes.
A map used for briefing in Autumn Forge 83

Nuclear Close Calls: Able Archer 83

The election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980 saw the return of heightened Cold War tensions after a period of détente during the previous decade. The zenith of this escalation arguably came in 1983, when a NATO training exercise almost prompted nuclear war.

 

A Soviet R-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile in Red Square, Moscow

Nuclear Close Calls: The Cuban Missile Crisis

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were largely prevented from engaging in direct combat with each other due to the fear of mutually assured destruction (MAD). In 1962, however, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world perilously close to nuclear war.
A Black Brant XII rocket similar to the one launched during the Norwegian rocket incident

Nuclear Close Calls: The Norwegian Rocket Incident

In 1995, Russian officials briefly misinterpreted a Norwegian scientific rocket to be a nuclear attack.

Nuclear Fission

In the 1930s, scientists observed and explained nuclear fission--splitting an atom--for the first time.
President Lyndon Johnson looking on as Secretary of State Dean Rusk prepares to sign the NPT, 1 July 1968. Photo Courtesy of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a comprehensive international arms control agreement addressing both horizontal and vertical nuclear proliferation.

Experimental Breeder Reactor I. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Nuclear Power Today

One of the Manhattan Project’s many legacies is the development of peaceful nuclear reactors.
US Trident missile.

Nuclear Proliferation Today

The unprecedented use of nuclear weapons in World War II served as the starting point for an ongoing era of nuclear proliferation.
Military reservist during decontamination activities at Chernobyl. Photo Credit: USFCRFC from IAEA Imagebank Flickr

Nuclear Reactor Accidents - History and Legacies

Nuclear power is controversial among governments, experts and the public. Three high-profile accidents contribute to public fear surrounding nuclear power.

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