The United States in World War II created nuclear weapons in a secret wartime project. The U. S. spent over $2 billion dollars in 1945 on the project in fear that the Germans might succeed in creating a similar weapon. However the German's did not seriously pursue the development of the nuclear weapons during World War II. Four years after the United States exploded the first atomic bomb in 1945 on Hiroshima, the Soviet Union tested their own.

With this the nuclear arms race began. The U. S. succeeded in conducting the first test explosion of a nuclear weapon on July 16, 1945 at Alamogordo, New Mexico. With authorisation from President Harry Truman, the U. S.

military dropped the first nuclear weapon over the Japanese City of Hiroshima and a second nuclear weapon was dropped over Nagasaki three days later on August 9, 1945. There is no accurate account of how many persons died in the atomic bombings of the two Japanese cities. However, it is generally acknowledged that some 90, 000-100, 000 persons died immediately in Hiroshima and some 35, 000-40, 000 died immediately in Nagasaki. By the end of 1945, some 140, 000 persons in Hiroshima had died as a result of the bombing, and some 70, 000 persons died in the same time period in Nagasaki. The bombs inflicted massive casualties as a result of blast, heat, and radiation. Survivors of the atomic bombings of these cities have continued to suffer from disfiguration, radiation-induced illnesses, and genetic damage that will affect future generations.

Nuclear weapons are clearly genocidal! The weapons that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki were small by comparison with the nuclear weapons subsequently developed. The weapon that destroyed Hiroshima, with a core of Uranium 235, had a power of approximately 15 kilotons, or 15, 000 tons of dynamite (TNT). The weapon that destroyed Nagasaki had a power of approximately 20 kilotons, or 20, 000 tons of TNT. Nuclear weapon developed in the 50 years following World War II have a destructive power thousands of times greater than those used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The world's arsenal of nuclear weapons, primarily in the hands of the United States and the former Soviet Union, was considered by experts to be sufficient in power to destroy most life on Earth. The nuclear arms race between the U. S. and former USSR ended with the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the USSR at the beginning of the 1990 s. Since then, steps have been taken to dismantle many nuclear weapons. However, there are still some 35, 000 nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the nuclear weapons states.

The U. S. and Russia have agreed under the terms of the Strategic Arms Reduction Agreement (START II), to reduce the number of their strategic weapons to some 3000 to 3500 each by the year 2003. Given the destructive potential of these weapons, many critics believe that this commitment does not go far enough.

There are at present five declared nuclear weapons states U. S. , UK, France, Russia, and China. In addition, there are three so-called threshold nuclear states that are thought to possess nuclear weapons arsenals Israel, India, and Pakistan. South Africa developed a small nuclear arsenal, but chose to dismantle it. Japan has sufficient plutonium, seemingly for its nuclear industry, to become a major nuclear weapons power practically overnight.

Other states known to be interested in becoming nuclear weapons states include North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Libya. In 1995 the non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) was extended indefinitely. The Treaty, now has 186 state parties involved in its. On July 8, 1996, the International Court of Justice ruled on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons.

The Court found that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be different to the rules of international law appropriate in armed conflict. However, the court was not able to reach the conclusion that nuclear weapons were illegal in all circumstances. The Court did not define an exclusion to illegality of threat or use of nuclear weapons, but it indicated that they could not conclude definitely whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defence. The Court's ruling leaves open no possible use of nuclear weapons short of a situation of self-defence. Under the ruling, any threat of use to intimidate or use short of self- defence would be clearly illegal, and under the Nuremberg Principles and the Genocide Convention would also be a crime under international law. There-bye being punishable under the law established by the International Military Tribunal and the Genocide Convention.

And even under these "extreme circumstances," the Court did not indicate that threat or use of nuclear weapons would be legal.