Courtesy Reuters

The Future Development of Nuclear Weapons

AYEAR and a half ago the Western powers began negotiations with the Soviet Union for a treaty to end the testing of nuclear weapons. The negotiations were warmly welcomed by the public, and by scientists in particular. It appeared to many people that this was one area of disarmament in which agreement should not be too difficult to reach. The generally optimistic feeling about the negotiations had its origin in three widely held beliefs. It was believed that the development of nuclear weapons had reached a point of technical stagnation; that the military consequences of new inventions in this field would be small; and that a political agreement to cease further development could be adequately controlled by a system of long-range explosion-detectors. These views have been repeatedly expressed by scientific experts, and many citizens and politicians have come to accept them without serious question.

It is my purpose here to argue the contrary views. I believe that radically new kinds of nuclear weapons are technically possible, that the military and political effects of such weapons would be important, and that the development of such weapons can hardly be arrested by any means less drastic than international control of all nuclear operations.

This by no means implies that negotiations to end weapon-testing should be abandoned. If my views are correct, then to end weapons development becomes vastly more difficult to achieve than had been thought, but it also becomes vastly more rewarding. Any agreement to cease weapon-testing upon a sound and verifiable basis will require an opening of communications and a breaking down of barriers among the nuclear laboratories of the world. The aim of our negotiations will thus be not merely the prohibition of weapon testing, but the establishment of an open world. To many thoughtful people, since the early days of nuclear energy, the great hope has been that nuclear weapons would compel mankind to coöperate not only in nuclear affairs but in other areas too. This dream could

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