3.Remaining nuclear issues
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, world sentiment moved in the direction of nuclear disarmament, but a new problem loomed: nuclear proliferation.
In the old Soviet Union, about 27,000 nuclear warheads were deployed in four countries: Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. The summit of the Union of Independent Nations (CIS) held in Minsk in December 1991 agreed that the old Soviet Union's nuclear weapons would be under the centralized control of CIS. They agreed that the use of nuclear weapons could only be determined by consultation between the presidents of Russia and the republics in which the nuclear weapons are deployed. Although the nations agreed to eliminate strategic nuclear weapons deployed in the three nations besides Russia, they continue to disagree on methods of elimination and inspection. Also, the multiplying economic difficulties of the various members of the old Soviet Union endanger stability. This arouses concern in Western countries about their ability to control nuclear weapons. Problems related to nuclear proliferation are growing. Weapons could be sold to third-world countries, and nuclear engineers moving around the world are apt to spread nuclear technology.
Cleaning up radioactive contamination at nuclear testing sites and nuclear plants and replenishing, decontaminating, and disposing of massive amounts of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste will take far more time and money than was spent on developing the weapons. Controlling radioactive wastes, in particular, is an extremely grave problem. These wastes will remain radioactive for tens of thousands of years in tanks susceptible to corrosion, leaks, and explosion.
Having spent tremendous sums manufacturing nuclear weapons, the human race will now have to spend even more ridding ourselves of them.
Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant (Colorado, US) (Courtesy : NHK)
Formerly a factory manufacturing parts for nuclear weapons, Rocky Flats is now in the process of shutting down. The vast quantities of radioactive waste generated by closing and dismantling this plant will be packed in drums and stored. The photo shows a mountain of drums.