Effects on Environment
When evaluating the impact of nuclear weapons on the environment, scientists and academics have taken two major approaches – analyzing the potential impact of an increasingly likely nuclear war, and studying how nuclear weapon production has affected, and continues to affect, the environment. We need to take into account everything from contaminated water sources to nuclear winter in order to fully appreciate the environmental consequences of this technology. No nuclear weapons state, however, has officially evaluated the impact a nuclear war would have on Earth’s climate and ecosystems.
Extensive research has been conducted on the potential repercussions of a nuclear conflict. Aside from the initial human death toll, it is clear that the use of nuclear weapons can have devastating and long-lasting effects on the Earth’s environment. For example, a regional nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan could create a smoke layer around the planet that would block out 10% of the incoming sunlight; we could see the coldest temperatures in over 1000 years. This would wreak havoc on worldwide temperatures and, most importantly, on agriculture – growing seasons could be eliminated for over a decade.
In addition to the potential damage of a nuclear weapon explosion, there is also the issue of existing environmental harm caused by weapon production. This process generates large quantities of waste that oftentimes ends up in oceans, rivers, and soil. Despite having spent tens of billions of dollars on waste management and environmental cleanup programs, the U.S. Department of Energy is still faced with huge waste problems at its nuclear weapons plants. Some of these plants are above major sources of drinking water and it is therefore likely that this waste is reaching and affecting humans despite cleanup projects.
Though these have proven difficult topics to study, the articles in this section give detailed accounts of how nuclear weapons have affected, are affecting, and could affect our environment.
- Consequences of Nuclear Weapons by Steven Starr
- Deadly Climate Change from Nuclear War: A Threat to Human Existence by Steven Starr
- "Buried History: What Lies Beneath the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge," video by Jeff Chen of High Country News
- Le rapport de la Commission d’enquête sur les conséquences des essais aériens met la Franceface à ses responsabilités, January 26, 2006 | English Summary
- End of the Plutonium Age by David Samuels DISCOVER Vol. 26 No. 11 | November 2005
- The Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RENP), July 2005
- Enviornmental Effects of Nuclear Weapons Production and Testing
- “Nuclear Regulatory Commission: NRC Needs to Do More to Ensure that Power Plants Are Effectively Controlling Spent Nuclear Fuel,” U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), April 2005.
- “Danger Lurks Below: The Threat to Major Water Supplies from Department of Energy Nuclear Weapons Plants,” Radioactive Waste Management Associates, April 2004.
- “Nuclear Dumps by the Riverside: Threats to the Savannah River from Radioactive Contamination at the Savannah River Site,” Arjun Makhijani, and Michele Boyd, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), March 11, 2004.
- “Poison in the Vadose Zone: An examination of the threats to the Snake River Plain aquifer from the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory,” Arjun Makhijani, and Michele Boyd, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), October 2001.
You can find more information on the subject in the section "Effects of Nuclear Testing on Health and Environment"