By Graham Land
The first test of a nuclear weapon occurred in 1945 in the United States, a country that would rack up 1,054 tests in total. The Soviet Union, the UK, France, China and eventually Pakistan, India and North Korea have also contributed to worldwide radioactive fallout through tests of their own.
Of the major nuclear testers (US, Soviet Union, UK, France and China), the first three signed a treaty to stop all above ground tests in 1963. France continued until 1972 and China until 1980. None of the top 5 has tested any nuclear weapon since 1996, though both Pakistan and Asia tested in 1998. North Korea famously conducted their third underground nuclear weapons test on February 12 of this year.
By the 1960s there was no place on Earth in which nuclear fallout from atomic weapons testing could not be measured. It’s in the soil, the water and even the polar ice caps. Exposure to nuclear fallout, specifically Iodine-131, has subjected countless people to risks of thyroid cancer and other health problems. Fallout contaminates air, water, vegetation, and livestock – and even via direct contact with the skin. US testing in the Marshall Islands directly contaminated residents’ food and cooking utensils. (Full disclosure: I reference an article of which my father is one of the co-authors, though I only noticed that after reading it!)
The legacy of nuclear testing is once again rearing its head. New revelations about French testing in the South Pacific during the 60s and 70s paint an incredible picture of plutonium fallout, government deceit and reckless endangerment of life. More....