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Nuclear Weapons in a New World

Countries are altering their nuclear arsenals, prompting the U.S. to refurbish its own warheads
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COURTESY OF NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION (MISSILE LAUNCH); C. MAYHEW AND R. SIMMON NASA/GSFC, NOAA/NGDC AND DMSP DIGITAL ARCHIVE (NIGHT MAP); SLIM FILMS (PHOTOCOMPOSITION)

Unleashing a nuclear bomb would cause untold death and disfigurement. But society tends to forget. It has been more than 60 years since the U.S. dropped two terrible bombs on Japan and more than 15 years since the cold war between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union ended, and government commitment to avoiding nuclear war may be fading.

Although the likelihood of a missile exchange between the U.S. and Russia has lessened considerably, it has not vanished. Worry that other nuclear confrontations might occur has risen recently. Intelligence reports indicate that China is retargeting more of its missiles at the U.S. Iran continues to expand its uranium-enrichment facilities; it insists that this work is aimed only at generating electricity, but few nations believe that claim. India is broadening its ability to launch nuclear weapons from land, air and sea, and Pakistan is responding in kind. And even though North Korea indicated in September that it would disable its atomic programs, international negotiators are not yet convinced and the country continues to test longer-range missiles.

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