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The nuclear age began when the United States tested a completely new type of weapon in the New Mexico desert. The Trinity bomb produced an explosion equivalent to 20,000 tonnes of TNT. On 6 August 1945, the world became aware of the existence of nuclear weapons when a US dropped a nuclear bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima and later on Nagasaki. However, nuclear technology has also been used to provide electricity.
By bombing Japan, the US started a worldwide arms race, and the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Up to 1968 nine nations have had nuclear weapons. the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) aimed to limit the spread of atomic weapons, and has achieved the decommisioning of 38,000 warheads since 1986.
The first nuclear reactor to provide electricity opened in Calder Hall in England in 1956. Nuclear fuel has been used to power submarines, spacecrafts, ice breakers and aircraft carriers.
The world’s most catastrophic nuclear accident happened at Chernobyl in Ukraine, in 1986. The accident has led to radiation-induced conditions such as thyroid cancers and leukaemia, birth defects and contamination to lakes and forests. Similar reactors in the world may be just as dangerous. Radioactive nuclear waste is very serious drawback of the industry.
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