Context: On July 16, 1945 (exactly 75 years ago), the world’s first super bomb exploded in a desert in New Mexico, destroying everything in its vicinity and marking the dawn of the nuclear age.

About the super bomb:

  • The super bomb, nicknamed ‘Gadget’ (dubbed as Trinity test), was built by a team of scientists at a top-secret site in Los Alamos, New Mexico. 
  • It was developed as part of the US-led Manhattan Project, which sought to build nuclear weapons to give the allied forces an edge over Germany, Japan and Italy in World War 2.
  • Less than a month later of the Trinity test, an identical nuclear bomb called ‘Fat Man’ was dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, killing tens of thousands.

About Manhattan Project:

  • WWII and a warning: After Germany initiated World War II by invading Poland, Nobel prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein warned then-US President Franklin D Roosevelt of the potential threat posed by an atomic weapon being developed by Adolf Hitler.
  • The United States launched a secret atomic research undertaking: Code-named the Manhattan Project, which sought to develop an atomic weapon to end the war with the help of the country’s leading atomic experts as well as exiled scientists and physicists from Germany and other Nazi-occupied nations.
  • Pearl Harbour and the push to the project: It was only after the bombing of Pearl Harbour by the Japanese Navy Air Service in 1941, when the US decided to enter the Second World War and the project was officially kicked into gear.
  • The Los Alamos team (headed by J Robert Oppenheimer later “father of the atomic bomb”) developed two types of bombs - one was uranium based, later code-named ‘the Little Boy’ before it was dropped on Hiroshima and the other had a plutonium core. 
    • Testing the ‘Little Boy’ was not feasible, as there was not enough uranium available. The Plutonium bomb was eventually tested at the Trinity site on July 16, 1945.

Repercussions of the Trinity Test:

  • On health:
    • Data collected by the New Mexico health department, which showed a sudden rise in infant mortality was reported in the months after the explosion. 
    • Several residents also complained that the number of cancer patients went up after the Trinity Test.
  • Damage done by the atomic bombs in Japan: According to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICANW) data, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings are known to have killed well over 200,000 people many of whom succumbed to radiation poisoning in the weeks after the blasts.

Countries worldwide possessing nuclear weapons today:

  • These include, the US, the UK, Russia, France, India, China, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea.
  • According to data, at least eight countries have detonated over 2,000 nuclear test explosions since 1945.
  • The most recent instance of nuclear bomb test explosions conducted by India, were the series of five explosions done as part of the Pokhran-II tests in May 1998. 
    • The first test, code-named Smiling Buddha, took place in May 1974.