In a reversal of Trump administration policy, the State Department on Tuesday disclosed the number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile. It said this will aid global efforts to control the spread of such weapons.
The number of U.S. weapons, including those in active status as well as those in long-term storage, stood at 3,750 as of September 2020, the department said. That is down from 3,805 a year earlier and 3,785 in 2018.
As recently as 2003, the U.S. nuclear weapon total was slightly above 10,000. It peaked at 31,255 in 1967.
The last time the U.S. government released its stockpile number was in March 2018, when it said the total was 3,822 as of September 2017. That was early in the Trump administration, which subsequently kept updated numbers secret and denied a request by the Federation of American Scientists to declassified them.
“Back to transparency,” said Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. He said the Biden administration was wise to reverse the prior administration's policy.
Kristensen said disclosing the stockpile number will assist U.S. diplomats in arms control negotiations and at next year's Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference, which will review the disarmament commitment made by nuclear powers who are treaty signatories, including the United States.
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5 things to know about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima
Q. Why was Hiroshima chosen as a target?
A. Hiroshima was a major Japanese military hub with factories, military bases and ammunition facilities. Historians say the United States picked it as a suitable target because of its size and landscape, and carefully avoided fire bombing the city ahead of time so American officials could accurately assess the impact of the atomic attack. The United States said the bombings hastened Japan's surrender and prevented the need for a U.S. invasion of Japan. Some historians today say Japan was already close to surrendering, but there is still debate in the U.S.
Q. What happened in the attack?
FILE - In this Aug. 6, 1945, file photo, the "Enola Gay" Boeing B-29 Superfortress lands at Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands, after the U.S. a…
A. At 8:15 a.m., the U.S. B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped a 4-ton "Little Boy" uranium bomb from a height of 9,600 meters (31,500 feet) on the city center, targeting the Aioi Bridge. The bomb exploded 43 seconds later, 600 meters (2,000 feet) above the ground. Seconds after the detonation, the estimated temperature was 3,000-4,000 degrees Celsius (5,400-7,200 degrees Fahrenheit) at ground zero. Almost everything within 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) of ground zero was destroyed by the blast and heat rays. Within one hour, a "black rain" of highly radioactive particles started falling on the city, causing additional radiation exposure.
Q. How many people were killed?
A. An estimated 140,000 people, including those with radiation-related injuries and illnesses, died through Dec. 31, 1945. That was 40% of Hiroshima's population of 350,000 before the attack. Everyone within a radius of 500 meters (1,600 feet) from ground zero died that day. To date, the total death toll, including those who died from radiation-related cancers, is about 300,000. Hiroshima today has 1.2 million residents.
Q. What effect did radiation have?
A. Many people exposed to radiation developed symptoms such as vomiting and hair loss. Most of those with severe radiation symptoms died within three to six weeks. Others who lived beyond that developed health problems related to burns and radiation-induced cancers and other illnesses. Survivors have a higher risk of developing cataracts and cancer. About 136,700 people certified as "hibakusha," as victims are called, under a government support program are still alive and entitled to regular free health checkups and treatment. Health monitoring of second-generation hibakusha began recently. Japan's government provided no support for victims until a law was finally enacted in 1957 under pressure from them.
Q. What are those colorful folded paper cranes for?
Hatsue Onda, center, is helped by Kengo Onda to offer strings of colorful paper cranes to the victims of the 1945 Atomic bombing near Hiroshim…
A. "Origami" paper cranes can be seen throughout the city. They became a symbol of peace because of a 12-year-old bomb survivor, Sadako Sasaki, who, while battling leukemia, folded paper cranes using medicine wrappers after hearing an old Japanese story that those who fold a thousand cranes are granted one wish. Sadako developed leukemia 10 years after her exposure to radiation at age 2, and died three months after she started the project. Former U.S. President Barack Obama brought four paper cranes that he folded himself when he visited Hiroshima in May 2016, becoming the first serving American leader to visit. Obama's cranes are now displayed at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.