“The main reason they haven’t been used is that they are militarily useless. For example, Russia could use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, but it probably wouldn’t alter the war. It wouldn’t make the Ukrainians surrender and so they really would not be able to achieve military goals with them. The US considered using nuclear weapons in Korea, considered using them in Vietnam, but they could not find a scenario where nuclear weapons would accomplish military goals. So replacing them with another weapons systems, we’ve done that. All of these countries fight wars with other weapons systems, so in a sense, to replace them on the scale that they are is to create something that would be useless again. They’re really essentially useless as they are, and their only use right now really is for status – you’ll notice that first five nuclear weapons states are the five permanent members of the Security Council – nuclear weapons bring political power with them and this is one of the reasons countries want to have them.”
Today my guest is Robert (Bo) Jacobs. Robert is a historian of Science and Technology at the Hiroshima Peace Institute and Graduate School of Peace Studies at Hiroshima City University. He has published widely on the interface of nuclear technologies with human beings and communities. His book Nuclear Bodies: The Global Hibakusha was published by Yale University Press in 2022. Nuclear weapons have once again come into the spotlight with the ongoing war in Ukraine, and I thought it would be useful to get a wide picture of the history and future of these weapons, so I hope you are sitting comfortably and happy to stay with us.
I started our conversation by asking Robert about his path from Chicago to the University of Hiroshima (01:39) and how his university is the perfect place for the context of his research (03:50). We then discussed the impact of the bombs falling on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the aftermath for Japanese society immediately after the bombings (04:50), the term hibakusha and its historical significance (10:30), and the consensus from around the world on the bombings (13:09). I went on to ask Robert about the use of nuclear weapons in culture over the last seventy years (15:49), the history of nuclear weapons testing (20:50), and the current threat which seems to be increasing today (30:35). Towards the end of the episode, we discussed the decommissioning of nuclear weapons (34:58), future threats from nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands (38:36), and me asking Robert if he is optimistic about the permanent removal of these weapons (41:52). I finished our chat by asking Robert what he is reading and watching at the moment (43:40).
- Robert on Mastodon
- Robert’s website
- Robert’s book, Nuclear Bodies: The Global Hibakusha
- The On the Beach trailer
- For more, hear my conversation with Katja Hoyer, Brian Milne and Dr. Johanna Vos
If you enjoy this podcast, please subscribe, review and rate: Spotify and Apple Podcasts