Foundation Day of United Nations Atomic Energy Commission - [January 24, 1946] This Day in History

24 January 1946

United Nations Atomic Energy Commission was founded


What happened?

On 24 January 1946, the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (UNAEC) was founded by the UN General Assembly ‘to deal with the problems raised by the discovery of atomic energy.’ But, the Commission was disbanded in 1952.

Background

  • The nuclear age began during the Second World War when the United States of America used nuclear weapons to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Nuclear weapons are unlike any other; their impact is seen across generations and renders a place unfit for living for decades.
  • The atomic bombing of the two Japanese cities has been the only incidence of the use of such weapons till date in history. About 129,999 people were killed by the bombs.
  • Immediately after the bombing, the war came to an end and people began to see both the futility of war and the disastrous effects of nuclear weapons.
  • It was agreed that a platform is needed to regularise or completely abandon producing such arms.
  • Nuclear energy is a powerful tool and can be a potential solution to humanity’s energy needs. But, the path towards exploring nuclear energy should be trodden cautiously because of the danger of nuclear arms proliferation and of untoward incidents involving nuclear reactors such as the one at Chernobyl in 1986.
  • The UNAEC was asked by the General Assembly to make proposals that would control atomic energy such that it was used only for peaceful purposes, eliminate nuclear weapons from national armaments, and to ensure safeguards against possible violations.
  • In June 1946, the US, which at that time was the only country that had atomic weapons, presented the Baruch Plan to the UNAEC. This plan stated that the US would destroy all its atomic weaponry on the condition that the UN would impose controls on the development of atomic weapons that would not be subject to the Security Council
  • However, the Soviet Union did not agree and abstained in the Security Council.
  • The commission debated on this issue well into 1948 but it was to no avail. The UNAEC became inactive in 1949 and it was officially disbanded in 1952 by the UN.
  • Today, there are believed to be nine countries with nuclear weapons. The five countries that have nuclear weapons and have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) are USA, UK, Russia, France and China. Other countries that possess nuclear weapons are India, Pakistan, North Korea, and possibly Israel.
  • There have been terrible nuclear accidents in many places. In 1986, a nuclear plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine exploded. Another incident occurred in 2011 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.
  • Nuclear energy has huge potential in creating energy solutions to the increasing population of the planet. At the same time, utmost care should be taken to ensure safety norms and precautions are taken. Also, it is necessary to make sure that terrorists do not get hold of nuclear arsenal.
  • Today, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the international organisation that promotes the peaceful use of nuclear energy. It was established in 1957 independently but reports to the UN Security Council and the General Assembly.
Also on this day

1924: Birth of C B Muthamma, the first woman IFS Officer and the first woman Ambassador of India. 1965: Death of Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of the UK and Nobel laureate. 1966: Death of Homi Bhabha, nuclear scientist.

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

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