Anti-nuclear protest

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For more information, see: Anti-nuclear movement.
See also: Social movement

Anti-nuclear protests first emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s, as part of the "Ban the Bomb" movement.[1] With respect to nuclear weapons, the movement essentially considered the weapons themselves to be immoral, and rejected deterrence or any other military strategy that depended on them.

A number of these protests did not differentiate among nuclear power, nuclear weapons, or other applications of nuclear engineering, and were sometimes seen as generally anti-technology or Luddite. Others targeted specific technologies or policies for their use. Some protested nuclear industry based on economic grounds. Yet others protested nuclear waste facilities on general environmental grounds, or sometimes not against the practice, but, in an American phrase, "Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY)".

Early weapons protests

In the United Kingdom, the first Aldermaston March, organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, took place in 1958.[2][3] In 1964, Peace Marches in several Australian capital cities featured "Ban the bomb" placards.[4][5]

Nuclear power

Nuclear power became an issue of major public protest in the 1970s[6] and demonstrations in France and West Germany began in 1971. In France, between 1975 and 1977, some 175,000 people protested against nuclear power in ten demonstrations.[7] In West Germany, between February 1975 and April 1979, some 280,000 people were involved in seven demonstrations at nuclear sites.[7]

Many mass demonstrations took place in the aftermath of the 1979 Three Mile Island accident and a New York City protest in September 1979 involved two hundred thousand people. Some 120,000 people demonstrated against nuclear power in Bonn, in October 1979.[7] In May 1986, following the Chernobyl disaster, an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people marched in Rome to protest against the Italian nuclear program,[8] and clashes between anti-nuclear protesters and police became common in West Germany.[9]

Nuclear weapons

In the early 1980s, the revival of the nuclear arms race triggered mass protests about nuclear weapons.[10] In October 1981 half a million people took to the streets in several cities in Italy, more than 250,000 people protested in Bonn, 250,000 demonstrated in London, and 100,000 marched in Brussels.[11] The largest anti-nuclear protest was held on June 12, 1982, when one million people demonstrated in New York City against nuclear weapons.[12][13][14] In October 1983, nearly 3 million people across western Europe protested nuclear missile deployments and demanded an end to the arms race; the largest crowd of almost one million people assembled in the Hague in the Netherlands.[15] In Britain, 400,000 people participated in what was probably the largest demonstration in British history.[16]

Revived opposition to war and weapons

On May 1, 2005, 40,000 anti-nuclear/anti-war protesters marched past the United Nations in New York, 60 years after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[17][18] This was the largest anti-nuclear rally in the U.S. for several decades.[19] In 2005 in Britain, there were many protests about the government's proposal to replace the aging Trident weapons system with a newer model. The largest protest had 100,000 participants.[19] In May 2010, some 25,000 people, including members of peace organizations and 1945 atomic bomb survivors, marched from downtown New York to the United Nations headquarters, calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons.


  1. David Cortright (2008). Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas, Cambridge University Press, pp. 134-135.
  2. A brief history of CND
  3. Early defections in march to Aldermaston, Guardian Unlimited, 1958-04-05.
  4. Women with Ban the Bomb banner during Peace march on Sunday April 5th 1964, Brisbane, Australia Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  5. Girl with placard Ban nuclear tests during Peace march on Sunday April 5th 1964, Brisbane, Australia Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  6. Jim Falk (1982). Global Fission: The Battle Over Nuclear Power, Oxford University Press, pp. 95-96.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Herbert P. Kitschelt. Political Opportunity and Political Protest: Anti-Nuclear Movements in Four Democracies British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 16, No. 1, 1986, p. 71.
  8. Marco Giugni (2004). Social protest and policy change p. 55.
  9. John Greenwald. Energy and Now, the Political Fallout, TIME, June 2, 1986.
  10. Lawrence S. Wittner. Disarmament movement lessons from yesteryear Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 27 July 2009.
  11. David Cortright (2008). Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas, Cambridge University Press, p. 147.
  12. Jonathan Schell. The Spirit of June 12 The Nation, July 2, 2007.
  13. David Cortright (2008). Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas, Cambridge University Press, p. 145.
  14. 1982 - a million people march in New York City
  15. David Cortright (2008). Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas, Cambridge University Press, p. 148.
  16. Lawrence S. Wittner (2009). Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement, Stanford University Press, p. 144.
  17. Lance Murdoch. Pictures: New York MayDay anti-nuke/war march IndyMedia, 2 may 2005.
  18. Anti-Nuke Protests in New York Fox News, May 2, 2005.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Lawrence S. Wittner. A rebirth of the anti-nuclear weapons movement? Portents of an anti-nuclear upsurge Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 7 December 2007.