Do you know when the last time the United States fired a nuclear weapon?
The bombs that destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the only nuclear weapons to have ever been used against a population, but they’re not the only ones America’s set off. Throughout the 20th century, the United States conducted well over 1,000 nuclear weapons tests.
America set off the Trinity test — their first nuclear weapon — on July 16, 1945. But here’s an interesting question: When was the most recent time they set one off?
It must be a while ago, right? The concept of American nuclear weapons testing seems like a relic of the 1950s, back when we nuked entire atolls and fearless (or maybe clueless) tourists would travel down from Las Vegas to watch the detonations.
But guess what? The last American nuke went off in the ’90s. Yep, the 1990s.
You know, the era that not only saw the final dismantling of the Berlin Wall and an economic boom, but also gave us Goosebumps books, Tweety Bird T-shirts, the Nintendo 64, and introduced the world to the cultural dreadnought known as Pokémon.
The reason we didn’t have any more mushroom clouds over the Vegas strip wasn’t because they stopped — it’s because they started setting the bombs off underground instead. The 1,030th — and last — American nuclear test took place under the Nevada desert on Sept. 23, 1992.
If you’re 43 now, you might have been just months away from casting your first presidential ballot then.
That November, Bill Clinton would beat Ross Perot and George H.W. Bush to become the 42nd president of the United States. If you’re 43 now, that means you probably turned 18 around that time. Who did you vote for?
38-year-olds: You would have been old enough to catch the premiere of “Batman Returns” by yourself.
PG-13 never looked so weird. This year also saw the release of Disney’s “Aladdin,” “The Muppet Christmas Carol,” and “Reservoir Dogs.”
If you’re 30 now, you were probably in kindergarten then.
Though nuclear testing might seem like something from the historical archive, it’s important to remember the use of nuclear weapons is not that far behind us.
In 1996, President Clinton signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which prohibited any country from testing nuclear weapons. Many countries, including the U.S., have also pushed for nuclear disarmament altogether, arguing that the only way to ensure nobody uses nuclear weapons is for nobody to have them in the first place.
Still, we have a ways to go. It’s estimated that about 15,000 nuclear weapons are still around, 6,800 of which are in the United States. While Trump has said he supports abolishing nuclear weapons, he’s also talked about using nuclear weapons against ISIS and arming countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia.
Though it’s been years since America has used a nuclear weapon, it’s only through continued effort that disarmament can happen.