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Scientists to reset Doomsday Clock

Doomsday Clock
The clock, a symbol of nuclear-age developments, has been moved 15 times in the last 51 years  

Asian nuclear tests bring 'midnight' closer

June 11, 1998
Web posted at: 10:05 a.m. EDT (1405 GMT)
In this story:

CHICAGO (CNN) -- Worried by recent nuclear test explosions in India and Pakistan, the keepers of the Doomsday Clock -- a symbolic measure of how close humankind is to destroying itself -- are expected on Thursday to move the clock's hands closer to midnight, the moment of doomsday's arrival.

Currently, the clock reads 14 minutes until midnight.

The announcement will be made later in the day by officials from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a Chicago-based publication that has been tracking the world's slide toward nuclear confrontation since 1947.

A L S O :

Timeline of the Doomsday clock movement

The Doomsday Clock update will be posted simultaneously on the organization's Web site.

Mike Moore, editor of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, would not reveal in what direction the clock's hands would be moved on Thursday.

But in an interview with CNN he said the organization has been monitoring the underground nuclear test explosions conducted last month by both India and neighboring Pakistan. icon 145K/12 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

History of the Doomsday Clock

When the U.S. and Soviets tested bombs in the '50s, the clock was pushed to two minutes before midnight  

In 1947 -- two years after the United States used nuclear weapons against Japan in World War II -- the Doomsday Clock was set at seven minutes to midnight.

Since then, the clock has been moved both forward and backward, 15 times in all, reflecting international tensions and the developments of the nuclear age.

The closest it ever came to "doomsday" was in 1953, not long after both the United States and the Soviet Union both tested hydrogen bombs. In that year, the clock read two minutes until midnight.

The nuclear scientists were breathing just a little easier by 1991 when the clock was pushed back to its farthest point so far -- 17 minutes until midnight -- because the United States and the Soviet Union signed the long-stalled Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and announced further unilateral cuts in tactical and strategic nuclear weapons.

Treaty signing
The 1991 signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty pushed the clock back to 17 minutes before midnight  

The adjustment to the current setting -- 14 minutes until midnight -- was made in 1995 for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Delays in implementing START II.
  • Delays in ratifying other chemical and biological weapons agreements.
  • A boom in arms trading throughout the world.
  • The stockpiling of more than a thousand tons of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium, much of it under inadequate security.

The Doomsday Clock first began ticking beneath a monument at the University of Chicago where nuclear energy was born in 1941 during the Manhattan Project.

The atomic scientists who founded the Bulletin -- and created the clock -- did so in hopes of ensuring that nuclear weapons were never again used in war.

From CNN's Chicago Bureau
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