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  Timeline of the Nuclear Age 1980s  1985


An American Pershing II missile catches fire near Heilbronn, West Germany, hurling white hot rocket parts within 250 yards of a store of nuclear warheads.

New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange bans visits to New Zealand ports by any ships carrying nuclear weapons.

Argentine President Raul Alfonsin and Brazilian President-elect Tancredo Neves agree in principle to open their countriesí nuclear installations to mutual inspection.

Iraqi warplanes again attack Iran's Bushehr nuclear power complex.

Iraqi warplanes attack Iran's Bushehr nuclear power complex for the third time.

The United States signs the Anti-Apartheid bill that prevents any nuclear cooperation with South Africa

The Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior is devastated when two explosive devices are detonated on it. One photographer is killed. The ship was docked in Auckland, New Zealand, and was on its way to the Murorua Atoll to protest French nuclear tests. An inquiry by New Zealand officials leads to the general acknowledgment that the attack was planned and carried out by the French Secret Service. Two agents are convicted of arson and manslaughter and sentenced to ten years in prison. The French Defense Minister resigns. In 1987, an international arbitration panel orders the French government to pay Greenpeace $8.159 million; the agreement also reduces the sentences of the two agents to a three-year term in French Polynesia. By 1988, both agents are free and return to France.

The Soviet Union declares a unilateral moratorium on all nuclear tests on the 40th anniversary of Hiroshima bombing and invites the United States to join in. The U.S. continues nuclear testing. The South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty is signed at Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. The Treaty seeks to prohibit any nuclear power with territories in the zone from manufacturing, stationing, or testing nuclear weapons within the area. It also commits signatories not to use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against a full treaty member.

Samantha Smith, a young girl who became a symbol of peace during the Cold War, dies in a plane accident. In 1982, she was invited to Moscow by Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov, after writing the following letter:

Dear Mr. Androprov,
My name is Samantha Smith. I am ten years old. Congratulations on your new job. I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you arenít please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war. This question you do not have to answer, but I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country. God made the world for us to live in peace and not to fight.

President Ronald Reagan signs an executive order limiting certain types of trade of nuclear-related materials to South Africa

The Reagan Administration, in its pursuit of Star Wars technology, declares that an anti-ballistic missile defense system in space is not in violation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The Union of Concerned Scientists states: "[The Reagan Administration] may bring America to the edge, if not over the edge, of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treatyís prohibitions on the development and testing of... space based systems."

Brazil and Argentina sign the Joint Declaration on Nuclear Policy at Foz de Iguaeu. The Declaration reiterates their commitment to develop nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes and establishes a bilateral commission to further nuclear cooperation between the two countries.

The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) receives the Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. Bernard Lown, accepting the award, states, "Combating the nuclear threat has been our exclusive preoccupation, since we are dedicated to the proposition that to ensure the conditions of life, we must prevent the conditions of death. Ultimately, we believe people must come to terms with the fact that the struggle is not between different national destinies, between opposing ideologies, but rather between catastrophe and survival. All nations share a linked destiny; nuclear weapons are the shared enemy."

North Korea fails to complete a safeguard agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Later, North Korea would agree to only complete the agreement if the United States withdrawals nuclear weapons from South Korea