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  Timeline of the Nuclear Age 1980s  1986


In this year, Pakistan and Iran are suspected of signing an agreement for nuclear cooperation. A.Q. Khan is suspected of traveling to Iran to survey the Bushehr reactor and consider training of Iranian scientists. 

A cylinder of Uranium hexafluoride, a chemical used in nuclear-fuel production, is improperly heated at a Kerr-McGee plant in Gore, Oregon. One worker dies, and one hundred others are hospitalized.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons by the year 2000. He states, "No one must be indifferent or stand aloof in the matter of preserving peace and saving mankind from the threat of nuclear war. This concerns each and everyone. Each state, large or small, socialist or capitalist, has an important contribution to make. Every responsible political party, every mass organization and every individual also has an important role to play. No task is more urgent, more noble and humane than to unite all efforts to achieve this lofty goal. The task is to be accomplished by people of our generation without shifting it onto the shoulders of those who succeed us. That is the bidding of our time or, if you like, the burden of historic responsibility for our decision and action in the time that remains until the beginning of the third millennium."January 15 1996"

The Missile Technology Control Regime is established.

An uncontrolled surge of power, followed by fire and an explosion, at reactor No. 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, sends a radioactive cloud around the world and contaminates large areas in Ukraine and Belarus. About 50 million curies of radiation are released.

Stonewalled by the US Navy’s "neither confirm nor deny" policy, the New Zealand Labor government passes the world’s first statute barring entry to all nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed naval vessels. Since the U.S. refuses to compromise its position, even for vessels known not to be nuclear-powered or capable of carrying nuclear weapons, the statute bans port visits by all U.S. Navy ships until President George W. Bush retires most nonstrategic naval nuclear weapons in 1991.

Two panels of American and European experts— on international affairs asserted that a comprehensive test ban treaty, negotiated by the two great powers, would go a long way toward preventing additional countries from acquiring nuclear weapons.

South Africa begins studying the feasibility of laser uranium enrichment. 

A fire breaks out at South Africa's nuclear power plant, the "Y-Plant." Two workers are killed. 

The Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident is adopted. The Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency is adopted.

Israeli agents kidnap Mordechai Vanunu, a nuclear technician, at Israel’s Dimona nuclear installation from 1976 to 1985. Days later, the London Sunday Times publishes the evidence he released, which leads experts to conclude that Israel may have stockpiled up to 200 nuclear warheads. Vanunu is tried in secrecy in Israel, convicted of treason and espionage, and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment. Vanunu states, "I have sacrificed my freedom and risked my life in order to expose the danger of nuclear weapons, which threatens this whole region. I acted on behalf of all citizens and all of humanity."

A fire breaks out aboard the Soviet Yankee Class nuclear submarine K-219 in the Atlantic about 400 miles east of Bermuda. Heroic efforts by crew members prevent a reactor meltdown that could have contaminated the East coast of the U.S. and Canada. The submarine sinks three days later.

President Ronald Reagan and President Mikhail Gorbachev meet at Reykjavik, Iceland. At the summit, the two presidents seriously discuss the possibility of nuclear abolition, only to have the talks break down over Reagan’s refusal to abandon his plans to develop the Strategic Defense Initiative.

The Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident enters into force.

The United States violates the SALT II Treaty by deploying the 131st B-52 bomber. 

The South Pacific Nuclear-Free-Zone Treaty enters into force.