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Image from the storyExplore Post-Cold War Conflict Over Nuclear Technology

Target Grade Levels:
Grades 7-12

Cold War and Beyond, Nuclear Technology, Foreign Relations

• The Activity
• Relevant National Standards
• Cross-Curricular Activities
• Ties to Literature

The Activity

Note: This activity is designed to be used in conjunction with studies on the Cold War.

Nuclear technology can be used for both productive and destructive purposes. Because of this fact, it isn’t always clear for what purposes a country may seek to develop a nuclear program. While the United Nations’ inspection system is supposed to safeguard against the use of nuclear technology to create weapons, the activities of some nuclear programs are difficult to track, preventing U.N. enforcement from being completely reliable.

Have the class compare and contrast the nuclear threat of today’s technology “war” with the Cold War. Who are the nuclear threats during each time period? How are such threats dealt with? Ask students to use a Venn diagram to organize their ideas. (For a simple Venn Diagram model, please see the example provided by the San Diego County Office of Education.
One circle can represent the Cold War, and the other today’s technology war. The place where the circles overlap should hold ideas about the characteristics that these two periods have in common, and the areas of the circles outside of this overlap can feature characteristics that make each period distinct.

Have students first complete the Cold War side of the diagram based on their previous studies. To help students build their knowledge of current circumstances, have them work in pairs to review these resources:

How to Become a Nuclear Superpower
Explore the steps that countries have taken toward joining the world's nuclear-armed club.

The U.S. State Department's Strategic Plan: Weapons of Mass Destruction
Read how the U.S. defines weapons of mass destruction, as well as the strategies used to combat them.

Nuclear Underground: The Guru
Review an actual case of nuclear smuggling.

When pairs have completed their diagrams, provide them with a few minutes to present what they learned to at least one other group.

Next, show students the approximately 25-minute video, "Going Nuclear." (Note: This story can be viewed online in its entirety. A free transcript is also available to assist with planning. Please see the "Related Story" box at left for details.) To focus student viewing, ask them to take notes on why Iran believes it should have a nuclear program and why some in the international community are against it.

After the video, ask students if they think Iran should have a nuclear program. Why or why not? Is it fair for the U.S. to have nuclear weapons and to then ask other countries not to? Why or why not?

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Relevant National Standards

These standards are drawn from "Content Knowledge," a compilation of content standards and benchmarks for K-12 curriculum by McRel (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning), at

U.S. History Standard 30
Understands developments in foreign policy and domestic politics

Level IV, Benchmark 5
Understands the influence of U.S. foreign policy on international events

World History Standard 44
Understands the search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world

Level III, Benchmark 4
Understands instances of political conflict and terrorism in modern society

Level IV, Benchmark 6
Understands the role of ethnicity, cultural identity, and religious beliefs in shaping economic and political conflicts across the globe

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Cross-Curricular Activities
Consider building on the themes of the above activity by working with colleagues in other disciplines to conduct the following activities.

Explore the Global Dangers and Scientific Foundation of Nuclear Bombs (Science)
Write a Job Description for Government "Minders" (English)

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