PLAN: CONTROLLING NUCLEAR WEAPONS: DEBATING THE NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY
Lisa Prososki, an independent educational consultant and former middle school
and high school social studies, English, reading and technology teacher
Social Studies, Government, International Relations
Time: Three to four 50-minute class periods plus additional time for extension
Brainstorm about their prior knowledge of nuclear weapons and answer questions
related to nuclear
weapons based upon this brainstorming.
opinions about the use and regulation of nuclear weapons and debate these opinions
using content from primary sources.
3. Conduct primary source research to
learn about nuclear weapons and the international nuclear Nonproliferation
4. Utilize timelines and maps to learn specific information about
the nuclear arms race and the
development of nuclear weapons by various countries.
5. Participate in class discussions and debates using research data, facts, reasons
to support their point of view.
6. Compose a written response
about what they learned about nuclear weapons and the
7. Track the outcomes of the Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference using primary
make these lesson plans better
to National Standards
Ratified in 1968 by the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union, the nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), was designed to place controls over the development,
spread and use of technology that could be used to create nuclear weapons. Countries
already possessing nuclear weapons could not give/sell these weapons to other
countries not possessing these types of weapons and were banned from sharing the
technological information necessary for the manufacture of such weapons. Countries
without nuclear weapons capabilities signed a pact agreeing not to receive or
manufacture these types of weapons. Since that time, the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) -- the nuclear watchdog of the United Nations -- has been
in charge of enforcing nonproliferation among the 188 countries that have signed
May 2005, a conference will take place in New York City with an agenda focused
on revising the treaty to address issues that have arisen since the last review
meeting in May 2000. Since that time there have been a number of key events that
have tested the treaty and various new threats that the treaty would need to address.
Part 1: Background and Opinions:
To create student interest in the topic of nuclear weapons, have students participate
in a short brainstorming exercise. Write the words "nuclear weapons"
on the overhead or board. Work for 2-3 minutes to have students discuss what they
know about nuclear weapons. Record their responses on the overhead/board.
Distribute the Nuclear Weapons Discussion Handout (printer-friendly
PDF) to each student. Have them work in pairs or small groups to answer the
questions from Part 1 using their prior knowledge. Provide approximately 5 minutes
for the completion of this activity.
Review the answers to the Part 1 questions, providing historical details from
the Key provided (printer-friendly PDF).
Distribute and/or read a copy of "A-bomb Survivors" stories available
Students will read/hear firsthand accounts of what happened during the atomic
bombing of Hiroshima in Japan.
Once stories have been completed, have students work individually to complete
the Nuclear Weapons Discussion Handout Part 2 questions. Allow 5-7 minutes for
6. Once students have answered Part 2 questions, facilitate
a short discussion about their answers to each question.
Introduce students to the Nonproliferation Treaty using the above background information.
Additional details of the treaty can also be found at:
2: Reviewing the NPT
8. Begin by discussing with students the
role of the United Nations in reviewing the NPT. Explain that these meetings are
used to address issues related to the effectiveness and enforcement of the treaty
and take place every five years.
Using the timeline available at: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/international/proliferation/map.html,
review how the world's supply of nuclear weapons was created during the arms race
and how nuclear capabilities have broadened worldwide over time.
Using the map also available at: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/international/proliferation/map.html,
discuss which countries have nuclear capabilities and which ones are in the process
of developing them. While looking at the map, discuss questions such as:
- Are there any
countries on the map that you believe should not be allowed to have nuclear weapons?
threat does the world face from countries with unconfirmed nuclear weapons or
those reportedly developing nuclear weapons (i.e., North Korea and Iran)?
on this map, what are the "hotspots" in the world for the development
of nuclear weapons?
3: Mock U.N. Review Conference
11. Explain to students that in
May 2005, the 188 countries who have signed the NPT will meet
to review the
treaty. To prepare for this meeting, the director of the IAEA, Mohamed
has identified seven key areas he believes need to be addressed in the
These can be found at:
A. A five-year moratorium on building new facilities for uranium enrichment and
plutonium separation. "There is no compelling reason for building more of
these proliferation-sensitive facilities, the nuclear industry already has more
than enough capacity to fuel its power plants and research facilities," ElBaradei
B. Speed up efforts to convert research reactors operating with
highly enriched uranium (HEU) to use low enriched uranium, and accelerate technical
research to make HEU unnecessary for all peaceful nuclear applications.
C. Establish the "Additional Protocol" as the norm for verifying compliance
with the NPT -- a move that would expand IAEA inspectors´ access to facilities
and information about nuclear programs.
D. Call on the U.N. Security
Council to act swiftly and decisively on the case of any country that withdraws
from the NPT.
E. Call on all nuclear weapons states to act on the Security
Council's Resolution 1540 to pursue and prosecute any illicit trading in nuclear
materials and technology.
F. Call on all five nuclear weapon states
party to the NPT to accelerate implementation of their "unequivocal commitment"
to nuclear disarmament. "Negotiating a treaty to irreversibly ban the production
of fissile material for nuclear weapon programs would be a welcome starting point,"
G. Acknowledge the volatility of longstanding tensions
that give rise to proliferation -- in regions like the Middle East and the Korean
Peninsula -- and take action to resolve existing security deficits and, where
needed, provide security assurances.
12. Explain to students that with the great number of countries participating
in the review, making changes and the discussion surrounding these changes can
13. Keeping that in mind, explain to students that they
will be working in pairs/small groups to conduct research about how a specific
country might react to some of the changes proposed above. They will complete
the Individual Country Research Questions (printer-friendly
PDF) to prepare to present their country's views on the changes being proposed.
Countries represented should include: United States, China, France, Britain, Russia,
North Korea, Israel, Iraq, Algeria, Syria, India, Pakistan, Iran, Australia, Libya,
Egypt, South Korea, Switzerland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Argentina, Romania,
Taiwan and Yugoslavia. Additional countries such as Brazil and former Soviet republics
can be added if necessary. Allow one class period for the completion of research.
Once research has been completed, each pair/group will participate in a mock review
conference to state the point of view they believe their country would take on
each of the key issues. This mock review conference will help students learn more
about each country's point of view as well as illustrate the difficulties that
will be faced by the review conference attendees when they meet in May 2005. To
facilitate the review conference:
all desks/tables in a circle so students can easily see/hear one another,
each pair/group create a placard with the name of the country they represent,
in advance, how review conference outcomes will be decided -- through consensus
or by a majority vote,
the discussion/debate of each issue students researched on the Individual Country
debate is completed, have students decide what their solutions to each question
presented will be, and
students with working as a group to write up a formal document describing the
outcomes that have been agreed upon.
15. To close the activity, ask students to provide a written response to questions,
did you learn about international relations from completing this activity?
did you learn about negotiating and working with others?
did you learn about nuclear weapons and the threat they pose worldwide?
did participation in this assignment change or reinforce your ideas about nuclear
weapons and their regulation?
As the May 2005 conference takes place, track news stories and final outcomes
of the conference and compare what happens to what took place in the mock conference
you conducted. Discuss similarities and differences in topics, points of view
Have students voice their opinions about nuclear issues by contacting their members
of Congress and voicing their concerns and opinions about the U.S. and world nuclear
programs and how they should be regulated and addressed.
Have students conduct research about the science of nuclear weapons and create
a museum or science fair-type of display that addresses questions such as:
are nuclear weapons created?
types of damage do they cause?
are the long-term effects of their use?
are their effects on the environment? on people?
should they be regulated?
Have students research more about the role of the United Nations and specifically
the IAEA in the regulation of nuclear weapons and what is being done to ensure
there will never be another use of atomic weapons as in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
Compendium of K-12 Standards Addressed:
Standard 41: Understands the causes and global consequences of
World War II
Standard 45: Understands the major global trends since World
Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research
Standard 5: Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process
Standard 7: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety
of informational texts
Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different
Standard 1: Understands and applies the basic principles
of presenting an argument
Standard 6: Applies decision-making techniques
Standard 1: Contributes to the overall effort of a group
Standard 4: Displays effective interpersonal communication skills
Lisa Prososki is an independent educational consultant who taught middle and high
school social studies, English, reading and technology courses for 12 years. Prososki
has worked with PBS TeacherSource and has authored and edited many lesson plans
and materials for various PBS programs over the past nine years. In addition to
conducting workshops for teachers at various state and national meetings, Prososki
works as an editor, creates a wide range of educational and training materials
for corporate clients and has authored one book.
find out more about opportunities to contribute to this site, contact Leah Clapman