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Nuclear Nullifier

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Nuclear weapons are awesome, they are capable of putting out more sheer destructive force than any other weapon made by mankind. They inspire so much fear and awe that no two nuclear-armed nations have ever fought a (direct) war for fear of annihilating each other.

Now what if something were to happen so that nukes all of a sudden were much less scary?

This tends to weaken the Nuclear Weapons Taboo and may make the Nuclear Option more attractive — or phase it out entirely, if it can be effectively countered. Compare Lensman Arms Race when nuclear weapons are superseded by even more terrible weaponry. Compare Holding Back the Phlebotinum for other examples of not using potentially devastating weapons.

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Examples

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     Anime and Manga  

  • In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Japan developed micromachines that could clean up radioactive fallout after Tokyo was nuked in WWIII. World powers are a bit less reluctant to deploy nuclear weapons now.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam, one of the most common uses of Minovsky Particles is jamming sensors and communications. While nuclear weapons still exist, ICBMs are no longer practical, and war shifts towards short-range battles between battleship-carrier hybrids filled with Minovsky-powered vehicles (specifically Mobile Suits).
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, the role of Minovsky Particles from the original continuity is split between Mirage Colloid (for general weird technology) and the Neutron Jammers/N-Jammers - devices spread throughout the Earth sphere which suppress all fission and fusion reactions. Eventually a "Neutron Jammer Canceller" technology is introduced, allowing for both nuclear weapons and nuclear-powered mobile suits, but after the war its usage is banned by an international treaty. Things are further complicated by the Neutron Stampeder - a weapon which can remotely detonate nuclear warheads, making even Canceller-equipped nuclear missiles dangerous to use.

     Comic Books  

  • One issue of Marvel Comics' Cloak & Dagger has the heroic duo teleport to Latveria, where they discover that Doctor Doom has a device that exploits thunderstorms to render the world's nuclear devices inert. He remains unswayed when informed that radiation treatments for cancer patients are likewise nullified.
  • In the alternate future of Armageddon 2001, Superman tries to rid the world of nuclear weapons after one blew up Metropolis and killed Lois Lane.

     Film  

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     Literature  

  • In Hammer's Slammers nuclear suppression fields are cited as being one of the technological advancements that made tank columns viable again (the other being effective Point Defenses). Of course, since the Slammers are often hired to fight assymetric wars their enemies often can't afford suppressors, and Colonel Hammer has no qualms against nuking insurgent-harboring villages.
  • In "If the Red Slayer" by Robert Sheckley, everyone expected WWIII to be button pushing, but first the countermissiles and then a nuclear suppressor put a stop to that. By the time of the story, it's trench warfare... with Resurrective Immortality for infantry.
  • P.J. Plauger's 1974 short story "Wet Blanket". A scientist develops a device that changes the nature of the universe so that nuclear weapons can no longer explode.
  • Ender's Game has an offhand mention of shields that "make it so nobody bothers with nuclear weapons anymore." Within a few years, though, it's demonstrated that the MD Device can destroy an entire planet.
  • Oracle of Tao, the Fantastic Nuke, the Brahmastra Sutra has a counter, the Gayatri Mantra. These are based on actual chants, and the latter is basically a World-Healing Wave. When cast after the first spell, it cannot heal any who have been hurt or killed in the blast, but it removes fallout and makes even ice into fertile land. Also, the air smells minty afterwards, apparently.

     Tabletop Games  

  • In Shadowrun while there have been multiple reactor meltdowns not a single nuclear bomb has detonated when it was supposed to in the 21st century. Even before the Awakening proper. Europe's had a few new wars since then.
  • In Traveller nuclear dampers are fairly common starship defenses that reduce damage from nuclear missiles and fusion guns. Though the Third Imperium still reserves nukes for the Imperial Navy, and is willing to use them to punish those who violate that law.
  • In OGRE, strategic nukes (and the missiles and aircraft that carry them) are easily taken down by air defense lasers. However tactical nukes are not only still used, they're now the only efficient way to breach the ultra-durable Bi-Phase Carbide armor most units use.

     Video Games  

  • The SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative) in Rise of Nations renders the builder unable to be attacked by nukes. However, the Nuclear Winter Counter is set to 1.
  • The SDI plays the same role in Civilization, by making the owner of this Wonder invulnerable to nukes.
  • In Civilization: Call to Power, the Nanite Defuser wonder destroys all nukes in the world.
  • In EndWar, following Saudi Arabia getting crippled in 2016 by a nuclear terrorist attack, the US and EU created the SLAMS (Space-Land-Air Missile Shield) System, an anti-ballistic missile defense that rendered strategic nuclear warfare obsolete. Unfortunately, it also had the side effect of making large scale conventional warfare possible again, which would cause a rise in tensions that would eventually lead to World War III.
  • In Red Alert 2, the Soviets were able to launch a massive attack on the United States because Yuri's Psychic Corps utterly neutralized the US's nuclear arsenal by mind-controlling the silos' operators. The Soviets, though, still had their nuclear missiles much to the detriment of anyone who happened to be in Chicago at the end of the fourth Allied mission.

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