Preventing a Nuclear Nightmare

The title of an article in a recent issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists asks, “How can we reduce the risk of human extinction?”

According to the authors, the probability of “succumbing to natural hazards,” like a comet or asteroid hitting us, is quite low. While killer asteroids seem to frequently threaten the Earth on television and the movies, mercifully, that’s not the case in the real world.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for man-made hazards. Despite the end of the Cold War, the threat of nuclear war remains. The organization behind the “Doomsday Clock,” which purports to show how close we are to nuclear annihilation, is once again asking us to think about the unthinkable. Happily, that’s exactly what some very smart people are doing-including some whom I respect deeply, like former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Senator Sam Nunn.

In a Wall Street Journal op ed piece, Shultz and Nunn, along with Henry Kissinger, and William Perry made the compelling case that the “accelerating spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear know-how, and nuclear material has brought us to a nuclear tipping point. We face a very real possibility that the deadliest weapons ever invented could fall into dangerous hands.” And remember, a rogue nation that gets a nuclear weapon can give it to a terrorist, who can bring it to America in a suit case. That’s why Shultz and others have proposed specific steps the U.S., Russia, and other nations should take to lead us away from that catastrophic “tipping point.”

If that sounds like a tall order, it is. But, given what’s at stake, nothing less will do. And remember, Shultz, Nunn, Kissinger and Perry are no bunch of starry-eyed dreamers: they are some of the most-respected and experienced figures on the world stage.

So, when they say that the reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons is a worthwhile, achievable goal, I pay attention. Especially as a Christian: the traditional notion of deterrence, which was based on mutually-assured destruction and spoke of a “balance of terror,” was at best morally-problematic.

It won’t be easy to do what Nunn and Shultz and others are calling for. What’s needed is the commitment to goals such as controlling the use of production and highly-enriched uranium and the spread of the technology used to make nuclear weapons.

There’s another initiative that’s important. It’s called the Nuclear Threat Initiative, founded by Ted Turner and Sam Nunn, which seeks to reduce the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

But that commitment will only happen if the people insist on it. And for that, we need to be informed. A good place to start is with the DVD “Last Best Chance.” It depicts our worst nightmare but also depicts what we can do to prevent it from coming true. I also recommend the book edited by Georg Shultz: Reykjavik Revisited: Steps Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons. You can come to our website,, to learn how you can get a copy of the DVD and the book.

The events of the past few weeks have demonstrated that the unthinkable has a way of happening–whether we want to think about it or not. And, as USA Today put it, “a financial apocalypse isn’t nearly as scary as a nuclear one.”

But we still have a chance to prevent the latter if we act now.

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  • Cooky642

    The Nuclear Nightmare is an old person’s dream. Younger generations have a new nightmare all their own. It’s called “nano-technology” (which sounds like a Star Trek episode, but is unfortunately quite real), and it can make your heart stop without your ever seeing it coming or knowing what hit you. You can read more about it at:

  • Richard Bell

    Nano-technology is pretty much all hype. The only nano-objects that pose any threat are called viruses, and our knowledge of how to make them is incomplete (not that there are not any natural ones to copy). the elephant in the room for proponents of nanotechnology is the question of powering them. The evasive answer given is that nobody ever asks how bacterium are powered, blithely ignoring that what nanomachines are hoped to do are well beyond the energy capabilities of a bacterium.

    Nuclear weapons are a worry, now. Although, the thought that the nuke that kills me will not herald the destruction of all humanity makes it less of a worry than it used to be.

  • Cooky642

    Mr. Bell: I agree that nano-tech is not yet perfected, but it seems to be advancing rapidly from what I read. If you know something I don’t, please share.

    I grant you that the nuclear nightmare is a more current dilemma. However, in light of the multi-national mad race for nuclear technology, it seems to me that the nuke that kills you will most certainly herald the destruction of all humanity. The world is so full of power-thirst madmen (and women) that, when one goes, they’ll all go like dominoes.

    In spite of my current cynacism, I have to wonder if that’s how God will “cleanse” the world and start over, as with Noah.