A World Free of Nuclear Weapons?

At yesterday’s historic UN Security Council session, President Obama posed the vision of a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons. While encouraging, we must guard against prematurely declaring victory and thereby suffering defeat. That’s what happened at the end of the Cold War, when hard-won public concern evaporated overnight, long before the fundamental problems had been solved.

One reason I’ve emphasized risk analysis is that it provides an objective measure not only of how far we’ve come, but also of how much farther we have to go. My analysis shows that the risk posed by nuclear weapons is thousands of times greater than we will accept with respect to locating a nuclear power plant near our homes. Hence, no single action can reduce the risk to an acceptable level. Rather, we must continue to work on reducing the risk even when the world is hundreds of times safer than it is at present.

With the help of Ace Hoffman, a dedicated volunteer from the San Diego area, we’ve produced a short video (just 97 seconds long) which graphically portrays the current risk. Watch it here:

..or click on the YouTube icon in the lower right corner of the screen to rate it and leave a comment.

If you agree with the video’s message, I hope you will pass this email along to all your friends who might be interested, and encourage them to sign up for future updates via the JOIN US box at http://nuclearrisk.org/. (It’s to the left on this archived page.) While a small step, such actions are critical to creating the support that is needed for the vision of a world free from the nuclear threat to blossom into reality.

Thank you for considering these thoughts.

Martin Hellman
Member, National Academy of Engineering
Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering
Stanford University

On Tuesday, conservative columnist Patrick Buchanan warned that Georgian President Mikheil Sakaashvili may be planning a dangerous provocation. The article says in part:

What is Saakashvili up to? He seems intent on provoking a new crisis to force NATO to stand with him and bring the United States in on his side – against Russia. Ultimate goal: Return the issue of his lost provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia back onto the world’s front burner. While such a crisis may be in the interests of Saakashvili and his Russophobic U.S neoconservative retainers, it is the furthest thing from U.S. national interests.While, like all human beings, Buchanan does not have perfect vision, it is noteworthy that he has continually warned against the US reflexively opposing Russia. For two examples click here and here

If you haven’t yet read it, my paper, “Soaring, Cryptography and Nuclear Weapons,” explains why we need to pay attention to dangers such as the one Buchanan describes before they have the potential to become full blown crises.

Permission is granted to reproduce this page in whole or in part. A reference to http://nuclearrisk.org/email25.php would be appreciated, or in print to NuclearRisk.org.

About Martin Hellman

I am a professor at Stanford University, best known for my invention of public key cryptography -- the technology that protects the secure part of the Internet, such as electronic banking. But, since 1982, my primary interest has been how fallible human beings can survive possessing nuclear weapons, where even one mistake could be catastrophic. My latest project is a book, co-written with my wife Dorothie, with the audacious subtitle "Creating True Love at Home & Peace on the Planet." It's on Amazon and a free PDF can be downloaded from its website: https://anewmap.com.
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