How risky are nuclear weapons?

Amazingly, no one seemed to know. That was the situation until two years ago when I published the first paper (1.8 MB PDF) to estimate the risk.

My analysis showed that relying on nuclear weapons is as risky as living in a town surrounded by thousands of nuclear power plants. Equivalently, a child born today has at least a 10% chance of not living out his or her natural life, and that child’s odds are probably worse than 50-50. For more details, see and a later post.

Martin Hellman
Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering
Stanford University

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:
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2 Responses to How risky are nuclear weapons?

  1. reader says:

    How about using natural resources such as “solar, wind, water..etc” to generate “clean” energy instead of using “nuclear”. We have all the natural resources why are we not using it?

  2. Nuclear Risk says:

    While I support a more far-sighted energy policy than the “non-policy” we’ve had for years, I don’t bring that into Defusing the Nuclear Threat because I want to stay focused on the larger risk posed by nuclear weapons. Of course, there’s coupling between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons (e.g., India and Israel used their supposedly peaceful nuclear programs to help create their weapons), and that’s an important consideration in evaluating the overall risk.

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