Reducing the Global Nuclear Risk

By Drell, Sidney D.; Shultz, George P. et al. | Policy Review, October-November 2012 | Go to article overview

Reducing the Global Nuclear Risk

Drell, Sidney D., Shultz, George P., Andreasen, Steven P., Policy Review

THE TIMES WE live in are dangerous for many reasons. Prominent among them is the existence of a global nuclear enterprise made up of weapons that can cause damage of unimaginable proportions and power plants at which accidents can have severe, essentially unpredictable consequences for human life. For all of its utility and promise, the nuclear enterprise is unique in the enormity of the vast quantities of destructive energy that can be released through blast, heat, and radioactivity.

To get a better grip on the state of the nuclear enterprise, we convened a group of prominent experts at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. The group included experts on nuclear weapons, power plants, regulatory experience, public perceptions, and policy. This essay summarizes their views and conclusions.

We begin with the most reassuring outcome of our deliberations: It's the sense generally held that the U.S. nuclear enterprise currently meets very high standards in its commitment to safety and security. That has not always been the case in all aspects of the U.S. nuclear enterprise. But safety begins at home, and while the U.S. will need to remain focused to guard against nuclear risks, the picture here looks relatively good.

Our greatest concern is that the same cannot be said of the nuclear enterprise globally. Governments, international organizations, industry, and media must recognize and address the nuclear challenges and mounting risks posed by a rapidly changing world.

The biggest concerns with nuclear safety and security are in countries relatively new to the nuclear enterprise, and the potential loss of control to terrorist or criminal gangs of the fissile material that exists in such abundance around the world. In a number of countries, confidence in civil nuclear energy production was severely shaken in the spring of 2011 by the Fukushima nuclear reactor plant disaster. And in the military sphere, the doctrine of deterrence that remains primarily dependent on nuclear weapons is seen in decline due to the importance of nonstate actors such as al-Qaeda and terrorist affiliates that seek destruction for destruction's sake. We have two nuclear tigers by the tail.

When risks and consequences are unknown, undervalued, or ignored, our nation and the world are dangerously vulnerable. Nowhere is this risk/consequence calculation more relevant than with respect to the nucleus of the atom.

From Hiroshima to Fukushima

THE NUCLEAR ENTERPRISE was introduced to the world by the shock of the devastation produced by two atomic bombs hitting Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Modern nuclear weapons are far more powerful than those early bombs, which presented their own hazards. Early research depended on a program of atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. In the early years following World War II, the impact and the amount of radioactive fallout in the atmosphere generated by above-ground nuclear explosions was not fully appreciated. During those years, the United States and the Soviet Union conducted several hundred tests in the atmosphere that created fallout.

A serious regulatory weak point from that time still exists in many places today, as the Fukushima disaster clearly indicates. The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was initially assigned conflicting responsibilities: to create an arsenal of nuclear weapons for the United States to confront a growing nuclear-armed Soviet threat; and, at the same time, to ensure public safety from the effects of radioactive fallout. The AEC was faced with the same conundrum with regard to civilian nuclear power generation. It was charged with promoting civilian nuclear power and simultaneously protecting the public.

Progress came in 1963 with the negotiation and signing of the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) banning all nuclear explosive testing in the atmosphere (initially by the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Reducing the Global Nuclear Risk


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.