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Hair-Trigger Alert: Some Risks are Not Worth Taking

We all take calculated risks, and justifiably so, when we judge the benefits of our action to outweigh the risks. I ride a bike to work when I can, for example. Sure, there’s a risk of injury but, to me, it is outweighed by the health, economic, and environmental benefits.

But the picture changes when we take risks with no real benefits. And when our political leaders do this, we have a duty to speak out and demand change. Read More

Categories: Nuclear Weapons  

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Nuclear War and the Science Experiment of January 25, 1995

On January 25, 1995—20 years ago Sunday—a routine scientific experiment in Norway led Russia to prepare to launch a nuclear attack on the United States.

The story of this event illustrates how coincidence, confusion, and nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert can be a deadly mix. Read More

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President Obama’s State of the Union: What to Expect, and What to Hope For

In his State of the Union speech next Tuesday night, President Obama is expected to focus heavily on challenges like economic inequality and international terrorism. But he is also likely to address at least some of the issues that UCS works on directly, such as climate change and energy. Here’s a quick take on what he may say on these issues, as well as some things he should say, but probably won’t. Read More

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Then vs Now: Progress on Nuclear Weapons since the End of the Cold War

The Cold War ended 25 years ago this month, according to many historians. On Dec. 2 and 3, 1989, Presidents Bush and Gorbachev met on a ship off the island of Malta in the Mediterranean and announced an end of hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The two presidents quickly turned to addressing the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War: the bloated nuclear arsenals in both countries. Within a few years, they cut their nuclear stockpiles in half, and have continued to cut them in the decades since. With U.S.-Russian tensions high again, it’s worth remembering what progress has been made. Read More

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Taking Nuclear Missiles off Hair-Trigger Alert

A recent New York Times editorial, Wresting with an Aging Arsenal, reiterates a key point UCS has been making about U.S. nuclear weapons policy: it’s stuck in the past—a carry-over from a different era that does not address the main threats in today’s world. Read More

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The Day After: What the Mid-Terms Mean and How To Move Forward

While this morning’s headlines naturally focus on the change in leadership in the U.S. Senate, nothing in the results should change anyone’s mind on these clear truths: we know Americans trust science, support cutting global warming emissions, and want help for communities struggling with the very real consequences of climate change.   Read More

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New U.S. Nuclear Warheads? Politically and Technically, a Bad Idea

The New York Times recently ran an excellent story on the administration’s ambitious plan for the future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which includes building new generations of nuclear-armed bombers, missiles, and submarines. But I want to discuss an important issue that the article didn’t mention: The United States also intends to develop and produce new types of nuclear warheads rather than simply refurbishing existing warheads as they age. There are both technical and political reasons why this is a bad idea. Read More

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Hiroshima, Hair-Trigger, and Existential Risks

Incredibly, “existential risks”—those that could end humanity—threaten us every day.

That’s the conclusion of a recent Washington Post article. What risk tops the list? Read More

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Los Alamos Firing Demonstrates Exactly What’s Wrong with Scientific Integrity at the Department of Energy

Yesterday, my colleague Lisbeth Gronlund wrote about the unjust firing of James Doyle, a 17-year employee of Los Alamos National Laboratory. The PhD political scientist was fired over an academic article he wrote on his personal time—not as an official representative of the national lab—that argued for eliminating nuclear weapons. Read More

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Los Alamos, Freedom of Speech, and Nuclear Disaster

As every high school student learns, the first amendment to the U.S. constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech. That’s why government employees have the right to express their opinions as long as they make clear that their opinions do not represent those of their employer.

Apparently some folks at Los Alamos National Laboratory—one of the two labs that design and help maintain U.S. nuclear weapons—missed that day in class. Read More

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