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The risk of an accidental nuclear war is increasing and likely to grow in the years ahead. That’s the conclusion of Understanding Nuclear Weapons, a new report from the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNDIR).
“The complexity of interactions in the tightly coupled systems linked to the management and operation of nuclear stockpiles make accidents inevitable,” the report states.
A simple sensor malfunction or computer glitch can trigger the launch or detonation of nuclear weapons, the report says. The danger from nuclear weapons is increasing for a wide variety of reasons, some of which have little to do with politics.
The UNDIR experts believe the danger of an accidental nuclear war is greater than at any time since the end of the Cold War in 1991 — and that the danger will continue growing. Understanding Nuclear Weapons provides several reasons to be concerned about accidental nuclear war.
“The threat of a nuclear weapon detonation event in 2017 is arguably at its highest in the 26 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union,” the report stated.
A few of the scenarios that make accidental nuclear war possible include:
- Lack of training on the part of nations, such North Korea, that have little expertise in controlling nuclear weapons.
- Over-reliance on automated command and control systems, which make it faster and easier to launch a nuke.
- Removal of human judgement from the decision-making process. During the Cold War, several accidental missile launches were avoided when military officers realized something was wrong and refused to push the button.
- Stolen nuclear weapons from terrorists.
- Cyberattacks and hacking of nuclear weapons.
- The malfunctioning of old nuclear weapons.
President Trump has ordered a massive review of all US nuclear weapons. The review is designed to see how America’s nuclear arsenal can be modernized.
“All the nuclear-armed States have extensive nuclear modernization programs underway and appear to plan to retain large nuclear arsenals for the indefinite future,” UNDIR concluded.
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