Can a Nuclear War be Stopped?

Stopping a nuclear weapon is theoretically possible, according to experts, but in reality it is a huge challenge. The only way to completely eliminate nuclear risks is to remove all nuclear weapons from the planet. The second, and most viable, option is to intercept the missile during its longest flight path in space. One advantage of this approach is that, since most of America's enemies are located west of the Pacific Ocean, they are likely to program their missiles to take a trajectory above the poles.

This means that only one ground interceptor placed in Alaska could probably protect the entire country. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, global reserves of nuclear weapons continued to decline. However, with thousands of nuclear warheads still in existence and more countries becoming nuclear powers, some researchers have argued that nuclear war and nuclear winter remain a threat. They have gone on to study the consequences of nuclear wars, which would be smaller than a total annihilation between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The Washington Nuclear Summit closely examined the safety and security requirements of nuclear programs and materials. The disturbing trend of an increasing number of legitimate nuclear powers within the NPT and outside it has a self-generating effect in attracting other countries to the game of risky nuclear policy. Like chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons cannot be disinvented, but like them, they can also be controlled, regulated, restricted and prohibited under an international regime that ensures strict compliance through inspection, verification and compliance. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a coalition of non-governmental organizations in one hundred countries that promote adherence to and implementation of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. With tensions between the United States and North Korea escalating, highlighted by a flurry of nuclear missile tests and words of struggle on both sides, the possibility of nuclear war seems closer than it has been in years, experts say.

A long list of near-misses that include technical failures, communication problems and bad luck shows how close we have been to starting a nuclear war by mistake. South Africa once possessed nuclear weapons and is the first state to voluntarily renounce them. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has kept the nuclear nightmare at bay for more than four decades. However, the threat remains acute with a combined arsenal of more than 20,000 nuclear weapons; of these, 5,000 warheads are ready for launch and 2,000 are on maximum operational alert. Even so, Soviet leader Mikail Gorbachev cited the risk of a potential nuclear winter as one factor that prompted him to work towards reducing his country's nuclear arsenals.

The thousands of nuclear weapons possessed by the United States and Russia could cause a nuclear winter, destroying essential ecosystems on which all life depends. Knowing the potential environmental consequences of a nuclear conflict can help legislators assess the threat, says Seth Baum, executive director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute in New York City, who has studied the risks of triggering a nuclear winter. Since then, several multilateral treaties have been established with the objective of preventing proliferation and nuclear testing while promoting progress in nuclear disarmament. Nuclear weapons do not help combat today's real threats such as insurgency, terrorism, poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition and corruption.

Bradford Tutwiler
Bradford Tutwiler

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