Can a nuclear war be stopped?

Stopping an atomic weapon is theoretically possible, experts say, but in reality it is a huge challenge. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has raised fear of nuclear weapons to a level never seen since the Cold War. The only way to completely eliminate nuclear risks is to eliminate 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 that approach is that, since most American enemies are west of the Pacific, everyone is likely to program their missiles to take a trajectory above the poles, meaning that only one ground interceptor could be placed in Alaska and probably protect the entire country. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, global reserves of nuclear weapons continued to fall. But with many thousands of nuclear warheads still in existence, and with more nations 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 a growing circle of licit nuclear powers in the NPT and outside the NPT 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, nuclear weapons 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 brewing between the United States and North Korea, highlighted by a flurry of nuclear missile tests and words of struggle on the part of both countries, the possibility of nuclear war seems closer than it has been in years, experts say. A long list of nuclear shutdowns 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 nuclear weapons. 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 nuclear winter as a factor that prompted him to work to reduce the country's nuclear arsenals. The thousands of nuclear weapons possessed by the United States and Russia could cause a nuclear winter, destroying the 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 of insurgency, terrorism, poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition and corruption. .

Bradford Tutwiler
Bradford Tutwiler

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