Podcast: Nuclear weapons at the brink

By Thomas Gaulkin, August 7, 2020

This week, the world observes the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. It also marks the 75th year of debate about the morality, legality, and utility of developing nuclear weapons as a tool of national defense.

The so-called nuclear modernization programs underway in the United States and Russia—with projected costs in the trillions of dollars—represent an entrenched belief in nuclear deterrence as central to national security, and prioritize the virtues of a new arms race over those of arms control. When the Doomsday Clock was moved this year to its closest setting since it first appeared in 1947, the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board noted that “any belief that the threat of nuclear war has been vanquished is a mirage.”

In its most recent episode titled Modernizing Doomsday, the At the Brink podcast examines the historical context and repercussions of the current US administration’s embrace of the nuclear deterrent. Presented by Lisa Perry (granddaughter of former Secretary of Defense and chair of the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, William J. Perry), the episode opens with the alternative visions for control of nuclear energy first proposed by the scientists who created the atomic bombs in 1945—including those who founded the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists—and ends with the setting of the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight in January 2020. Members of the Science and Security Board join other scholars, advocates, and policy makers in clearly outlining the destabilizing costs and effects of nuclear modernization.

As first-hand memories of the first and last use of nuclear weapons begin to fade, the danger they pose threatens to become increasingly abstract. Fortunately, the rest of the world can easily grasp what is still at stake 75 years later just by listening to podcasts like this one.


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