Nuclear Weapons and the Illusion of Safety

September 21st, 2013
Since the dawn of the  age of nuclear weapons we have only imagined the complexity of systems that are involved in the use of those weapons.  Those of us that grew up during the cold war are all too familiar with the nuclear football that follows the President, launch codes, the hotline, fail safe mechanisms, and even the eccentricity of Col.  Jack Ripper.  

All have seemingly kept us safe. But today the cold war is over, US and Russian nuclear stockpiles have gone from over 60k weapons to less than 5k.  It all sounds pretty good.  

But as we worry anew about nuclear proliferation, about weapons in the hands of terrorists, it bring into bold relief that idea that these weapons are among the most complex machines built by man.  As such they can fail; accidents can happen, and weapons on a hair trigger alert are subject to technical failure.  

Is it pure dumb luck that we have not had an accident involving nuclear weapons?  In fact we have had many such accidents, perhaps over 1200 of them… the worst of which happened in Damascus, Arkansas, 33 years ago. 

Now investigative reporter Eric Schlosser, the author of Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness, takes us inside our system of Command and Control.

My conversation with Eric Schlosser: