Chain Reaction: Evolving Risk in a Nuclear Age

Ari Berg, Autumn Bordner, Daphne Chen, Mingming Feng, Andrew Pinelli, Alana Warhit
June 01, 2012

With nuclear technology as popular as ever, the risks have only recently become totally clear.

From the Director

The Cold War model of a bilateral arms race is the conventional lens through which the risk of nuclear weapon deployment is analyzed. However, recent years have seen the proliferation of nuclear weapons in nations beyond the US and Russia. The ever-increasing multiplicity of nuclear weapon states has led to a complex political and military environment that renders the Cold War models obsolete.

Compounding this situation is the increasing risk of the use of a nuclear weapon by a rogue or non-state actor. With more and more countries with less and less security obtaining weapons and developing energy programs, nuclear materials have become increasingly disseminated and accessible. Moreover, in today's globalizing world, the extreme ease of information transfer has led to the knowledge of nuclear weapon design growing ever more easily accessible. Thus relative to the Cold War, the probability of a terrorist group obtaining a nuclear weapon has today increased manifold. Indeed, with the possibility of irrational non-state actors obtaining and using a nuclear weapon the comforting mutually assured destruction (MAD) model of deterrence too is no longer applicable. With the evolution of unprecedented threats and the persistence of outdated risk assessment and mitigation strategies, nuclear security is perilous indeed.

Employing primary footage as well as interviews with experts in the fields of nuclear nonproliferation disarmament, "Chain Reaction" unravels the evolution of risk associated with nuclear weapons: from the detonation of the first nuclear weapon, Trinity, in 1945, through the Cold War, and into today's world. The film then assesses current threats and offers recommendations for revisions of old and development of new strategies to better address and mitigate modern nuclear risk.