Risk of unintentional nuclear war due to accidents
Nature: Possibilities for accidents in nuclear weaponry and control systems are several. Technical failure or malfunctioning may detonate or launch nuclear weapons, or may also lead to false alarms. Nuclear weaponry accidents and threatening movements may also be caused by unauthorized action, human error, human over-reaction, stress or temporary insanity, and may be misinterpreted by an adversary nuclear power which could immediately retaliate, either proportionately or disproportionately. Risks are particularly serious in countries which have a newly acquired nuclear capability but are not yet able or willing to purchase or develop sophisticated safeguard systems.
Counter Claim: Fail-safe systems with overlapping multiple controls, and countermeasures to initial accident phases, although not completely infallible, may exclude serious accidents or undesired incidents. Human control systems are designed to prevent any misuse of nuclear weapons by subordinate commanders or by the Commander-in-chief acting independently. There is a general tendency to subject the release of nuclear weapons to tight control by the supreme political authority, or at least by joint military-political (executive) decision. The focus on the risk of nuclear war by accident may misrepresent the problem and misdirect attention from more serious and crucial risks constituting a far greater danger. The risk of an attack might be increased if safeguards were multiplied to the point at which delay to field or submarine commanders in obtaining authorization and an electronic key effectively render their weapons impotent.
Problem Type: F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update 01.01.2000 – 00:00 CET