Watch (5:36)

21st-Century Nuclear Security: Negotiating Low Public Consciousness and Great Danger

“If a nuclear weapon were to go off in any city in the world at any time, the consequences would be devastating,” said Valerie Plame, a former cover CIA Operations Officer. “People would be calling for martial law. Here in the United States, the things that we take for granted – in the Bill of Rights, our Constitution – would all be set on a shelf, because people would want to feel that they would be safe from another attack.”

Because of the proliferation of non-state actors trying to get their hands on nuclear weapons, we can no longer depend on Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) to prevent nuclear catastrophe. Yet despite the fact that the danger of nuclear war may well be greater than ever, public consciousness of this issue may has dipped to an all-time low. And even among those who are well-aware of nuclear security risks, few feel empowered enough to make a difference in the field. The average citizen feels that what he or she does or thinks will have no bearing on the people making policy decisions.

“This is such a hugely intimidating area, and in fact, the entire history of arms control in the nuclear realm has always been dominated by elder statesmen – frankly, older white men,” Plame said. “I would love to see a reboot in this whole area.”