Security and Defence


Reducing the risk of nuclear weapons use: 11 policy options

18 Apr 2018 - 11:55

This Clingendael Alert is a preview of an extended report on nuclear risk reduction that will be published in June 2018.

Since the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the world has never been confronted with any nuclear weapon detonation (except for test explosions). Nevertheless there have been numerous close calls. Many incidents have become public, but many more are supposedly not public knowledge. However small the probability of inadvertent nuclear weapons use might be, the consequences could be enormous.

In this Clingendael Alert author Sico van der Meer lists the following 11 categories of policy options that could reduce the risk of (accidental) nuclear weapons use:

  • Training
  • Transparency
  • Communication
  • De-targeting
  • Securing launch systems
  • De-alerting
  • Increasing the decision time
  • Raising the threshold for use
  • Eliminating certain types of weapons
  • Limiting numbers and locations
  • Disarmament.

The order of this (non-­exhaustive) overview of potential policy options is not static. Although the list starts with the easiest step and ends with the most difficult option,parallel and synchronised steps are certainly possible. The policy options should ideally be implemented by all nuclear weapons states simultaneously, but unilateral or bilateral measures should be applauded as well.