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Capsule Review

Two Books on the Risks of Nuclear Terrorism and Proliferation

In This Review

Underestimated Second Edition: Our Not So Peaceful Nuclear Future
Underestimated Second Edition: Our Not So Peaceful Nuclear Future
By Henry D. Sokolski
Strategic Studies Institute, 2018 169 pp. Purchase
Double Jeopardy: Combating Nuclear Terror and Climate Change
Double Jeopardy: Combating Nuclear Terror and Climate Change
By Daniel B. Poneman
MIT Press, 2019 288 pp. Purchase

Both of these books address the risks of nuclear terrorism and proliferation. Sokolski’s slim, urgent volume describes different attitudes to the spread of nuclear weapons and outlines a largely geopolitical approach to reducing the likelihood of proliferation. He recommends more dialogue among China, Russia, and the United States; suggests that nuclear powers should deploy their weapons in ways that reduce the risks of inadvertent escalation; and counsels those powers to update the safeguards surrounding exports of civil nuclear reactors.

Poneman has even higher ambitions. He says that there are two existential threats to human existence: climate change and nuclear proliferation and terrorism. The first, he argues, requires a greater investment in nuclear energy to reduce humanity’s dependence on carbon fuels—but this, he notes, risks aggravating the second threat. So his recommendations address both threats together. He proposes shifting to lower-carbon energy sources, including nuclear power; fully implementing the Paris climate agreement; and, among other nonproliferation moves, eliminating the North Korean nuclear threat. It’s a daunting list.

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