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Few people think about nuclear weapons.
They believe the threats have ended or plans are in place to prevent nuclear catastrophe.
They are dead wrong.

There are multiple nuclear nightmares still out there.

  • Thousands of Russian and American missiles could be accidentally launched within minutes.
  • Tensions between India and Pakistan could spark a regional nuclear war.
  • Or terrorists could steal nuclear material, setting off a bomb in a major city.
  • The more weapons we have, the more likely these threats.

    Nine countries hold 17,000 nuclear weapons, each more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • These weapons could destroy a city, a nation, even human civilization.

The Book



    “With the Cold War ending but more nations wanting to get into the nuclear weapons club, Cirincione, a former staffer of President Obama’s nuclear policy team and current member of the secretary of state’s International Security Advisory Board, sounds the alarm on the global arms race. He provides a wealth of material on currently nuclear-armed nations and their 17,000-strong stockpile, assessing the rapid spread of the weapons, the cost of the arsenals, and the damage they could wreak, with a keen emphasis on “nuclear terrorism.” The frightening assessment by Cirincione is further supported by a government document of 32 nuclear weapon accidents that occurred between 1950 and 1980—including six bombs “that were lost and never recovered.” Along with detailing the bombs’ enormous potency, he spells out the potential fatalities war could cause, estimating “between 35 to 77 percent of the U.S. population would be killed.” Cirincione explains the efforts to reduce the arsenals up to the revised START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) talks, while stressing the dreaded current exceptions of Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan. It’s wonk-oriented, but Cirincione’s gripping, harrowing account of the arms race debate is essential reading for those concerned with a fickle world prone to threats and terrorism. ”

    Sixtieth Secretary of State

    “Everyone in this world needs to be aware of the dangers posed by nuclear weapons, and also to realize that progress is possible.

    The record of achievement is there and the path to a better future can be identified. Joe Cirincione has been part of this unfolding story, and this book will help advance the effort on which he and so many of us have worked so hard.”

    Nineteenth Secretary of Defense

    “In Nuclear Nightmares, Joe Cirincione presents a thorough, honest, and balanced view of the challenges to our security that nuclear weapons and fissile materials present to us today and the dangers that will emerge in the future. He implores us all to become knowledgeable, engage with our national leaders, and participate in the decisions that will so significantly affect our future. If you read only one book on this issue, this is the one.”

    Host of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show

    “Joe Cirincione is our nation's best communicator and clarion advocate on reducing the threat of nuclear weapons. Nuclear Nightmares should be required reading for every beltway journalist, every student of policy, and everyone who can't quite get their head around the thousands of nuclear bombs we're maintaining right now, ready to launch, even though no one can quite explain why on earth we would ever launch them.

    At the risk of undermining the title itself, Nuclear Nightmares will not actually give you nightmares. It will make you see that our giant, supposedly intractable nuclear problem is solvable, now, in this generation. Fascinating and vital. ”

    President of the Brookings Institution

    “Joe Cirincione is a clear-eyed, straight-talking, highly influential sage on the spread of nuclear weaponry and the imperative for the U.S. to lead the global effort in blunting this existential danger to the planet.

    In his latest book, he assesses the chances for progress in arms control between Presidents Obama and Putin, analyzes the latest ominous developments in Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea, lays out practical steps for American policy, and recommends ways for citizens to engage in the cause of nonproliferation.”

    Center for American Progress

    “Joe Cirincione lucidly provides a greater understanding of the threats still posed by the 17,000 nuclear weapons in the world, the risk of their use, and the efforts to reduce and eliminate these threats.”

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Joseph Cirincione is President of Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation. He is the author of Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late (Columbia University Press), Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons and Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Threats. He is a member of Secretary of State John Kerry's International Security Advisory Board and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Cirincione worked for nine years in the U.S. House of Representatives on the professional staff of the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Government Operations. He is the author of hundreds of articles on nuclear weapons issues, the producer of two DVDs, a frequent commentator in the media, and he appeared in the films, Countdown to Zero and Why We Fight. He previously served as Vice President for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress and Director for Nonproliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He has held positions at the Henry L. Stimson Center, the U.S. Information Agency and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He teaches at the graduate School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.