Decade: 2000

The US hadn’t tested a nuclear weapon since 1992, and there were no plans to do so—or to produce more bombs. But the attacks on September 11, 2001, shook the foundations of that stability. By 2002, President George W. Bush had labeled Iran, Iraq, and North Korea the “axis of evil” both for their support of terrorism and their nuclear ambitions. Inertia and stasis in nuclear weapons policy were met head on with new questions about nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. In 2009, President Barack Obama attempted to turn global conversation toward nonproliferation when, in one of his first speeches, he called for “a world without nuclear weapons.”


A collaboration between the US State Department and Nuclear Threat Initiative, the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification is a major effort to further understand the complex technical challenges involved in nuclear disarmament verification. The public-private partnership represents the first formal, multinational, multi-sector effort to work toward a common nuclear nonproliferation goal. LEARN MORE


In a demonstration of the power of open source technology and transparency to shine new light on the nuclear threat landscape, a researcher of nuclear history designed an online tool that allows anyone to find out what would happen if a nuclear bomb detonated at any spot on Earth. Pick a zip code or city, and any bomb you want, and click: areas of death, fire, radiation, etc. Alex Wellerstein’s “NukeMap” offers a tangible, proximate way for the reality of nuclear threat to resonate with anyone. LEARN MORE


While international humanitarian law was not a new concept, by 2010 some had begun to reexamine the applicability of humanitarian law to the consequences of nuclear use. The International Committee of the Red Cross in particular conducted assessments of the possible impact of a “limited” nuclear exchange on global food supply, giving new momentum to creating an international weapons ban. In 2013, the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons Conferences brought together nuclear and nonnuclear states to develop a better understanding of the humanitarian risks of detonation, resulting in the widely signed Humanitarian Pledge. LEARN MORE


Initiated by President Obama in response to the continued threat of nuclear terrorism, these biennial summits comprised heads of state from some 50 nations—all of whom made commitments to help identify, secure, and even dispose of potentially weapons-usable materials. The Summits operate on a “gift basket” model that requires participating countries to co-develop a grouping of “gifts” and commitments to action that other countries can co-sign. The summits added a new level of scope and scale to international efforts to stem proliferation and the risks of nuclear materials falling into terrorist hands. LEARN MORE