Inadvertent Nuclear War

The Implications of the Changing Global Order

Edited by

  • Hå. Wiberg
  • I.D. Petersen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • P. Smoker, Antioch University, Yellow Springs, OH, USA

Since the dramatic end of the Pacific War in 1945 the threat of nuclear war has exercised the minds of many. Initial fears concerned the risk that a political crisis between the Superpowers would escalate through miltary confrontation into a 'calculated' nuclear war. Another scenario pictured a new Hitler commanding a nuclear-capable state prepared to use such weapons 'irrationally', possibly sparking a 'catalytic' nuclear war between the major Powers. More recently attention has shifted towards the risk of the 'accidental' release of nuclear weapons. While the risk of intentional conflict between the major Powers has lessened, the arsenals have only been marginally reduced, leaving the possibility of accidental release as perhaps the most threatening case. Inadvertent Nuclear War presents the risk in terms of the reliability and instability of the human and technical systems governing release, with contributions ranging from the engineering of computer software to the psychology of the chain of command. As Dr Wiberg states in his introduction, "No known technical construction, human being or social organization is absolutely failsafe."
View full description


For academics interested in the the nuclear weapons debate and peace studies in general.


Book information

  • Published: January 1994
  • Imprint: PERGAMON
  • ISBN: 978-0-08-041380-8


The volume is a very rich source of developments in, and contemporary views and debates on, nuclear technology...a very important addition to extant scholarship on nuclear technology and the possibilities of a holocaust. Its major strength lies in the fact that contributors come from diverse disciplines of physics, radiology, psychology, mathematical statistics, political science, and sociology, thereby giving the reader the benefit of the multidisciplinary reaches of the nuclear technology discourse.
The International Journal of Conflict Management, October 1995

Table of Contents

Preface. About the authors. Introduction. Accidental nuclear war: the problematique (H. Wiberg). Accidental nuclear war in the context of global problems (K.K. Rebane). The Systems and their Components. Strategic defense and inadvertent nuclear war (H.L. Abrams). Accidental nuclear war considered from the area of reliability of large technological systems (B. Natvig). Computers and accidental nuclear conflict (B.V. Rauschenbach). How Humans May Err - from Private to President. Human reliability, instability and the control of nuclear weapons (H.L. Abrams). Why we cannot rely on decision-makers in times of crisis (M. Cullberg-Weston). Preventing the ultimate disaster: misperception at the top (F.L. Shiels). The time factor (F. Calogero). The psychology of risk compensation and its implications for accidental nuclear war (M. Bradley). Organizations as Solutions and as Problems. The security paradox and the fear trap (I.D. Petersen, P. Smoker). Nuclear profileration: neither safe nor stable (L.R. Leavitt, P. Bracken). What Can be Done - and by Whom? Minimizing the risks for accidental nuclear war: an agenda for action (M.D. Intriligator, D.L. Brito). Political aspects of minimizing the risk of accidental nuclear war (A.K. Kislov). Counteracting accidental nuclear war (V. Belous). Would actions to survive a nuclear winter help public opinion see the urgency of preventative measures? (I. Ahlstrand). Multilateral measures to prevent accidental nuclear war and to manage nuclear crisis (T. Kanninen). Appendices. The Stockholm Decision. Abbreviations. Bibliography.