Threat of accidental global nuclear war could be growing

Press release, 25 September 2008

In the wake of the Russia-Georgia conflict, a group of scientists and engineers has warned that increased tensions between Russia and the USA could increase the danger of accidental global nuclear war.

In an article in the latest edition of the Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) Newsletter, Steven Starr describes the continuing threat posed by thousands of US and Russian nuclear weapons maintained on ‘high alert’ – able to be launched within minutes of an order being given. He discusses the possibility of accidental launches and describes the devastating consequences for the world should these ever happen – based on the latest environmental assessments of ‘nuclear winter’ using advanced climate models.

Executive Director of SGR, Dr Stuart Parkinson, said “Increased international tensions in the wake of both the Russia-Georgia conflict and the US Missile Defence deals should remind us that the threat of accidental (or deliberate) nuclear war has not gone away. Efforts in pursuit of global nuclear disarmament need to redoubled, and a good start would be for the US and Russia to immediately remove all nuclear weapons from ‘high-alert’ status.”

The new edition of the SGR Newsletter also includes articles on the potential for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, the militarisation of UK universities, UK action on climate change (including that on energy efficiency and renewable energy), nuclear waste management, and the new Defence Training Academy in Wales.


1. Scientists for Global Responsibility is an independent UK-based organisation of ethically-concerned science, design and technology professionals, founded in 1992 – see:

2. Steven Starr is a senior scientist with Physicians for Social Responsibility, USA.

3. The full contents list for Scientists for Global Responsibility Newsletter, no.36 (Autumn 2008) is:

  • High-alert nuclear weapons: the forgotten danger
  • Steven Starr argues that the continued maintenance of US and Russian nuclear weapons on high alert means that the threat of accidental (or deliberate) global nuclear war has not gone away.
  • Behind closed doors – military influence at UK universities
  • Dr Chris Langley summarises SGR’s latest research on military influence at UK universities, highlighting a range of serious concerns and making recommendations for reform.
  • UK climate strategy – are we making progress?
  • Dr Stuart Parkinson examines the UK’s record on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, arguing that official figures hide a lack of progress and highlighting the key reforms that need to be made.
  • New campaign to achieve global nuclear disarmament
  • Alison Whyte introduces a new global campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, and discusses some hopeful signs of progress.
  • The St Athan Defence Training Academy: the future of British education?
  • Dr Stuart Tannock discusses the disturbing implications of the Ministry of Defence’s new multibillion pound training academy.
  • Out of their depth? Uncertainties in nuclear waste management
  • Dr Rachel Western argues that the nuclear industry and the UK government are not properly considering the scientific evidence in their rush to ‘solve’ the problem of radioactive waste.
  • Reducing carbon emissions from housing
  • Kate Macintosh MBE outlines the environmental standards for new housing in the UK and argues that the bigger problems related to the quality of the existing housing stock are being neglected.
  • Expanding renewable energy in the UK
  • Dave Andrews CEng and Martin Quick CEng give two perspectives on the potential for expanding the deployment of variable or intermittent renewable energy in the UK. In the first article – ‘Variable renewables and the base load issue’ – Andrews argues that the disadvantages of these types of technologies are much less than detractors claim while, in the second article – ‘Innovating to exploit variable renewables’ – Quick outlines some innovative ways of expanding their deployment.

SGR News

  • A few words from the Director
  • New project on corporate influence on R&D begins
  • Updates on advocacy work on nuclear weapons, militarisation of science & technology, climate change, cleaner energy, emerging technologies and ethical careers.

4. Copies of SGR Newsletter, No. 36, are available price £3.50 plus p&p. (Free copies are available to members and associate members of SGR.) For more info, see