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Discussion Guide

Thank you for watching the documentary Nuclear Tipping Point. The Nuclear Security Project produced the film to help build support for the urgent actions needed to reduce nuclear dangers. This discussion guide offers some suggested questions to consider after watching.

Nuclear Tipping Point discussion questions

  • How likely is the continued spread of nuclear weapons and their use by a state or terrorist, if the nuclear status quo continues?
  • How can nations work together toward the vision of a world without nuclear weapons and take practical steps towards that goal?
  • How can the world address the nuclear threat posed by North Korea or Iran?
  • What can be done to build global confidence that states are fulfilling their nuclear-related agreements?
  • What can be done to ensure that the expansion of civil nuclear energy does not lead to the further spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials?

Frequently Asked Questions about the Nuclear Security Project and Nuclear Tipping Point

1. Does the United States support the vision of and steps towards a world without nuclear weapons?

President Obama has embraced both the vision of and steps towards a world without nuclear weapons. In his 2009 speech in Prague, the President stated "clearly and with conviction" the United States' commitment to seek a world without nuclear weapons. In Prague, the President defined a trajectory for progress that includes many of the steps. Among them:

    • A new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with the Russians, setting the stage for further cuts, including for all nuclear weapons states;
    • Achieving ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty;
    • A new treaty that ends the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons;
    • Strengthening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, with more resources for inspections and a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation, including an international fuel bank; and
    • Securing vulnerable nuclear materials around the world within four years.

2. Who else is supporting the initiative depicted in this film?

In the United States, the initiative has received the support of more than half the living former Secretaries of State and Defense and National Security Advisors.

Distinguished groups of former senior statesmen – including Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Ministers of Defense – have emerged in countries including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and the United Kingdom, all enthusiastically supporting the vision of a world without nuclear weapons and concrete actions towards that goal.

There have also been important international conferences sponsored by the Norwegian and Italian governments in Oslo and Rome, each involving more than 100 leaders and experts from around the world, and each converging around the imperative of reducing the role of nuclear weapons in security policies.

Global Zero, a separate initiative with similar goals, also has hosted international conferences and produced reports promoting the goal of stopping the spread of and ultimately eliminating nuclear weapons and securing nuclear all materials.

3.  Is there any evidence that any of the established nuclear powers would go along with this?

In 2007, the British government was the first to declare its support for the vision and steps initiative.  Since then, a number of leaders and governments have voiced their support, including Russia. 

In September 2009, the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution endorsed by all five permanent members (the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China) affirming many of the steps towards and the vision of a world without nuclear weapons.

4.  If achievement of the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons has been unobtainable for over 50 years, why do you think it should or can be achieved now?

The vision remains essential, but it must be achieved through practical steps. The Nuclear Security Project operates on this principle: without the bold vision, the actions will not be perceived as fair or urgent; and without the actions, the vision will not be perceived as realistic or possible.

5.   At a time when North Korea and Iran are advancing their nuclear programs, is this the right time to be advocating a vision to eliminate nuclear weapons?  Why should we believe there is any relationship between what the United States and Russia do with their nuclear weapons stockpiles and the actions of North Korea or Iran?

The vision remains essential, but it must be achieved through practical steps. The Nuclear Security Project operates on this principle: without the bold vision, the actions will not be perceived as fair or urgent; and without the actions, the vision will not be perceived as realistic or possible.

6. Given that terrorists are likely to pursue their nuclear ambitions regardless of what happens with the arsenals of existing nuclear powers, why does it make sense to work towards the abolition of nuclear weapons in states that have them? Why would we be safer if terrorists were the only ones with nuclear weapons?

The strategy outlined in the film will greatly strengthen barriers against a terrorist group acquiring nuclear materials or a nuclear weapon. Reducing nuclear inventories, eliminating tactical nuclear arms, and securing nuclear weapons and nuclear materials will result in fewer weapons for terrorists to get their hands on and better security around those remaining weapons and materials

Getting control of the uranium enrichment process and halting the production of fissile material for bombs also will reduce the stockpile of nuclear materials globally, reducing the risk that a terrorist group could ever get access to nuclear material for making a bomb.

Alternatively, if we continue down the path we are on now – that is, more nations with more nuclear weapons and more nuclear material around the globe – terrorists are much more likely to succeed in acquiring and using a nuclear bomb.

7. What has been done to reduce nuclear dangers?

Important progress has been made. For example:

    • For more than ten years, the U.S. and Russia have been working together to recycle weapons-grade uranium from 10,000 dismantled Russian nuclear warheads into fuel used by U.S. power plants to produce electricity.
    • Ninety percent of Russian navy sites with nuclear materials have undergone cooperative security upgrades
    • Thousands of nuclear weapons experts are now gainfully employed in peaceful enterprises, reducing the risk that they would sell their knowledge to a rogue nation or terrorist organization.

8. What can citizens do to support this effort?