The Cold War may be over, but this does not mean nuclear weapons have disappeared. Far from it: There are almost 36,000 nuclear weapons in the world, thousands on hair-trigger alert, with more than a third of them ready to launch at a moment's notice, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Over 400 reactors in warships and nuclear submarines are still circling the globe. Some are rotting away on the bottom of the ocean or in a distant port somewhere in Russia. Accidents such as the Russian submarine, the Kursk, tragically sinking in the Barents Sea can happen every day, anywhere.
Over 2,000 nuclear weapons tests have left a legacy of global and regional contamination. People living near the test sites have suffered from cancers, stillbirths, miscarriages and other health effects. Many had to leave their hometown or island as it became too contaminated to live there.
Today, the number of countries involved in active weapons programs is increasing. A growing number of countries are lining up to join the nuclear club, increasing the chance that a nuclear catastrophe will happen somewhere on the planet.
Yet the U.S. government, instead of increasing efforts towards true nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, proceeds with their National Missile Defense plan, dubbed "Star Wars". A system of radars, satellites and missiles will be developed to detect and destroy incoming enemy missiles.
Apart from the technical difficulties and the enormous amounts of taxpayers' money Star Wars will cost, the program is also likely to fuel a new arms race. It will upset the global strategic balance and provoke states such as China to expand their nuclear arsenals.