- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Countdown to Zero Draws Heavily from Center Experts and Research

| Winter 2010-11

Allison, Bunn, Mowatt-Larssen Focus on Nuclear Dangers, Prevention

When the Academy Award-winning producer of An Inconvenient Truth,Lawrence Bender, wanted to create a new nuclear proliferation film, he turned to leading experts at the Belfer Center.

The resulting film, titled Countdown to Zero, focuses on the reality of nuclear danger in today's world and makes an urgent case for securing nuclear materials against terrorists. With a powerful and persuasive use of photos, video and narrative, the film looks not only at the danger of nuclear terrorism, but also at the risk of accidents and dangerous proliferation of nuclear arsenals. The Belfer Center's Graham Allison, Matthew Bunn, and Rolf Mowatt-Larssen are interviewed extensively in the film, alongside statesmen such as former President Jimmy Carter, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, and former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Two Belfer Center alumni - Jeffrey Lewis and Scott Sagan - also are prominently featured.

The film opened over the summer in cities throughout the country. The DVD was released in November.

Countdown to Zero argues that the most dangerous nuclear threat today is a nuclear weapon in the hands of a terrorist who could use it to kill hundreds of thousands of people. The best intelligence tells us that al Qaeda has spent 15 years attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction. No matter whether such a device were detonated in Moscow, New York, Beijing or another city around the world, it would result in tremendous loss of life, undermine our global economy, and fundamentally change our world.

The film also shows how the U.S. and Russia keep thousands of their nuclear weapons ready to launch on a moment's notice. If even one of these weapons were to be launched - through accident or miscalculation - the consequences would be catastrophic.

"Two years ago, conventional wisdom declared the U.S.-led global financial order to be sound, stable, and resilient, despite repeated warning signs to the contrary," Allison said. "Today we all wish we could have acted in time to prevent a Great Recession. As Countdown to Zero clearly demonstrates, the global nuclear order today could be as fragile as the global financial order was two years ago. We dare not wait for a catastrophic collapse of the nonproliferation regime. From the consequences of such an event, there is no feasible bailout."

"Countdown to Zero vividly illustrates the very real danger of terrorists acquiring nuclear materials, and it shows why we need to take urgent action today to secure these materials to a gold standard - beyond the reach of terrorists or thieves," Allison said. "I am optimistic that Countdown to Zero will do for nuclear terrorism what An Inconvenient Truth did for climate change."

Center recommendations on citizen actions to prevent nuclear proliferation and terrorism can be found at http://belfercenter.org/NuclearIssues/

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Talcott, Sasha. Countdown to Zero Draws Heavily from Center Experts and Research.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Winter 2010-11).

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