Increasing global tension and the rise of cyber warfare could lead to nuclear disaster, the United Nations has warned.
A comprehensive report by The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) paints a pessimistic picture of the threat the world faces.
“The lack of nuclear weapons use since Hiroshima and Nagasaki cannot on its own be interpreted as evidence that the likelihood of a detonation event is minimal,” the report warns.
“While detonations have not occurred in such circumstances, the Cold War was replete with incidences of near-misses, false alarms, and accidents in and around nuclear weapons, even when we draw only from the limited information made available by nuclear-armed States.”
The threat has been increased by the growing automation of command and control weapon systems.
“Nuclear deterrence works – up until the time it will prove not to work,” it said.
“The risk is inherent and, when luck runs out, the results will be catastrophic.”
Increasing reliance on automated systems has led to misplaced confidence in their safety, the report adds.
“The substantial levels of investment in nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons systems and their modernization have enhanced rather than decreased the likelihood of an intentional or inadvertent detonation event.”
Countries are urged to exchange information on existing nuclear stockpiles to prevent misidentification and the risk of a retaliatory attack.
They should also abandon plans to develop new nuclear delivery systems and work to ease tension in the “international security landscape”.