AUTHORLewis, Patricia / Williams, Heather / Pelopidas, Benoît / Aghlani, Sasan
TITLEToo Close for Comfort: Cases of Near Nuclear Use and Options for Policy
PUBLISHERChatham House
CITYLondon, UK
Web Access
Available online from Chatham House

This 30-page report examines the near use of nuclear weapons, primarily using a set of cases spanning from the Cold War through 2002. The study finds that the risk of inadvertent nuclear weapon use is higher than previously thought and offers recommendations for reducing that risk. Cases studied include the Cuban missile crisis; misinterpretations of computer data by the North American Air Defense command in 1979 and the Soviet early warning system in 1983; the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Abel Archer exercise, which put the Soviet nuclear forces on high alert; Israel placing its nuclear weapons on high alert during the 1973 war; and Southeast Asia, India and Pakistan facing off with nuclear weapons between 1999 and 2002. Along with the case studies, the report describes events since 2003 that have involved poor practices in handling and storing nuclear weapons. The final section contains implications for policy and makes recommendations for avoiding nuclear near misses in the future.

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