The world has struggled for over six decades with the dangers posed by huge quantities of plutonium and highly enriched uranium, the chain reacting fissile materials that are the key ingredients of nuclear weapons and that were described by the eminent physicist Niels Bohr in 1944 as possibly posing a “perpetual menace” to humankind. Since the failure of the post-World War II efforts to ban nuclear weapons and control fissile materials, nine other states have followed the United States and produced fissile materials and nuclear weapons. This chapter provides an overview of the book and an introduction to the fissile material problem and the proposals to cap, reduce, and eventually eliminate fissile materials. It explains why such initiatives are critical to support deep reductions and eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons, to make such nuclear disarmament more difficult to reverse, to raise the barriers to nuclear weapon proliferation, and to prevent nuclear terrorism.
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