“People working on nuclear weapons policies don’t communicate with each other. There’s an unwillingness to accept that risks are different now to what they were in the past, and so plans in place to deal with nuclear war don’t reflect the environment we live in today.”
Over the years, Professor Futter and his research have been heavily influential in raising international awareness of these new nuclear threats, encouraging governments to modernise their thinking and helping policymakers rethink their decisions. From briefing the UK’s Cabinet Office, the House of Lords and the former Defence Secretary about cyber threats to Trident, the UK’s submarine-based nuclear defence system, to contributing to a taskforce in Washington DC established by the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Professor Futter is influencing policy to make the world a safer place – now and in the future. “There are about 13,000 nuclear weapons in the world today,” he says. “The two nuclear weapons deployed against Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War killed around 200,000 people, and these weapons were orders of magnitude less powerful than the weapons that we have today. Even a small nuclear exchange would kill millions of people, while a large one could destroy the planet.”
At the forefront of change
The world of nuclear weapons and technology is constantly changing. In order to have any meaningful influence over domestic and foreign policy in the field of nuclear weapons, you need to be clued up on history, sociology, politics, science and technology. That doesn’t mean taking courses in multiple fields, but having a strong ability to go off on a research tangent and return armed with new and powerful knowledge to share with the world to make it a safer place. “This field is always changing. One minute I’m teaching myself about hypersonic weapons and the next I’m reading a highly theoretical paper on polarity” says Andrew. “The textbook I’ve written and the module I’ve developed as part of the Politics of Nuclear Weapons course at the University of Leicester have been designed with the idea of teaching more people about the threat, the risks that are not being taken seriously, and the ways in which society nowadays might catastrophically impact the outcome of a future hostile nuclear situation.”
Nuclear technology and risks might be rapidly changing, but one constant remains – the need to make sure people know why we should be worried about nuclear weapons and how we can make the world a safer place.