Growing concern about the security of nuclear weapons materials stockpiled around the world and a lack of U.S. support for several global disarmament pacts today prompted the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to move the minute hand of the "Doomsday Clock" forward two minutes--to seven minutes to midnight--the same position as when the clock made its debut in 1947.
The move marks the third time the hand has been advanced since the end of the Cold War in 1991. The hand was last moved in June 1998, from 14 minutes to nine minutes to midnight. The clock has been reset 16 times previously in its 55-year history.
"Despite a campaign promise to re-think nuclear policy, the Bush administration has taken no significant steps to alter nuclear targeting policies or reduce the alert status of U.S. nuclear forces," said George A. Lopez, Chairman of the Bulletin's Board of Directors, who made the announcement. "Meanwhile, domestic weapons laboratories continue working to refine existing warheads and design new weapons, with an emphasis on the ability to destroy deeply buried targets."
Lopez stressed that the movement of the clock's minute hand is based on a comprehensive checklist of nuclear developments worldwide, both positive and negative, and is only partially related to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"We are deeply concerned that the international community appears to have ignored the wake-up call of Sept. 11," added Lopez. "Terrorist efforts to acquire and use nuclear and biological weapons present a grave danger. But the U.S. preference for the use of preemptive force rather than diplomacy could be equally dangerous."