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At the Brink
William J. Perry Project
A podcast about the dangers we face from nuclear weapons, and the stories of those who are fighting to protect us.
Dec 5, 2023
Marshall Islands: Paradise Interrupted
From 1946 through 1958, the US detonated 67 nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands, with an explosive force equal to 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every day for 10 years. The Marshallese are still dealing with the consequences to this day. Lingering radiation has caused numerous health problems and wiped out much of the traditional lifestyle of fishing and farming, leading to a dependence on unhealthy imported food and an epidemic of obesity and diabetes. Many Marshallese emigrated to America, where maintaining traditional culture was even more difficult. The health challenges from their lifestyle changes led to American Marshallese being tragically vulnerable to the Covid epidemic.
Aug 29, 2023
Atomic Veterans: Training for the Final War
During the era of atmospheric nuclear testing, hundreds of thousands of American servicemen were made to participate in nuclear tests to prepare for fighting an atomic war. Thousands more were exposed to deadly radiation while cleaning up after nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands. These men were prevented from talking about their experiences for decades after, even to their doctor.
Aug 8, 2023
Downwinders Part 2: Fatal Harvest
In this episode, we look at the long-term impact of nuclear testing on the American citizens it was supposed to protect, and the efforts of victims to fight for recognition and compensation.
Jul 25, 2023
Downwinders Part 1: The Ultimate Patriots
In the race to develop the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer's Trinity test inadvertently exposed thousands of unsuspecting American citizens to toxic radioactive fallout. This test marked the beginning of a decade-long, top-secret campaign of above-ground nuclear testing in the United States. Delve into the firsthand accounts of Downwinders, the earliest casualties of the atomic age. (Part 1 of 2)
Jul 18, 2023
Introducing Season 2
With the Trinity Test, J. Robert Oppenheimer ushered in the atomic age, and a decade-long campaign of U.S. atmospheric nuclear testing. In Season 2 of AT THE BRINK, discover the hidden history and the human fallout of the development of the atomic bomb, as told by those who lived through it. Launching July 25th.
Apr 13, 2022
From Hope to Hostility: US Relations With Putin's Russia [Special Episode]
When the Cold War ended in 1992, there was great hope for the newly formed Russian Federation. But following a series of major economic problems, and missteps by the West, an obscure ex-KGB agent named Vladimir Putin began to turn the nation in a different direction. In this episode, former US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, and former US Secretary of Defense, William Perry talk about their insider experiences with the Russian government through the 1990s and the 2000s, and try to make sense of how US-Russian relations have deteriorated to today’s dangerous hostility.
Mar 30, 2022
Did Ukraine Make a Mistake Giving Up Nuclear Weapons? [Special Episode]
In the 90s, Ukraine made the decision to dismantle the thousands of former Soviet nuclear weapons left on its territory. Nearly 3 decades later, Russia has invaded Ukraine using their own nuclear arsenal to bully other nations from interceding. In this special episode of AT THE BRINK, we explore whether Ukrainian denuclearization was a fateful mistake, and if a nuclear Ukraine could have prevented the Russian invasion.
Oct 27, 2020
Hibakusha: Survivors of the Bomb
In this episode, we hear the wrenching stories of two survivors of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. These two women, known as “Hibakusha” or “explosion affected persons”, both suffered injury and radiation sickness, but unlike the more than 200,000 who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, survived to bear witness to the horrors of nuclear weapons. One, Setsuko Thurlow, culminated a life-long effort at nuclear awareness and activism, when she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for ICAN, along with ICAN leader Beatrice Fihn. We’ll learn more about why the bombs were used, and why they were so uniquely devastating.
Sep 10, 2020
Fire and Fury in the Hermit Kingdom: North Korea’s Nuclear Program
The history of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions has see-sawed between crisis and hope. Bill Perry tells how close we came to war in 1994, and he and Philip Yun tell their story of negotiating directly with North Korea in the 1999 crisis. But their hopes were dashed as the deal they crafted was rejected by the new Bush administration. Dr. Siegfried Hecker describes his historic trips during the early 2000s to view the North Korean nuclear program up close, and Dr. Jeffrey Lewis describes what we know about today’s North Korean arsenal and ballistic missile program. Our guests offer their analysis of where we’re at now, and what is possible to accomplish going forward in dealing with a nuclear “Hermit Kingdom.”
Aug 26, 2020
The Iran Deal: Blocking a Persian Bomb
Was the Iran nuclear deal really “the worst deal ever negotiated”, as Donald Trump claimed? We’ll hear from Ambassador Wendy Sherman, the lead U.S. negotiator, former Obama advisor Ben Rhodes, Iranian diplomat Seyed Mousavian, and others in U.S. politics and diplomacy who supported the deal, explain what the deal actually did, why Trump was wrong, and what might happen now that the United States has walked away from it.
Aug 12, 2020
Project Sapphire: A Secret Mission to Thwart Nuclear Terrorism
In 1994, Andy Weber was serving at the U.S. embassy in Kazakhstan when his auto mechanic asked if he wanted to buy some uranium. This was the beginning of a story straight out of spy novels, as the U.S. executed a complicated plan to smuggle out over 600 kg of bomb-grade uranium, to avoid its seizure by terrorists bent on creating their own nuclear weapon. We learn how devastating such a result would have been, and how Andy and the team at the Pentagon implemented this daring scheme to prevent such an outcome. We also hear from experts who are continuing the work today to lower the risk of nuclear terrorism.
Jul 29, 2020
Modernizing Doomsday: The True Cost of Our Nuclear Arsenal
In January 2020, the Doomsday Clock was set at 100 seconds to midnight, telling us that the world is the closest to catastrophe it has ever been during the nuclear age. A big reason is that both the U.S. and Russia are embarking upon an unprecedented expansion of nuclear arsenals, which will cost American taxpayers upwards of two trillion dollars, under the misleading heading of “modernization.” Learn about what is being planned, and why it is decreasing our security, not enhancing it.
Jul 15, 2020
Loose Nukes: A Nuclear Success Story
Most Americans cheered when the Soviet Union broke apart into 15 independent countries in 1991, but a few had a sobering concern: the break-up created three new nuclear states overnight: Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. They had no resources or infrastructure to deal with their inherited nuclear weapons and fissile material, and security was woefully inadequate. Listen to the remarkable story of how a group of dedicated individuals conceived and implemented the Nunn-Lugar program, which removed over 4,000 so-called “loose nukes” from these former Soviet states, securing the remaining weapons in Russia.
Jul 2, 2020
The Biscuit and the Football: Presidential Nuclear Authority
Is there anything more quintessentially American that naming the briefcase that the President uses to authorize a nuclear attack, “the football”? The authority to single-handedly decide the fate of the world with a deadly weapon is possibly one of the most important responsibilities to understand about the President’s role. In this episode, we unpack the history of this power, how it came to be, and what it is like to carry the weight of that decision according to Bill Clinton. We further discuss the dangerous Cold War hangovers of sole presidential authority and the failure of the United States to commit to no first use of nuclear weapons with Congressmen and scientific experts.
Jul 1, 2020
Seek Immediate Shelter: Nuclear False Alarms
There is an urgent, specific danger facing our world today: nuclear weapons. In our first episode, producer and filmmaker Cynthia Lazaroff recounts the 40 minutes of terror she experienced during Hawaii’s nuclear missile false alarm in 2018. We also explore the history of nuclear false alarms with former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, historian Taylor Downing, and writer Peter Anthony. Understanding why we are still at risk for these false alarms that could potentially trigger World War III is the first step in mediating the immediate risk and finding a new way forward.