Warren Buffet on a nuclear “incident” – part 2

I’m researching the probability of a nuke attack and I want to revisit my post of 1/21/08 regarding Warren Buffet’s remark that a nuclear incident on U.S. soil is a “virtual certainty.”

According to a footnote on page two of a paper by political scientist John Mueller (pdf file), who argues the risk of an atomic bomb is “vanishingly small” and has been “substantially exaggerated,” Mr. Buffet is worried about any nuclear event, including reactor accidents, and he had a time frame of 100 years. The footnote states: “…Contacted by the Wall Street Journal, however, Buffett says he was worrying about any nuclear explosion, not just one set off by terrorists, and that he was talking about something that might come about over the next century, not within a ten-year period…”

Even if Mr. Buffet’s comments are based on a time frame of 100 years and includes Chernoyble-like disasters, there seems to be no doubt that he believes nuclear terrorism is a threat. As I noted earlier, he’s concerned enough to be an Advisor to the Board of Directors of the The Nuclear Threat Initiative. He told his Berkshire Hathaway shareholders to watch the movie, Last Best Chance, which dramatizes terrorists obtaining unsecured Russian nuclear material. Here are additional excerpts from the 6/19/05 interview Mr. Buffet gave CNN’s Lou Dobbs, which I cited in my 1/21/08 post:

“…And, you know, thousands of years ago we had psychotics and we had religious fanatics and we had megalomaniacs. But about the most they could do was throw a stone at somebody if they wished evil on them.

“Today, since 1945, the ability to inflict evil, or harm, on other people in huge numbers has grown exponentially. And right now there’s the knowledge around to use nuclear material. And we’ve got to hope that the wrong people don’t get their hands on it.

“… there are lots of loose nukes around the world. We’ve got multiple governments that have the capability. We have lots of chemical and biological agents that are ill guarded around the world and it should be at the top of the list for our government.

“… There are people out there that would like to do a lot more than the World Trade Center or the Spanish trains or that sort of thing.

“… The nuclear, chemical and biological threat is real. And it’s one we should attack.”

Two side notes:

1) When I read something in the press and I’ve known the inside story, there are often mistakes. I don’t have 100% faith in the press to accurately quote and get a story straight. Apropos to this post, recently there was a misunderstanding with Mr. Buffet. The press quoted him saying that the dollar will soon be “worthless.” He actually said it will soon be “worth less.”
2) In the “irony department”—in this case, nuclear power plants may be the only practical solution to global warming so nuclear energy has the potential to both destroy the earth and to save the earth—The Wall Street Journal reported on 12/7/07 that Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway was interested in nuclear power: “MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., controlled by investor Warren Buffett, notified the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Wednesday that it is pursuing the possibility of building a nuclear power plant in Payette County, Idaho…”

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One Comment on “Warren Buffet on a nuclear “incident” – part 2”


  1. Good questions. For a partial answer, check out my paper “Risk Analysis of Nuclear Deterrence”, accessible at http://nuclearrisk.org/resources.php. Also there: a related article for a general audience entitled “Soaring, Cryptography and Nuclear Weapons,” and a short summary statement with a list of endorsements. I’ve seen John Mueller’s optimism in his book “Retreat From Doomsday.” He has some good points, but is very wrong about the likelihood being so small. The in-depth studies called for on my web site would clarify which of us is right.


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