Avoiding Armageddon
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Episode 2 - "Nuclear Nightmares: Losing Control"
For sheer destruction, no single weapon comes
close to a nuclear bomb.

This episode of "Avoiding Armageddon" reveals the urgent threats from this fearsome power as hostile nations and stateless terrorists, unafraid to unleash its deadly force, race to obtain the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.

Many felt that the end of the Cold War would usher in an era of greater safety and security. It turns out the opposite was true. "Nuclear Nightmares: Losing Control" shows in shocking detail that today's world is a more dangerous place as nuclear security is compromised; countries such as North Korea build the bomb; and nuclear neighbors India and Pakistan, bitter adversaries, feel empowered by it and contemplate using it.

"Nuclear Nightmares: Losing Control" chronicles the tense days in 1999, when unbeknownst to many around the world, India and Pakistan were on the verge of nuclear war. The weapons were aimed; forces were on highest alert. The U.S. intervened and helped avert a conflagration that could have claimed millions of casualties. But the region remains the world's most precarious potential nuclear flash point.

What if terrorists get the bomb or component parts? There may be no chance for world mediation in that scenario."Nuclear Nightmares: Losing Control" tells the story of Leonid Smirnov, a mid-level employee in a Russian nuclear facility, who patiently pilfered tiny amounts of highly enriched uranium, hoping to sell it to the highest bidder on the black market. Fortunately, Smirnov was caught before he reached a buyer. But the material he stole was never missed.

That's just one of the stories "Avoiding Armageddon" producers uncovered as they spent two years traveling the globe to investigate the legacy of the superpower nuclear arms race. The thousands of nuclear warheads - many more than 30 times more powerful than the Hiroshima blast - and the nuclear know-how are part of the tantalizing unsecured remnants of the weapons programs of the former Soviet Union.

Yet there are reasons for hope. Cooperative programs have led to reductions for U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. In "Nuclear Nightmares: Losing Control" viewers learn about the "Megatons to Megawatts" program that converts Russian uranium into a source of electricity in the United States.

Splitting the atom was one of humanity's most ingenious breakthroughs, but also one of its most dangerous. Hiroshima ended a war but began a frightening new chapter in human history. From the Cuban missile crisis to Leonid Smirnov, the world has repeatedly stepped to the brink, peered over and pulled back. As the nuclear club expands, will the pattern change?

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