(By Michael A. Lindenberger) Twenty-five years after the end of the Cold War, how safe is America, or the world, from nuclear catastrophe? Not very. That’s the gloomy message from former Secretary of Defense William Perry, who has spent the past quarter-century focused on reducing the risk of nuclear disaster. Part of the risk, of course, is there are now many more groups intent on inflicting mass destruction that we saw in the Sept. 11 attacks. But the seemingly old-fashion risk, that of a nuclear confrontation between nuclear powers like the United States or Russia, has not gone away either.

Another reason for concern: America and its closest nuclear competitors — Russia, China, India and others — are locked in an arms race intent on developing better, faster, more destructive weapons. In the U.S. defense officials have already warned Congress that they will need enormous sums, up to $450 billion over 20 years, and more beyond that, to overhaul America’s aging and still-dominant nuclear arsenal. CONTINUE