World leaders hope for a nuclear-free future

The history of nuclear weapons has been devastating and tragic. World leaders meeting in Washington, DC hope the future is one of peace.

The images of atomic bombs exploding in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II will never be forgotten. But 50 years from now, will the images of US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signing the new START treaty be as significant as they seem today? The agreement between the United States and Russia to limit nuclear weapons and nuclear non-proliferation is only one step on a long journey to protect the world from the nuclear threat.

Proponents of non-proliferation like Joseph Cirincione, president of the Plowshares Fund, find hope in the new treaty as well as in the Nuclear Security Summit. 

"We've had 47 heads of state gathered in Washington, that's never happened before. We've had 47 heads of state gathered to discuss nuclear weapons issues. That's never happened before and these were the major countries: China, Russia, India, Israel, Brazil, major countries around the world," Cirincione said.

But many more countries were invited than the world's known nuclear powers. 

“There's only nine countries in the world that have nuclear weapons," said Cirincione. "Even if they don't have nuclear weapons, they have materials that could be used to make nuclear weapons or the manufacturing capability that could make the materials for nuclear weapons. Two countries that were not at the summit were Iran and North Korea. But the summit wasn't designed to focus on them in particular, it was more focused on the non-state actors. How do you stop a group like Al-Qaeda or the Chechen rebels from getting nuclear weapons materials?”

Analysts who follow the issue believe that the summit is about more than just pomp and circumstance.

"The very fact that the meeting is taking place is just a demonstration, a declaration to the world that yes this is an important problem, we want to bring attention to it and we're going to do something about it," said Ivan Oelrich of the Federation of American Scientists.

And figures from the entertainment industry are also trying to get the issue into the public sphere. 

"Most people on the streets, not just in the United States, but all over the world have no idea about where we are right now, which is almost like on a potential tipping point on nuclear proliferation. That's why we made the movie," said producer Lawrence Bender, speaking about his new film Global Zero.

The goal of these meetings, the summit and the film alike is to create a world where we will never again see the consequences of a nuclear attack.