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Tricia Wanamaker

1st Hour
The Sum of All Fears

In 2002, Phil Alden Robinson directed a nuclear terror thriller based on Tom Clancy’s
best-selling novel, “The Sum Of All Fears”. Focusing on nuclear warfare, a small group of
terrorists recover a nuclear bomb, the plutonium from which they use to create a new bomb.
Framing the Russians and escalating the already boiling hostilities between them and America,
the countries threaten nuclear exchange. Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck), called upon by Director of
Central Intelligence William Cabot (Morgan Freeman), is left to uncover the terrorist attack and
ease tensions between President Frowler (James Cromwell) and President Nemerov (Ciarán
Hinds) before all nuclear hell breaks lose. Throughout the movie, the effects of nuclear warfare
are clearly displayed; both their efficiency, and their consequences. This movie furthers my strong
beliefs that nuclear warfare should not be used by any means whatsoever.
In the movie, a small group of neo-nazi terrorists use plutonium from a recovered bomb
as fissile material to create a new bomb- a (nuclear) fission bomb. By gaining the plutonium, they
had acquired one of the three main components needed to create a nuclear weapon; plutonium-
239, uranium-233, and uranium-235. These three isotopes are capable of generating a chain
reaction containing such great power, that they could cause a nuclear explosion. Not only does
this show the ease with which nuclear weapons can be created, but also relates to what has been
learned in class- isotopes of various elements, and the power they can generate from nuclear
fusion or in this case, fission.
While I’m sure nuclear warfare could happen as fast as it occurred in the movie, I’m not
entirely sure if nuclear weapons can be created with such ease. Granted that technology today
can allow us to do just about anything; what was a matter of optimistic science during World War
II is now a mere matter of resources and mechanics. If one manages to get hold of the right fissile
materials, be it uranium-235 and 238 to produce plutonium-238 or plutonium-238 itself, it is highly
possible that with the right engineering and tools, one could in fact create an atomic bomb.
However, to extract plutonium from a twenty-nine year old bomb and use it to create a new one
sounds a little far fetched.
Nuclear energy is the proverbial double-edged sword. It is efficient as an energy source
as well as a weapon of mass destruction. However, it has major consequences that come along
with its one strong point. There are both extreme immediate and long-term effects that are
created. Obviously, nuclear warfare will bring on mass destruction- as proved in the bombings of
Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Resources are destroyed that may not be regenerated for years, even
decades. Hundreds of thousands of lives are lost both within seconds from the blast or over short
periods of time from the fallout. Additionally the long-term effects can be as severe as damage to
the ozone, potentially causing the Earth’s climate to change.
Many people believe that the consequences aren’t consequences at all- they are simply
sacrifices that must be made. If a nation proves to be a threat to another nation, they might have
a limited-nuclear exchange, using a small number of weapons in a tactical fashion aimed mainly
at the opposing nation’s military forces, simply to get their point across of “You think you’re a
threat to us? Well, take this.” Or, if the threat is seen as too great, one may go into a full-scale
nuclear war, aiming to destroy all economic, military, and social structure that nation has. Either
way, the point gets across loud and clear. Who in their right mind would threaten the country
possessing such great nuclear power?
As efficient as it may be, nuclear warfare is a completely insane idea; it is a misuse of the
elements. Why not use nuclear energy to better the world, such as using nuclear energy plants to
replace those using other, less abundant fossil fuels, as it is already a more sustainable source of
energy? Using nuclear energy for war purposes is ridiculous. President Nemerov stated it best at
the end of the movie, “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all
breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's futures, and we are all mortal.” We are all only
mortal; so why try and become immortal, invincible, by threatening the use of nuclear warfare,
when it will only end in destruction?