Weapons of Mass Protection? Rogue Asteroids, Nuclear Explosions in Space, and the Norms of Global Nuclear Order

  • Michal SmetanaEmail author
Part of the Space and Society book series (SPSO)


Planetary defense scientists frequently consider nuclear explosive devices (NED) among the suitable tools for deflection of near-Earth objects. Despite the convenient physical characteristics of nuclear explosions, this chapter sketches the negative implications of developing any options in this direction for the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the global nuclear order as such. Moreover, the author critically unpacks the seemingly objective scientific rationality of these proposals and discusses how support for the NED development de-stigmatizes technology that, similarly to the impact of large asteroids, also carries the risk of destroying human civilization with a non-zero probability. The chapter concludes with a pragmatic attempt to find the middle ground between the NED advocates and critics.


NEO deflection Asteroids Nuclear weapons Norms Nuclear proliferation International order 



I would like to thank Nikola Schmidt, David Morrison, and Daniel Porras for useful comments and ideas. I acknowledge funding by the Charles University Research Centre program UNCE/HUM/028 (Peace Research Center Prague/Faculty of Social Sciences).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Peace Research Center PragueCharles UniversityPragueCzech Republic

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