The Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons was assembled by the Australian prime minister in 1995, with a mandate to consider nuclear proliferation and the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Their final report is well worth a look. It opens with a concise statement that lays out the situation:
The destructiveness of nuclear weapons is immense. Any use would be catastrophic.
Nuclear weapons pose an intolerable threat to all humanity and its habitat, yet tens of thousands remain in arsenals built up at an extraordinary time of deep antagonism. That time has passed, yet assertions of their utility continue.
These facts are obvious but their implications have been blurred. There is no doubt that, if the peoples of the world were more fully aware of the inherent danger of nuclear weapons and the consequences of their use, they would reject them, and not permit their continued possession or acquisition on their behalf by their governments, even for an alleged need for self-defence.
Nuclear weapons are held by a handful of states which insist that these weapons provide unique security benefits, and yet reserve uniquely to themselves the right to own them. This situation is highly discriminatory and thus unstable; it cannot be sustained. The possession of nuclear weapons by any state is a constant stimulus to other states to acquire them.
Personally, I don’t have a great deal of hope that we will avoid the use of nuclear weapons during my lifetime. I suspect that regional rivalries will drive large numbers of states to acquire the weapons and that eventually some miscalculation, lapse in control, or security breach will result in the use of a bomb, possibly followed by nuclear retaliation.
If that is to be prevented, states with access to sophisticated nuclear technology and the means to produce bomb-grade uranium and plutonium need to become a lot more serious about non-proliferation. The recent behaviour of countries including the United States suggests this is unlikely.