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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Ronald Mason, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Ronald Mason was the Chief Scientific Adviser at the British Ministry of Defence from 1977-1983. In the interview he discusses the modernization of British nuclear forces. He describes the process of deciding the best way to replace the Polaris missile – through cooperation with either the United States or France – in order to achieve a British independent deterrent. Among the varied challenges are: assessing new technologies, convincing the Americans to cooperate, and defining the nature and requirements of an independent deterrent. He discusses questions of nuclear strategy in light of the forthcoming Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Zero Hour
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Interview with Ronald Mason, 1987

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

President Reagan and Soviet Secretary Gorbachev sign the INF Agreement to eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons from Europe. No one had expected the European Missile Crisis to end this way.

The story begins in 1979, when the Western Allies were worried about the Soviet Union’s buildup of SS-20 nuclear missiles aimed at Western Europe. Under pressure from the Carter Administration, NATO issued a threat, if the SS-20s were not removed, NATO would install new American missiles in Europe. The threat revived the dormant anti-nuclear movement in Western Europe, giving them an anti-American tone. In 1981, President Reagan made a proposal that the US would cancel deployment of the missiles if the Soviet Union would dismantle all the intermediate range missiles it had pointed at Europe. This was the “zero-zero” option. The Soviet Union was entering a period of change with three leaders dying in three years. In 1986 Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev offered to accept the “zero-zero” option and in 1987 the INF agreement was signed.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Warfare, Conventional
Polaris (Missile)
International relations
Nuclear arms control
Great Britain
Warsaw Treaty Organization
Deterrence (Strategy)
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1987 December 8
United States
Nuclear weapons
Trident (Weapons systems)
Nuclear warfare
Soviet Union
Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles
Callaghan, James, 1912-2005
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Mason, Ronald A. (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Ronald Mason, 1987,” 11/11/1987, GBH Archives, accessed July 18, 2024,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Ronald Mason, 1987.” 11/11/1987. GBH Archives. Web. July 18, 2024. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Ronald Mason, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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