Think you learned everything you need to know about nuclear weapons from Hollywood? Think again. Nuclear doomsday thrillers might be entertaining, but they’re full of inaccuracies and exaggerate the threat. Here are five facts you won’t see in the movies.

1. 80% of all nuclear weapons that have ever existed have been destroyed, but the hard part is ahead of us.

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The world’s nuclear stockpile has been shrinking as a result of arms-control treaties and unilateral actions. The U.S. stockpile stands at its lowest level since the 1950s — down 85 percent to 4,717 warheads. The lower the total numbers, the more important verification and compliance becomes. That’s why we need the entire international community to work to create the next generation of tools and technologies to help us get to zero nuclear weapons.

2. Countries have given up nuclear weapons, but not by force.

South Africa had a nuclear weapons program and chose to dismantle it. Argentina and Brazil abandoned their nascent programs and then signed on to the Latin American nuclear-weapons-free zone. Countries turn away from nuclear weapons because they find that their security can be better guaranteed without them. That’s the key to stopping further proliferation: making sure all nations know that nuclear weapons are liabilities, not assets.

3. Nuclear power need not lead to nuclear weapons. But it can improve lives.

Many people worry that nuclear power plants are the first step to making nuclear weapons. But national regulations and International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards ensure that nuclear power plants are used only for peaceful applications, such as:

  • Providing reliable, inexpensive and carbon-free electricity.
  • Enhancing agricultural productivity and improving food security.
  • Diagnosing and treating cancer and other diseases.
  • Helping scientists understand and address climate change.

4. For most of the world, nuclear weapons are already illegal.

One-hundred-and-ninety of the world’s 195 independent states have joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That’s the broadest support of any arms-control treaty in history.

The 185 NPT members without nuclear weapons have agreed to never acquire them. The five NPT members with nuclear weapons have pledged to move toward disarmament.

5. There are things you can do.

You can contribute to keeping the world safe from nuclear weapons. Stay informed. Speak up. Write to your elected officials about global disarmament and nonproliferation. Consider a career in science, law enforcement, border control or another field related to nuclear security. Get involved with an advocacy group working on these issues or start your own.