The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation was founded in 1982 by David Krieger and Frank K. Kelly—two writers, scholars, policy advocates, and committed peace activists. They wanted to create an institution that could describe and confront the dangers of what they called the Nuclear Age—the era in which human technology had become unfathomably powerful and unpredictable. They were joined in this endeavor by three idealists from different backgrounds: a Harvard-trained lawyer, a middle school principal, and a retired advertising executive. All but one of these five founders had been soldiers, and one had earned a Bronze Star during the Allied advance across France. Their experience of war had left them passionately devoted to peace, and cognizant of the great effort and imagination required to achieve it. So they conceived of an organization that would be flexible and adventurous, able to cross the boundaries of activism, scholarship, policy, education, and legal action. Although they were most immediately concerned with the danger posed by nuclear weapons, they believed that the changes wrought after Hiroshima extended to every realm of life, from ecology to culture to civil society, and had to be considered with as wide a lens as possible.
Under the leadership of Kelly and Krieger, the Foundation embarked on many long-term initiatives and actions. These include Waging Peace, a 20-year essay project on the future of human flourishing featuring voices from every field of achievement; the Nuclear Zero lawsuits, which in 2014 forced the U.S. Federal District Court and the International Court of Justice to confront the injustices inflicted by the U.S. nuclear program on the Marshall Islands; and the Nuclear Files, a pioneering web-based open-access history and archive of nuclear history from 2001. In addition, NAPF participated in the negotiations surrounding the Treaty for the Prevention of Nuclear Weapons, ratified in 2021.
The idea that peace is more than the absence of war has guided many of the Foundationʼs efforts, and widened its scope beyond the nuclear question. NAPF has sponsored poetry, art, and wide-ranging philosophical debate. Over the years it has collaborated with Desmond Tutu, Jacques Cousteau, Queen Noor of Jordan, the XIVth Dalai Lama, Yehudi Menuhin, Carl Sagan, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Jonathan Schell, Elaine Scarry and many others.