Our Luck Is About To Run Out (Revelation 16)

When Will Our Nuclear Luck Run Out?

Geoff Wilson Research Associate & Special Assistant to the President, Ploughshares Fund
This piece was co-authored with Cora Henry, a Research Assistant at Ploughshares Fund.

“Whoops” is not a word that you want to hear around the most destructive weapons on earth. Unfortunately it happens more often than you would like to think.

There are over 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world today. The US alone has over 7,000. Many are actively deployed on missiles, bombers and submarines, ready to launch at a moment’s notice.
With so many nuclear weapons, technical failures are a constant risk. Human error exacerbates the problem.

A recent investigation by The Associated Press into an accident at a nuclear missile silo in Colorado illustrates the danger perfectly. In 2014, airmen manning a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile severely damaged the weapon.

The Air Force has not been forthcoming about the accident, but what we do know is that a “mishap” occurred during a diagnostic test and that the “mishap crew chief” in charge of handling the problem did not “correctly adhere to technical guidance” and “lacked the necessary proficiency level” to properly “anticipate the consequences of his actions during the troubleshooting.”

While the account is cloaked in bureaucratic jargon, it raises some serious questions. Why was someone without proper training working on a nuclear weapon? And why didn’t the technician listen to technical guidance?

Whatever happened, it cost U.S. taxpayers $1.8 million in damage to the missile. It also cost the three airmen their nuclear weapons certification — but they were put back on the job a year later.
By itself, it’s a disconcerting story. What makes it truly scary is that the Air Force neglected to report it to Pentagon investigators looking into the pattern of misconduct and negligence plaguing U.S. nuclear forces.

That investigation was launched after revelations of widespread abuse and misconduct among nuclear missileers, including illegal drug use and systemic cheating on missileer proficiency tests. If the investigators missed the 2014 Minuteman incident, what other nuclear mishaps did they miss?

Accidents involving our nuclear arsenal are nothing new. On a few occasions, we almost lost a state.
In 1980, an airman dropped part of a socket wrench while performing routine maintenance on a Titan II ballistic missile in Damascus, Arkansas. The socket fell about 70 feet and punctured the aluminum skin of the missile, which started leaking liquid rocket fuel.

After eight and a half stressful hours, dramatically portrayed in Eric Schlosser’s Command and Control, the fuel exploded and the 9 megaton nuclear warhead landed about 100 feet from the launch complex. To give you an idea of just how powerful that warhead was, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was only 15 kilotons. Nine megatons is about equal to three times the explosive force of all the bombs dropped during the Second World War, including the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Luckily, it didn’t explode. We could have lost Arkansas.

Perhaps the most famous U.S. nuclear weapons accident happened in 1961, when a B-52 flying over North Carolina broke apart, releasing two 4 megaton hydrogen bombs. One bomb’s parachute deployed, but the other fell all the way to earth. As Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione put it, “all of the weapon’s safety mechanisms failed, except one. It was a single low-voltage switch that prevented a hydrogen bomb from destroying a good portion of North Carolina.”

These type of incidents aren’t things of the distant past.

In 2007, a B-52 flight from North Dakota to Louisiana carried six nuclear warheads — by mistake — in violation of a Cold War era treaty not to fly nuclear weapons. “This is a major gaffe, and it’s going to cause some heads to roll down the line,” said Don Shepperd, a retired Air Force major general. The crew of the plane did not realize that they were carrying nuclear weapons. Airmen in North Dakota did not know that any nuclear weapons were missing. And nobody realized that something was amiss for 36 hours.

Just a year later, the Air Force investigated a case of gross incompetence at an ICBM launch silo after a fire in a launcher equipment room went unnoticed for five days. Again, the AP’s writeup of the incident sounds like a script for a low budget slapstick comedy, but nobody is laughing.

The fire was caused by a loose electrical connection on a battery charger that was activated when a storm knocked out the main power source. The fire ignited a shotgun storage case, incinerated shotgun shells, ignited and melted duct tape at the opening of the launch tube, charred an umbilical cable in several places, and burned through wires in a pressure monitoring cable.

The incident cost more than $1 million, and the Air Force completed an accident report.
Other revelations concerning our nuclear security aside, the incident report “uncovered the remarkable fact that the Air Force was using duct tape on cables linked to the missile,” according to the AP.

These incidents are only a small sample of our nuclear near-misses, and we do not have a comprehensive list of nuclear accidents.

Jeffrey Lewis writes in Foreign Policy, “the Department of Defense has released narrative summaries for 32 accidents involving nuclear weapons between 1950 and 1980, many of which involve aircraft bearing bombs. False alarms? Please. The Department of Defense admitted 1,152 ‘moderately serious’ false alarms between 1977 and 1984 — roughly three a week.”

The point here is that if you have so many nuclear weapons that you can misplace them and don’t maintain them properly, you probably have too many.

But we’re not the only nuclear power with problems like this. There are eight other nuclear weapons states. If we have these sorts of hair-raising problems, imagine what the Russians or the Pakistanis have to deal with.

These weapons are far too dangerous to treat with such carelessness. With some 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, every year that goes by without a nuclear accident is a miracle.

In 1961, President Kennedy warned that “every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness.” Today his warning still rings true.

We must reduce our nuclear arsenals before they begin to reduce us.

Babylon’s Nearly Fatal Errors (Ezekiel 17)

  

Eric Schlosser recounts the United States’ clumsy history with nuclear weapons. And it’s terrifying.

by Joe Posner and Estelle Caswell on June 16, 2015

Human error is, well, human. Most systems people design break from time to time. Including the United States’ nuclear weapons systems:

The shocking stories in the video come from investigative reporter Eric Schlosser’s book Command and Control, in which he uncovered a “litany of errors” that go way, way beyond the official record of 33 serious accidents, known as “broken arrows.” Even the first test, 70 years ago this July 16, flirted perilously close with disaster.

Schlosser spent 6 years “in the most crazy nuclear shit imaginable” – and the revelations in the book about times we almost “destroyed a large part of the Florida coast” are seemingly endless.

Most discussion about nuclear weapons today has to do with a potential deal with Iran promising not to build a weapon. Discussion of the US missiles that were meant to be replaced 30 years ago, aging wiring, and control systems that run on floppy-disks have remained safely on the sidelines of the conversation.

If you’re worried you’ll never sleep again, it’s worth remembering that none of the nuclear weapons the US has built – 70,000, by Schlosser’s count – has fully detonated by accident. But if the US has come this perilously close, one can only imagine what might be going on in Russia, India, or Pakistan.

How close did the US come? Watch on our YouTube page.

Babylon the Great: Our Fukushima Is Coming (Rev 15)

  • We estimate the contamination risks from the atmospheric dispersion of radionuclides released by severe nuclear power plant accidents… We present an overview of global risks… [These] risks exhibit seasonal variability, with the highest surface level concentrations of gaseous radionuclides in the Northern Hemisphere during winter [Fukushima crisis began with 10 days left in winter].
  • The model setup was evaluated… using emission estimates from… Fukushima
  • The risk posed from nuclear power plant accidents is not limited to the national or even regional level, but can assume global dimensions. Many nations may be subjected to great exposure after severe accidents.
  • Our model shows increased surface-level concentrations throughout the Northern Hemisphere during the boreal winter months compared to the summer… Not only the expected risk magnitude is higher, but the geographical extent of the high concentrations of transported radionuclides is more pronounced towards the northHorizontal advection [i.e. transfer] is more efficient in winter due to relatively stronger winds, and the concentrations are highest near the surface [and] surface level concentrations in the summer tend to be more localized in the emission region.
  • Our results illustrate that accidents… could have significant trans-boundary consequences. The risk estimate [shows] increased surface level concentrations of gaseous radionuclides in the Northern Hemisphere during winter and a larger geographical extent towards the north and the east… This is related to the relatively shallow boundary layer in winter that confines the emitted radioactivity to the lowest part of the atmosphere close to the surface…It is the view of the authors that it is imperative to assess the risks from the atmospheric dispersion of radioactivity from potential NPP accidents [for] emergency response planning on national and international levels.

JAMSTEC, Univ. of Tokyo, etc.: We show a numerical simulation for the long-range transport from the [Fukushima] plant to the US… Large-scale updraft [over] Japan from March 14 to 15 was found effective in lifting the particles [to the] jet stream that could carry the particles across the Pacific within 3 to 4 days [See study: On Mar. 15, Fukushima reactors emitted 100 quadrillion Bq of cesium into air — This one day was equal to total lifetime release from Chernobyl]… Some of the particles [had a] long-range atmospheric transport over — 10,000 km within 3 to 4 days… [R]adioactive materials were detected in that period over the east and west coasts of the U.S… In order for the particles to be transported with the jet stream, they must be lifted up from the surface boundary layer to the mid- or upper troposphere. Large-scale updraft was indeed observedon March 14 through 15[T]he westerlies in mid-March were thus particularly effective in the trans-Pacific transport of the radioactive materials…

US-India Deal WILL Destabilize Pakistani Nuclear Horn (Daniel 8:8)

Pakistan Warns U.S.-India Nuclear Ties May Destabilize Region

South-Asian-missiles
by Kartikay MehrotraKamran Haider

1:28 AM MST
January 28, 2015

(Bloomberg) — Pakistan has warned that growing U.S. cooperation with India on its civilian nuclear program could destabilize a region with a quarter of the world’s people.

President Barack Obama announced during a three-day trip to New Delhi this week that the U.S. would support India’s entry into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group. He also said the countries reached a breakthrough that would pave the way for investment in its civilian nuclear power sector.

“The operationalization of Indo-U.S. nuclear deal for political and economic expediencies would have a detrimental impact on deterrence stability in South Asia,” Sartaj Aziz, an adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said in a statement on Tuesday night. “Pakistan reserves the right to safeguard its national security interests.”

Pakistan and China are among nations questioning whether neighboring India deserves to gain further international legitimacy for its nuclear program, putting them at odds with the Obama administration. The Nuclear Suppliers Group, a set of nations exporting atomic reactors and fuel, was created in response to India’s widely denounced nuclear tests in 1974.

Pakistan also objected to Obama’s support for India to get a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, Aziz said. Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The moves may be part of Pakistan’s strategy to build more nuclear reactors with China, said Anit Mukherjee, an assistant professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
India-U.S. Ties

“I don’t think either country understands that by pressurizing India, they’re pushing them to the U.S.,” Mukherjee said on Jan. 28. “China should be afraid of this, as a strong bond between India and the U.S. could threaten their own regional freedom.”

In a joint statement on Jan. 25, Obama said India was ready for membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group. He agreed to work with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi toward “phased entry” that would include joining three more global non-proliferation assemblies: The Missile Technology Control Regime, the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group.

An agreement with the U.S. in 2008 helped India gain a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which barred trade with any nation that hadn’t endorsed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which India has refrained from signing. Pakistan isn’t a member of the group and doesn’t have a waiver.
China noted Obama’s trip to New Delhi and said that India still needs to take more steps to meet the requirements of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Jan. 26.

Strategic Balance

“Pakistan values its relations with the United States and expects it to play a constructive role for strategic stability and balance in South Asia,” Aziz said.

Nuclear cooperation highlighted the meetings between Modi and Obama, who was India’s chief guest for its annual Republic Day parade. Among the breakthroughs was an end to a years-long deadlock on obstacles that blocked the U.S. from installing nuclear plants in India, which plans a $182 billion expansion of its nuclear industry.

U.S. technology suppliers have questioned the depth of the agreement between Obama and Modi. Westinghouse Electric Co., the Monroeville, Pennsylvania-based nuclear builder owned by Toshiba Corp., said it would study an offer by India to create an insurance pool to shield suppliers from liability in the event of an accident.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kartikay Mehrotra in New Delhi at kmehrotra2@bloomberg.net; Kamran Haider in Islamabad at khaider2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net Arijit Ghosh

A Nuclear Accident WILL Happen (Revelation 15:2)

Taking Nuclear Missiles off Hair-Trigger Alert

As the editorial says:

The arsenal simply does not play a role in defending the country against big threats, like terrorism and cybersecurity. Two decades after the end of the Cold War, many of the missiles are still kept on hair-trigger alert, even though they almost certainly will never be fired. The main target, Russia, is no longer the same military adversary, despite tensions over Ukraine.

Mr. Obama still has time to advance the sensible disarmament agenda he once espoused. That will mean more honest discussion of the diminished importance of nuclear weapons.

A common response to arguments like this is that even though nuclear weapons may not be as relevant in today’s security environment, we shouldn’t change the status quo if it isn’t broken.

But the status quo is, in fact, broken, since it puts us at much higher risk than it should.
US Minuteman missile in a silo.
In particular, the U.S. policy of keeping nearly 1,000 nuclear warheads on hair-trigger alertwhich allows them to be launched within a matter of minutes—increases the risk of a nuclear launch due to an accident or error. Russia keeps a similar number of warheads on high alert.

This policy dates to the Cold War. The U.S. and Soviet Union put their nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert since they believed this increased deterrence against a deliberate nuclear attack, by convincing the adversary it was impossible to destroy the country’s nuclear forces before they could be launched in retaliation.

The problem is that after receiving warning of an attack, political and military leaders would have very little time—perhaps 15 minutes or less—to confirm the details of the situation, identify equipment malfunctions that could give false warning, and carry out rational decision making before making a launch decision. And a launch by either country would likely result in retaliatory nuclear strikes that would devastate both counties.

During the Cold War, leaders in both countries saw the risk of a deliberate nuclear attack by the other country as large enough that they believed the benefits of keeping weapons on high alert outweighed the resulting risks. Whether or not that assessment made sense at that time, it does not today. Today the possibility of a mistaken, unauthorized, or accidental launch poses a greater risk than a deliberate attack.

 Errors and near-misses increase the risk

These risks are not theoretical. Over the past decades there have been many cases in which human and technical errors have significantly increased the possibility of nuclear use.
For example:

  • In 1979, a technician mistakenly inserted a training tape into a computer at NORAD, the U.S. missile warning center. The computer then broadcast warnings of a massive incoming Soviet nuclear attack to key U.S. nuclear command centers.
  • In 1980, a defective computer chip at NORAD caused a computer to broadcast warnings of an attack by thousands of Soviet missiles at a time when tension between the two countries were running high.
  • In 1983, Soviet early warning satellites were fooled by sunlight reflected from clouds and indicated a U.S. missile attack, nearly leading to a Soviet launch.
  • In 1995, Russian radars detected a Norwegian sounding rocket and misidentified it as an incoming U.S. nuclear missile, leading Russian leaders to begin preparations for a retaliatory launch.

In these cases, the mistakes were discovered quickly enough that disaster was averted. But the consequences of nuclear use are much too high to maintain the status quo and continue to rely on luck.

An important first step to reducing the risk of nuclear use is to take land-based missiles off hair-trigger alert. While the goal is to have Russia do the same, the U.S. should not wait for Russia to act. The United States should independently take its land-based missiles off alert; this is a rational step that would reduce the risk of nuclear use while maintaining a robust deterrent against nuclear attack. And it is something that President Obama can order without needing congressional approval.

Some people may question whether now is the time to change nuclear policy, given growing tensions with Russia. But times of tension are exactly when it is important to make sure that looming crises don’t lead to mistakes that spark an unintended nuclear exchange.

There are many ways to take land-based missiles off alert. I’ll talk about our proposal in a future post.
The bottom line is simple: Accidents happen. They shouldn’t lead to nuclear war.

NOT In God’s Plans (Revelation 16)

Why we must rid the world of nuclear weapons

Eric Schlosser
History is littered with nuclear near-misses. Letting Iran have the bomb would threaten both world peace and the Iranian people
A US nuclear test over Bikini Atoll in†1954
Dangerous games: a US nuclear test over Bikini Atoll in 1954. Photograph: Corbis
Thursday 27 November 2014 14.22 EST

Much has been written about the nuclear negotiations with Iran. While diplomacy has received a great deal of attention, one important question too often gets lost in the details: why Iran must not get the bomb. In my view, the answer is quite simple. An Iran armed with nuclear weapons would pose a grave threat not only to world peace but to the Iranian people.

Almost 70 years have passed since the destruction of Nagasaki, the last time a nuclear weapon was used against a civilian target. The cold war ended without a nuclear exchange, and the dangers of nuclear terrorism remain speculative, thus far. The fact that a nuclear catastrophe hasn’t occurred since 1945 encourages the belief that because it hasn’t happened, it won’t happen. Or even that it can’t happen. An influential American academic, Kenneth Waltz, considered the proliferation of nuclear weapons to be a good thing; the more countries that obtained them, the better. “Those who like peace should love nuclear weapons,” Waltz argued. “They are the only weapons ever invented that work decisively against their own use.”

Many academics now agree with his contention that nuclear weapons discourage warfare between the states that possess them, stabilise international relations, and encourage world leaders to be more cautious. That argument does, in fact, accurately describe the recent diplomatic history of nuclear weapon states. But it reveals nothing about the future. It’s true – until one day, it isn’t.

Every country that possesses nuclear weapons must contend with their inherent risks. They are the most dangerous machines ever invented, extremely difficult to manage, for reasons both technical and administrative. Like every man made object, they are imperfect. And so are the people who control them. The US first devised this technology, perfected it, gained more experience with it than any other nation – and yet has come close on numerous occasions to having American cities destroyed accidentally by American nuclear weapons. Political instability in almost half the countries with nuclear weapons has been a potential source of catastrophe. Split-second decision-making has brought the world close to nuclear war more than once and then narrowly averted it.

The Pentagon has long claimed that only 32 serious accidents have occurred with American nuclear weapons. But a document that I obtained through the Freedom of Information Act listed more than a thousand accidents involving US nuclear weapons just between the years of 1950 and 1968. Many of those accidents were trivial; others were more likely to produce a full-scale nuclear detonation than some of the accidents on the official list.

Seemingly innocuous things could have led to disaster. A tiny metal nut that came off a screw inside a B-52 bomber created a new electrical pathway, circumventing a safety switch and fully arming four hydrogen bombs. A maintenance technician investigating a faulty intruder alarm at a missile silo pulled the wrong fuse with a screwdriver, caused a short circuit, and blew the warhead off a missile. Four rubber seat cushions inadvertently stowed near a heat vent in the cockpit of a B-52 set the plane on fire, forced the crew to bail out mid-flight, and could have detonated hydrogen bombs at one of America’s most important, top-secret military installations.

Other countries came up with nuclear weapon designs that were vastly less safe. Had Saddam Hussein built nuclear weapons, they might have posed a greater threat to Baghdad than to any of his enemies. “It could go off if a rifle bullet hit it,” a UN inspector said about an Iraqi weapon design. “I wouldn’t want to be around if it fell off the edge of this desk.”

Five years ago Iran was wracked by massive demonstrations; the “green movement” seeking democracy was violently suppressed. Political instability and nuclear weapons are not a good combination. According to Bruno Tertrais, a former official in the French ministry of defence and a proliferation expert, four of the nine countries that now possess nuclear weapons are “known to have undergone severe political crises affecting nuclear security and/or control of use in one way or another”.

A recent book edited by Tertrais and Henry Sokolski, a former Pentagon official, describes how a group of French generals plotting a coup against President De Gaulle in the spring of 1961 tried to obtain a nuclear device that France was about to test in the Algerian desert. “Refrain from detonating your little bomb,” one of the generals told the commander in charge of the test. “Keep it for us, it will always be useful.” De Gaulle ordered the device to be set off earlier than planned, and the coup was unsuccessful.

During the Cultural Revolution in China, members of the red guards launched a missile with a nuclear warhead on a flight path over populated areas – an extremely risky and perhaps unauthorised launch. For a few days in the summer of 1991, all three “chegets”, the small handheld devices that controlled the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal, were in the hands of military officials trying to seize power and overthrow President Mikhail Gorbachev. And Pakistan, the nation with the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal, has had three military coups since the late 1960s, four prime ministers removed from power since the late 1980s, and an Islamist insurgency determined to topple the government.

Even with the best of intentions and a sincere desire to avoid nuclear war, the complexity of weapons systems, the unreliability of communications systems and human fallibility can precipitate disaster. During the Cuban missile crisis, John F Kennedy and the Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev did all they could to avoid a conflict. And yet events beyond their knowledge or control – an American U-2 spy plane that accidentally strayed into Soviet territory, the test of an American ballistic missile without Kennedy’s approval, the delegation of authority for the use of nuclear weapons to Soviet commanders in Cuba and the captains of Soviet submarines – almost started a war that neither leader wanted. On October 27 1962, off the coast of Cuba, when American forces dropped practice depth charges to force a Soviet submarine to the surface, two of the three officers in charge of the sub voted to respond by firing nuclear weapons. They mistakenly believed the submarine was under attack. Vasili Arkhipov, the second-in-command, refused to authorise the use of nuclear weapons, and the vote to do so had to be unanimous. Arkhipov’s refusal prevented the world’s first nuclear war.

Given Iran’s technical, political and leadership challenges, its pursuit of nuclear weapons seems an invitation to disaster. Moreover, Iran signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in 1970. Getting the bomb would violate that treaty, encourage other countries to violate it and discourage Israel from ever submitting nuclear facilities to international inspection. A nuclear arms race in the Middle East would endanger every country in the region; the effects of a nuclear detonation would spread without regard to national borders. And possessing nuclear weapons would make Iran the target of other nuclear states.

Early next month, officials from 150 countries meet in Vienna to discuss the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and a treaty to ban them. The world was lucky in the 20th century to avoid a nuclear Armageddon. In the 21st century a new international consensus is emerging: nuclear weapons are only useful for killing or terrorising civilians. The number of weapons worldwide must be reduced with the goal of some day reaching zero. A new nuclear arms race, new states possessing nuclear weapons, and a breakdown of the nonproliferation regime are the antithesis of those goals.

And that, among many other reasons, is why Iran must not get the bomb.

A Catastrophe Waiting To Happen – THE FIRE (Revelation 16:10)

Nuclear ‘Command And Control’: A History Of False Alarms And Near Catastrophes

 
Titan II Intercontinental Nuclear Missile

Titan II Intercontinental Nuclear Missile

Globally, there are thousands of nuclear weapons hidden away and ready to go, just awaiting the right electrical signal. They are, writes investigative reporter Eric Schlosser, a collective death wish — barely suppressed. Every one is an accident waiting to happen, a potential act of mass murder, he says.

“When it comes to nuclear command and control, anything less than perfection is unacceptable because of how devastatingly powerful these weapons are,” Schlosser tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies.
Schlosser, best known for his book Fast Food Nation, spent six years researching America’s nuclear weapons, interviewing many involved in developing defense policy and in maintaining and deploying weapons systems, and examining government documents.

His new book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety is a critical look at the history of the nation’s nuclear weapons systems — and a terrifying account of the fires, explosions, false attack alerts and accidentally dropped bombs that plagued America’s military throughout the Cold War.

“One of the themes of my book is about how we are so much better at creating complex technological systems than we are at controlling them,” he says.

“It’s only since the Cold War ended that we’ve been able to find out how close we came, again and again, to having our own weapons detonate by accident, or potentially be stolen, or potentially be used by people without proper authorization.”

 

Interview Highlights

On a B-52 bomber that accidentally dropped a bomb on North Carolina in 1962

This plane was on a routine flight. At that period, we had B-52 bombers in the air 24 hours a day ready to attack the Soviet Union. So this plane took off with two very powerful hydrogen bombs. And while it was flying, the pilot noticed that there was a weight imbalance and they needed to essentially dump their fuel and get back to the base.

While they were trying to get back to the base, the weight imbalance started to break apart the plane. As the B-52 bomber broke apart midair, the crew was evacuating, there was a lanyard in the cockpit and it was the lanyard that one of the crew members would normally pull to release the hydrogen bombs. The centrifugal forces of the plane breaking apart pulled the lanyard as though [a] human being had pulled it.

Now, these bombs are dumb machines — and they didn’t know the difference between a person pulling on the lanyard or centrifugal forces. So the bombs were released as though we were over enemy territory and at war.

One of those hydrogen bombs went through all of its proper arming steps except for one, and when it hit the ground in North Carolina, there was a firing signal sent. And if that one switch in the bomb had been switched, it would’ve detonated a full-scale — an enormous, enormous thermonuclear explosion — in North Carolina.

On a false alarm that the United States was under Soviet attack

By the late 1970s, the great threat to the United States was Soviet missiles. These would come very quickly; the president of the United States would not have very much time whether to decide if this was a real attack or a false alarm and whether to launch our missiles — it might be as few as 10, 12 minutes to make this decision. …

On Nov. 9, 1979, at NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command] headquarters inside Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs, Co., suddenly the screens were filled with images of a major Soviet attack on the United States. It really looked like an all-out attack and that the president [Jimmy Carter] might have to make a decision about whether or not to respond. It was investigated very quickly and other radars showed no sign of this attack. And the decision was made that this was a false alarm.

And it was soon realized that someone had inadvertently put a training tape — and the training tape was of an all-out Soviet attack — into a computer and the computer had presented the training tape as a real attack.

On another serious false alarm

We had another serious, serious incident … when Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national security adviser, was awoken at 2:30 in the morning and told by his military aide that the United States was most likely under attack by 220 missiles. And as Brzezinski said, “I need confirmation of that,” and his military aide got off the phone and the military aide called back Brzezinski and said, “It’s actually 2,200 soviet missiles [that] are coming toward the United States.”

Brzezinski wanted further confirmation, and as he lay there in bed in the early morning hours, he decided not to wake up his wife because if Washington, D.C., was about to be destroyed, he preferred that she die in her sleep. And Brzezinski was preparing to call President Carter to talk about the American retaliation and his military aide called back one more time [and] said it was a false alarm.
And this false alarm was later traced to a faulty computer chip that cost 46 cents that had malfunctioned and had sent this signal that 2,000 Soviet missiles with warheads were on their way.

On early nuclear weapons and the destruction of Hiroshima

Early nuclear weapons were essentially handmade. … The bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima was an incredibly crude and inefficient weapon. When it exploded, about 99 percent of the uranium that was supposed to undergo this chain reaction didn’t — it just blew apart in the air. And a very small percentage, maybe 2 percent of the fissile material, actually detonated — and most of it just became other radioactive elements.

So when you look at the destruction of Hiroshima, this major city, Hiroshima was destroyed in an instant, and 80,000 people were killed and two-thirds of the buildings in this enormous metropolitan area were destroyed instantly because 7/10 of a gram of uranium-235 became pure energy. To imagine how small of an amount that is — 7/10 of a gram of uranium is about the size of a peppercorn; 7/10 of a gram weighs less than a dollar bill.

Even though this weapon was unbelievably inefficient and almost 99 percent of the uranium had nothing to do with the destruction of Hiroshima, it was a catastrophic explosion. Nuclear weapons since then have become remarkably efficient and small and capable of destruction that makes Hiroshima seem trivial.

On the frequency of these mistakes

I was able to obtain thousands of pages through the Freedom of Information Act to write the book that revealed these details, and also to do interviews with people who designed the weapons, people who handled them routinely, who told me these stories. It’s quite extraordinary how much was suppressed.

If you look at the Pentagon’s official list of how many nuclear weapons accidents, serious accidents, we have — what they call “broken arrows” — the list contains 32 accidents. But I was able to obtain a document through the Freedom of Information Act that said just between the years 1950 and 1968, there were more than 1,000 accidents involving nuclear weapons. And many of the serious accidents I found don’t even appear on the Pentagon’s list. So I’m sure there were many more that I was unable to uncover that occurred.

On how the aging missile technology is a safety hazard

The problem today is that we have very aging weapons systems — both in the United States and Russia. It’s very old technology. Our principle nuclear bomber, the B-52, hasn’t been built since John F. Kennedy was president. Our principle land-based missile, the Minuteman III, was put into the ground originally in 1970. [It] was supposed to be retired in the early 1980s, and the infrastructure is aging — the wiring, the computers in our Minuteman launch complexes use 9-inch floppy discs. There’s all kinds of potential for problems there — and in Russia, the same thing.

Sea of Glass Mixed With Fire (Revelation 15:2)

Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late

The Hydrogen Bomb 1946

The Hydrogen Bomb 1946

Without disarmament our nuclear nightmares may become realities – but there is still time to avoid disaster

by Noah Habeeb, July 05, 2014

In January 1961 a B-52 bomber broke up over North Carolina, dropping two nuclear bombs on rural Goldsboro County. “By the slightest margin of chance,” recently released documents reveal, “literally the failure of two wires to cross, a nuclear explosion was averted.

The new revelations about the Goldsboro incident, one of numerous close calls, will come as no surprise to Joseph Cirincione, the president of Ploughshares Fund and a member of the State Department’s International Security Advisory Board. His depth of knowledge is showcased in Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late, a succinct yet comprehensive survey of the dangers of nuclear weapons.

History shows that the effects of even a singular nuclear bomb can be catastrophic. Even a small risk becomes too great a possibility when the likelihood of an accident or a nuclear war is multiplied over many years.

Catastrophe, however, is not inevitable – in fact there is reason for hope. What makes Nuclear Nightmares significant are Cirincione’s levelheaded suggestions for confining such disasters to the realm of nightmares.

Obama’s Promise

President Obama took office expressing a genuine commitment to fight for de-proliferation. His early speeches on the issue, included in the appendix of Nuclear Nightmares, set the high but necessary goal of “a world without nuclear weapons.”

But Obama is hardly the first U.S. president to focus on non-proliferation. From John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, US presidents have long envisioned a world without nuclear weapons.

Except for George W. Bush. As Cirincione explains, “it seemed that nearly every nuclear problem President George W. Bush had inherited from his predecessor had grown worse.” During his administration the risk of nuclear terrorism grew, relations with Iran worsened, and the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) was weakened. Many neoconservative advisers to the president openly dismissed the very idea of arms control agreements.

Obama has presided over a pivot in nuclear policy. He signed the New START agreement with Russia, released a revamped Nuclear Posture Review pledging never to use nuclear weapons against abiding non-nuclear states, and re-embraced the international regime of nonproliferation But the risks of disaster still loom.

Nuclear Nightmares

The bombs dropped over North Carolina weren’t the only nuclear near misses. Cirincione catalogues many accidents from past decades: a B-47 that crashed into a nuclear weapons storage “igloo,” a hydrogen bomb that was accidentally dropped over Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and a B-52 that unknowingly flew across the country carrying six cruise missiles in 2007.

Most alarming was a 1995 incident in which Russian radars mistook a Norwegian weather rocket for a US ballistic missile. Russian President Boris Yeltsin decided not to strike, but Cirincione writes, “senior military officials advised him that he had to launch.”

In the event of an accident, yet alone a regional or global war, the consequences would be dire – millions of deaths, environmental contamination, and a potential nuclear winter scenario. But even without a catastrophe, the financial costs of nuclear arsenals outweigh any potential benefits, according to Cirincione.

Despite wide public support for arms control, the nuclear budget remains grotesquely high – $56 billion per year, according to the Ploughshares Fund. The US nuclear arsenal consists of more than 7,700 weapons, yet experts believe nuclear deterrence is achieved with far fewer. Cirincione cites numerous estimates, from 900 warheads to as few as 150.

Cirincione’s cogent argument for cuts should theoretically strike a chord with both antiwar progressives and fiscal conservatives. Unfortunately, partisan politics often defies logic.

Ending Proliferation

Ultimately, Nuclear Nightmares is far more optimistic than its title would have you believe. Cirincione accomplishes the challenging feat of addressing nearly every nuclear hotspot in no more than 200 pages. His recommendations are compelling, logical, and achievable.

For the United States and Russia he suggests increased transparency, accelerated reductions, and a shift away from heightened alert status. For Pakistan and India he encourages diplomacy, executive hotlines, and greater cooperation through trade.

And the “idiosyncratic regimes” of Iran and North Korea? Cirincione rules out military responses to both North Korea’s fledgling arsenal and Iran’s uranium enrichment program. He does, however, believe that economic sanctions coupled with diplomacy can achieve a nuclear deal in Iran, despite the poor track record sanctions have had.

As a global nuclear power, the United States must take the lead – our nuclear posture largely influences the calculus of other states. The goal of Global Zero, if achievable, is distant, but steps can and should be taken to achieve disarmament.

The world once had 23 nuclear states; now it has 10. As Cirincione says, “History has borne out US assessments of the essential connection between controlling existing arsenals and preventing new ones.”

But squeamish politicians won’t have the political capital to push for de-proliferation without support and pressure from the public. As Obama said in his first major speech on nuclear weapons, “We are here today because enough people ignored the voices who told them that the world could not change.” Policy won’t change until the public can turn ideas and opinions into actions.

The Next One Won’t Be An Accident (Revelation 16)

A nuclear explosion at the Nevada Test Site in 1953. A nuclear bomb dropped on North Carolina out of a B-52 on January 24, 1961 and luckily did not explode on impact.

Nuclear bomb nearly detonated after falling on North Carolina, declassified report says

Dan Lamothe and Walter Russell Mead
Just one switch away from nuclear disaster

Recently declassified reports reveal details behind the Goldsboro accident of 1961, in which the US very narrowly avoided nuclear catastrophe.

There are few things in this world that can change the course of history faster than a nuclear bomb exploding. The devastation is immediate and lasts for years.

That makes the latest details to emerge about a January 24, 1961, incident involving two nuclear bombs all the more jarring.

A B-52 bomber broke up in the sky over North Carolina, and one of the two bombs on board was in the “armed” setting by the time it hit the ground near Goldsboro, North Carolina, according to a newly declassified report published on Monday by the National Security Archive.

If the switch had not been damaged by the impact of the crash, the weapon could have detonated, the report said.

A South Carolina doctor treated a family for injuries sustained when a sudden, inexplicable explosion tore through their backyard. The injuries were not serious, and after spending the night at the doctor’s house they returned home to discover that the object in the 15-metre crater left behind their house was an atomic bomb that had fallen from the passing B-52.

The so-called “Goldsboro incident” received widespread attention in September last year, when details about the incident were published in a new book, Command and Control, by Eric Schlosser. And it sounds just as ominous as described on Monday by Bill Burr of the National Security Archives.

The B-52 bomber ... Three US Air Force personnel died after a B-52 broke up over North Carolina on January 24, 1961. One of two nuclear bombs dropped from the aircraft and landed in a backyard.

The B-52 bomber … Three US Air Force personnel died after a B-52 broke up over North Carolina on January 24, 1961. One of two nuclear bombs dropped from the aircraft and landed in a backyard.

“The report implied that because Weapon 2 landed in a free-fall, without the parachute operating, the timer did not initiate the bomb’s high voltage battery (“trajectory arming”), a step in the arming sequence,” Burr wrote. “For Weapon 2, the Arm/Safe switch was in the “safe” position, yet it was virtually armed because the impact shock had rotated the indicator drum to the “armed” position. But the shock also damaged the switch contacts, which had to be intact for the weapon to detonate.”
Burr concluded:

“Perhaps this is what Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara had in mind, a few years later, when he observed that, ‘by the slightest margin of chance, literally the failure of two wires to cross, a nuclear explosion was averted.’”

Three US Air Force personnel in the B-52 died after the plane broke up that day. They were Sergeant Francis Roger Barnish, Major Eugene Holcombe Richards and Major Eugene Shelton.

That incident, which led to an anti-­nuclear movement in Britain, where the plane was bound, is one of many stories Eric Schlosser, the author of Fast Food Nation, tells in Command and Control.

During the cold war, nuclear bombs fell out of the sky, burned up in plane ­crashes and were lost at sea. In the incident Schlosser describes in greatest detail, “the Damascus accident” of September 18, 1980, the warhead from a Titan II missile was ejected after a series of mishaps that began when a repairman dropped a socket wrench and pierced a fuel tank.

Tactical nuclear weapons scattered across Europe had minimal security; misplaced tools and failed repairs triggered serious accidents; inadequate safety procedures and poor oversight led to dozens of close brushes with nuclear explosions.

People have died in these accidents, sometimes as a result of their own carelessness or bad luck, but often while doing their best to protect the rest of us from an accidental nuclear blast.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/nuclear-bomb-nearly-detonated-after-falling-on-north-carolina-declassified-report-says-20140611-zs3en.html#ixzz34Ij4I9fe