5 times the United States almost nuked itself by accident
We spent the Cold War in fear that the U.S. and U.S.S.R. would start a nuclear conflict. In reality we came far closer to blowing ourselves up with nuclear weapons than we ever came to the Third World War. Nuclear incidents have a bunch of ominous military code names, like Broken Arrow, Faded Giant or NUCFLASH. There are actually lots of cases like these, but here are 5 major ones that happened in the United States.
Russia's Doomsday Machine still ready for action?
It's supposed to be science fiction: A device that triggers a nuclear attack in the event of an American strike against Russia. But the "Dr. Strangelove"-like technology isn't fantasy. The Cold War-era Soviet "doomsday machine" was - and might still be - very much a reality. From interviews with former Soviet arms officials and Defense Department documents, Wired editor Nicholas Thompson found out that the system was built 25 years ago to make sure a nuclear retaliation if Russia were attacked by the U.S. And though the Iron Curtain was removed, it's thought that the "doomsday" system was never switched off.
Cold War in paradise - British soldiers witnessed early nuclear bombs
Some 50 years ago, thousands of young servicemen landed on the white sands of a Pacific paradise to oversee Britain's testing of early nuclear bombs. But what took place next damaged them for life, some claim, and now they want compensation. Dressed in overalls, gloves and a balaclava, naval cook Dougie Hern was ordered to sit on the beach, back to the bomb, eyes closed and hands over his face. "We saw a bright, brilliant light. It was as if someone had switched a firebar on in your head. It grew brighter and you could see the bones in your hands, like pink X-rays, in front of your closed eyes." Then, they were ordered to stand and turn towards the nuclear blast.
U.S. pays $100M to Florida Cold War workers with occupation illnesses
The U.S. Department of Labor has paid $100 million in compensation and medical benefits to Florida residents under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA). The act was created to assist individuals who became ill as a result of working in the atomic weapons industry. Since the act, the Labor Department has paid 48,510 persons $4.5 billion. The EEOICPA covers current or former workers who have been diagnosed with illness caused by exposure to radiation, beryllium or silica while working for the U.S. Department of Energy, their contractors or subcontractors, a designated Atomic Weapons Employer, or a beryllium vendor.
United States lost a nuclear bomb -under the ice in Greenland
The U.S. left a nuclear weapon beneath the ice in Greenland after a crash in 1968. Greenland's unique vantage point (at the top of the world) has meant that Thule Air Base has been of huge strategic importance to the U.S. since it was built in the 1950s. The Pentagon thought the Soviet Union would take out the base as a prelude to a nuclear attack against the U.S. and so in 1960 began flying "Chrome Dome" missions (Nuclear-armed B52 bombers) over Thule. On 21 Jan. 1968, one of those missions went wrong: a plane crashed. The high explosives surrounding the 4 nuclear weapons onboard exploded, luckily without setting off the actual nuclear devices.
Julius Rosenberg may have enlisted two spies to steal atomic secrets
Julius Rosenberg, who recruited David Greenglass to steal atomic secrets, also enlisted a second spy to infiltrate the Manhattan Project, claims a new book by authorities on Soviet espionage. The authors of "Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America" say that the spy nicknamed in Soviet cables as "Fogel" or "Persian" was not Robert Oppenheimer or Philip Morrison as some have theorized, but Russell W. McNutt, an unnoticeable engineer who helped build the uranium processing plant in Oak Ridge. He had been id'ed as a Communist sympathizer, but earlier American intelligence did not id him as a member of the Rosenberg spy ring. [Buy from Amazon: US, UK, CA, DE, FR]
New Evidence of a Soviet Spy in the U.S. Nuclear Program
In a new book, two former nuclear weapons scientists make the case that Soviet spies didn't just steal atomic secrets from the Manhattan Project in the 1940s, but say a previously unknown spy also helped the Soviets in their first hydrogen bomb. In "The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and Its Proliferation" Danny Stillman and Thomas Reed do not release the name of the spy, but they do offer some of his biography. Stillman, a physicist who worked at Los Alamos, attempted to make a case against the scientist in the 1990s, going to the FBI after he saw the man's wealth. The local Santa Fe office made a mess of the following enquiry. [Buy from Amazon: US, UK, CA, DE, FR]
Cold War workers who were exposed to radioactive materials rally for compensation
Former Cold War workers gathered in Oak Ridge to demand help for workers made sick from exposure to hazardous materials in the government's nuclear weapons facilities. The U.S. Department of Labor responded with data that 41,322 people have received $3.8 billion since the department took over responsibility for these claims in 2004. Activist Janet Michel, who suffers from autoimmune disease after working in Oak Ridge's uranium enrichment plant, championed the compensation program a decade ago and reforms 6 years later. She says changes are still needed: "There's too much death and there's too much denial."
One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro on the Brink of Nucleur War
In 1962 Americans became aware of the chance of the Third World War, when Soviet missiles were spotted 90 miles from Florida. America's nuclear advantage had failed to deter Nikita Khrushchev from setting up missiles in Cuba. On Black Saturday, October 27, 1962, the world came close to nuclear apocalypse. The countless books and films dedicated to that event show the fascination of imagining catastrophic destruction. Can this book tell us anything new? Michael Dobbs thinks so: He has interviewed Soviet veterans, drawn new maps, and plotted more accurate positions of Soviet and American vessels.
British planners feared tea shortage after nuclear attack
Never mind the radiation: British planners worried there would be a dramatic shortage of tea after a nuclear attack, declassified documents revealed. The shortfall of the staple British beverage would be "very serious" if the country were to come under attack with atomic and hydrogen bombs, said a memo from 1954-1956. "The tea position would be very serious with a loss of 75% of stocks and substantial delays in imports and with no system of rationing it would be wrong to consider that even one ounce (28 grams) per head per week could be ensured... No satisfactory solution has yet been found."
The Cold War Threat to the Navajo - An American tragedy
It is horrifying that the nuclear power industry is talking about resuming uranium mining near a Navajo reservation. Residents are haunted by radiation threats from over a thousand gaping mine sites deserted after the cold war arms race. After decades of mining (and spikes of cancer) mining companies walked away from cleanup duties. The federal govt has disgracefully failed its tribal trust obligation to deal with what Henry Waxman has termed "an American tragedy." It's a history of appalling neglect that would not be put up elsewhere. Among the horrors: open mines leaching contaminated rain into drinking water tables, and children swimming in radioactive holes.
Europe site of several nuke accidents during Cold War
The U.S. government has paid $3 million over the past 10 years to fund research into radioactive contamination of a Spanish village following a deadly 1966 U.S. nuclear weapons accident. The U.S. Department of Energy extended the funding for 2 years. A plan to address the issue was established in 1997 after Spanish officials discovered a year earlier that 558 acres around the village of Palomares had radioactive contamination 5 times worse than estimated, according to Jonathan Shrader. The Palomares nuclear incident is one of the most high-profile accidents involving American nuclear weapons outside the U.S.
Canadian veterans threaten suit over Nevada nuke tests (Article no longer available from the original source)
A group of Canadian veterans who endured Cold War-era nuclear explosions in Nevada desert from 1,000 yards away, threatened to sue the Canadian government for compensation. Sent to U.S. in 1957 to join in 2 months of U.S. tests, they went through 6 explosions without any protection - to see what effect that would have on their ability to fight. Their trenches collapsed but they survived the explosions. Helicopters came and picked them up, and in one case flew through a mushroom cloud. "One day we were sitting there after the bomb went off, and these people with little white suits ... came walking around with Geiger counters, and we were ticking like clocks."
How climber Pete Takeda retraced a CIA mission to Nanda Devi
In the 1980s, one day when climber Pete Takeda was around the campfire, he heard a tale which seemed stranger than fiction. It was about a clandestine CIA mission to the Himalayas to spy on China and how once there "they lost the plutonium" while planting a sensor. It prompted Takeda to do some research and he found that the story was true. He also read mountaineer M S Kohli`s book, Spies in the Himalayas, on the same subject written with Kenneth Conboy which. After the Chinese went nuclear in 1964, the US and India decided to plant a nuclear-powered sensing device on Nanda Devi to monitor China`s nuke plans.
Gravely ill after working in the U.S. nuclear weapons program (Article no longer available from the original source)
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama said the federal government is moving far too slowly in paying compensation for scores of people who became gravely ill after working in the country's nuclear weapons program. "These workers performed tasks that often were very dangerous. And a lot of you might not be here today, if I weren't' shining a spotlight on it."
Rare photographs showing Aborigines devastated by nuclear tests
Rare photographs showing Aborigines whose lives were devastated by nuclear tests have been published after 30 years out of public view. The pictures, taken by B. Wongar, were briefly shown at the in Canberra in the early 1970s before being withdrawn amid fears they would be politically embarrassing. The photographs have been published in a book Totem and Ore, which documents the impact of British nuclear testing and uranium mining on Aborigines. Wongar, a writer formerly known as Streten Bozic, took the pictures in Australia in the 1960s and early '70s, despite it being illegal at the time.
Cold War tale of surprise nuclear assault by U.S.
On Sept. 26, 1983, Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov of the Soviet Army was a watch officer at a satellite surveillance facility near of Moscow. His job was to monitor the satellites that would warn of a surprise nuclear assault. At a little past 12:30 a.m. his board lit up, telling him that the US had just launched a nuclear missile. This made no sense to Petrov, as US probably would have sent over more than one missile. He dismissed the warning as a false alarm. Just a few moments later though, another warning was sent, telling him that an additional four missiles were being launched. Colonel Petrov pretty much had his finger on the button at that point.
U.S. Cold War gift: Iran nuclear plant as Cold War strategy
In the heart of Tehran is one of Iran's most important nuclear facilities, a dome-shaped building where scientists have done secret experiments that could help the country build atomic bombs. It was provided to the Iranians by the United States. Not only did the U.S. provide the reactor in the 1960s as part of a Cold War strategy, America also supplied the weapons-grade uranium needed to power the facility--fuel that remains in Iran and could be used to help make nuclear arms.