Tag Archives | Nuclear Weapons

Don’t Panic, But China Mingles Its Nukes with Regular Missiles

Picture: Flickr/Kate Haskell (CC)

This… erm… unsettling development comes out of the first comprehensive, non-governmental report on China’s nuclear warplans, written by John Lewis, a professor of Chinese politics at Stanford University.

via Benjamin Plackett at WIRED’s Danger Room:

It turns out that China’s been mixing its nuclear missiles in with its conventional ones at the same military bases. Not really, uh, advisable: that makes it really hard for other countries to figure out if a Chinese missile launch is just a conventional one or the beginnings of a nuclear Armageddon. But fret not — while China’s missile mingling may not be very sensible, it’s not going to cause World War III.

Writing in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, John Lewis warns that the intermingling could trigger a nuclear launch: once another nation watched a Chinese missile blast off, it might trigger a nuclear retaliation from a confused, panicked Russia or United States.

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America’s Nuclear Bomb Facility Shut Down After 82-Year-Old Nun Breaches Security

The task of keeping the government compound safe is handled by a private company–global security giant G4S, also known for a bungling job at the ongoing London Olympics. Via Reuters:

The U.S. government’s only facility for handling, processing and storing weapons-grade uranium has been temporarily shut after anti-nuclear activists, including an 82-year-old nun, breached security fences, government officials said on Thursday.

WSI Oak Ridge, the contractor responsible for protecting the facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is owned by the international security firm G4S, which was at the center of a dispute over security at the London Olympic Games.

Officials said the facility was shut down on Wednesday at least until next week after three activists cut through perimeter fences to reach the outer wall of a building where highly enriched uranium, a key nuclear bomb component, is stored.

Ellen Barfield, a spokeswoman for the activists who called themselves “Transform Now Plowshares,” said three were arrested and charged with vandalism and criminal trespass.

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The U.S. Government’s Top-Secret Town

Via A Continuous Lean, an entrancing glimpse of life inside a city, created as part of the Manhattan Project, with a secret purpose. Imagine if your sunny suburban daily existence served merely as a front for the real action occurring in your town:

In 1942, the government acquired 70,000 acres in Eastern Tennessee and established Oak Ridge…developed for the sole purpose of separating uranium for the Manhattan Project. The completely planned community was designed by the architecture firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, and had a population of more than 70,000 people. Due to the sensitive nature of the work at Oak Ridge, the entire town was fenced in with armed guards. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge office recently started to digitize its archival photos and share them through Flickr.

Oak_Ridge

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Defense Secretary Panetta Admits Iran Not Developing Nukes

leonRaw Story reports on the banging of the drums of war:

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta let slip on Sunday the big open secret that Washington war hawks don’t want widely known: Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.

Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, Panetta admitted that despite all the rhetoric, Iran is not pursuing the ability to split atoms with weapons, saying it is instead pursuing “a nuclear capability.” That “capability” falls in line with what Iran has said for years: that it is developing nuclear energy facilities, not nuclear weapons.

“They cannot continue to do what they’re doing. Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability, and that’s what concerns us.”

Republicans have been beating the drums of war in recent weeks as tensions in the Iranian gulf have soared. Iran has threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil transport hub crucial to global industry, if U.S.

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Cold War USAF Considered Space-Based Atomic Warship (Video)

One of the secret projects discussed in Annie Jacobson's new Area 51 book is Project Orion, an ambitious 1950's-1960's era attempt to develop a nuclear fission-propelled spacecraft capable of interplanetary travel. Like many of the Cold War aeronautics projects developed at Area 51 and related test sites, it was way ahead of its time. According to Jacobs, however, when ARPA and the USAF took over the project, they had a far more Strangelovian vision in mind:
"From high above Earth, a USS Orion could be used to launch attacks against enemy targets using nuclear missiles. Thanks to Orion's nuclear-propulsion technology, the spaceship could make extremely fast defensive maneuvers, avoiding any Russian nuclear missiles that might come its way...For a period of time during the early 1960's the Air Force believed Orion was going to be invincible. 'Whoever builds Orion will control the Earth!" declared General Thomas S. Power of the Strategic Air Command." [Jacobson, p. 305]
In this fascinating TED lecture George Dyson, son of Freeman Dyson, shares his special knowledge of the project. Not much information about Project Orion's proposed weaponization has reached the web, but pay special attention to what he says at around 3:30-3:50...
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Small Nuclear War Could Reverse Global Warming for Years … (Video)

Jack D. RipperCharles Q. Choi writes for National Geographic News:
Even a regional nuclear war could spark "unprecedented" global cooling and reduce rainfall for years, according to U.S. government computer models. Widespread famine and disease would likely follow, experts speculate. During the Cold War a nuclear exchange between superpowers—such as the one feared for years between the United States and the former Soviet Union—was predicted to cause a "nuclear winter." In that scenario hundreds of nuclear explosions spark huge fires, whose smoke, dust, and ash blot out the sun for weeks amid a backdrop of dangerous radiation levels. Much of humanity eventually dies of starvation and disease.
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Military Lost Communication With 50 Nuclear Missiles

49075174_10af31ff84_zDr. Strangelove, anyone? Via Wired:

The Air Force swears there was no panic. But for three-quarters of an hour Saturday morning, launch control officers at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming couldn’t reliably communicate or monitor the status of 50 Minuteman III nuclear missiles. Gulp.

Backup security and communications systems, located elsewhere on the base, allowed the intercontinental ballistic missiles to be continually monitored. But the outage is considered serious enough that the very highest rungs on the chain of command — including the President — are being briefed on the incident today.

A single hardware failure appears to have been the root cause of the disruption, which snarled communications on the network that links the five launch control centers and 50 silos of the 319th Missile Squadron. Multiple error codes were reported, including “launch facility down.”

The incident comes at a particularly tricky time for the Obama administration, which is struggling to get the Senate to ratify a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia.

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Watching Nuclear Bombs In The Desert

The New York Times has a jaw-dropping slideshow of photographer George Yoshitake’s images of 1950s nuclear blasts conducted in the Nevada desert and South Pacific. Yoshitake was lucky, or perhaps cursed, to be one of the “atomic cameramen” charged with documenting the detonation of atom bombs — many of the photographers died from exposure to these experiments.

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