News / USA

Cold War Deterrent Poses New World Safety Concerns

Cold War Deterrent Poses New World Safety Concernsi
X
Kane Farabaugh
August 07, 2014 10:20 PM
When the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945, it marked the beginning of the age of nuclear weapons. Although the development and deployment of these weapons peaked during the Cold War, large arsenals still exist in the United States and Russia - and are on a a heightened state of alert. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, recent scandals involving those responsible for handling nuclear weapons in the U.S. military have renewed debate about the risk, and the need, for such weapons.
Kane Farabaugh

When the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945, it marked the beginning of the age of nuclear weapons.  Although the development and deployment of these weapons peaked during the Cold War, large arsenals still exist in the United States and Russia - and are on a a heightened state of alert.  Recent scandals involving those responsible for handling nuclear weapons in the U.S. military have renewed debate about the risk, and the need, for such weapons.

Below the surface of the Oscar Zero launch facility outside Cooperstown, North Dakota, the fate of millions hinged on a simple decision to turn a nuclear missile launch key.
 
Once that key activated a nuclear tipped Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, or ICBM, there would have been no turning back - and no limit to the death and destruction it would cause.

“The people that had these jobs, these missileers, took their jobs very seriously," said Gwen Hinman.

Hinman is the site supervisor at the Oscar Zero complex, now a kind of Cold War museum.  Decommissioned in 1998 in compliance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty 2, or START 2, Hinman says this facility gives visitors a unique look into the lives of those who served and continue to serve in some of the most isolated conditions.

“This bank of machinery behind me is something that is still currently being used," he said.

Used in an operational facility just a few hundred kilometers away, says Hinman.  Lax security in such facilities in other states, a cheating scandal among some currently serving as missileers, and an overall lack of mission focus since the end of the Cold War has drawn attention to an almost forgotten part of the U.S. military.

“These are complex systems, and they are run by humans who make errors," said Kennette Benedict.

Benedict is the executive director of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a publication established by those who created the first atomic bomb in the 1940s as a way to warn the public about the consequences of using nuclear weapons.

The Bulletin also manages the Doomsday Clock, a graphic representation of how close the world is to a nuclear catastrophe.  The closer the clock gets to midnight, the greater the danger.  The clock currently stands at five minutes to midnight, not solely because of the danger of war says Benedict, but by the danger posed by mishandling a nuclear weapon.

“Over the course of these last 60 or 70 years, at least in our arsenal, there have been more than 1200 accidents," she said.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Air Force removed 50 nuclear missiles from their silos, bringing the total number of launch ready land-based ICBM’s to about 400, the lowest level since the Cold War.  Benedict says there should be a stand down of all the missiles.

 “The thing we’ve been asking this president and many presidents to do is to just take them off of a high launch readiness.  There’s no reason that these weapons need to be ready to be launched within 10 minutes of an order.  Nobody does this except for the United States and Russia," she said.

The current agreement between the United States and Russia limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear missiles to 700 for each country.  

 

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid