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

Key Al-Shabab Commander Captured

Zakariye Ismail Hersi was captured in a raid Saturday morning in the town of El Wak near the border with Kenya More

Relations Between Pakistan, Afghanistan Key to Fighting Taliban

A Pakistani official tells VOA that anti-terrorism campaign has resulted in improved counter-terrorism cooperation with Afghanistan More

160,000 Displaced by Flooding in Malaysia

Prime Minister Najib Razak visits hard-hit Kelantan state, announces nearly $145M in additional relief for victims More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syriai
X
Jeff Seldin
December 24, 2014 11:38 PM
Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Video

Video Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syria

Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Video

Video Russians Head Into Holiday Facing Economic Malaise

Russian preparations for the New Year holiday are clouded by economic recession and a tumbling currency, the ruble. Nonetheless, people in the Russian capital appear to be in a festive mood. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Mombasa in Holiday Tourism Slump Due to Security Fears

Kenya's usually popular beachside tourist destination of Mombasa is seeing a much slower holiday season this year due to fears of insecurity as the country has suffered from a string of terror attacks linked to Somali militants. Mohammed Yusuf reports for VOA on how businessmen and tourists feel about the situation.
Video

Video For Somalis, 2014 Marked by Political Instability Within Government

While Somalia has long been torn apart by warfare and violence, this year one of the country's biggest challenges has come from within the government, as political infighting curtails the country's progress, threatens security gains and disappoints the international community. VOA's Gabe Joselow report.
Video

Video US Political Shift Could Affect Iran Nuclear Talks

Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to resolve Iran’s nuclear crisis are continuing into 2015 after Iran and six world powers failed to agree by a November deadline. U.S. domestic politics, however, could complicate efforts to reach a deal in the new year. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video NYSE: The Icon of Capitalism

From its humble beginnings in 1792 to its status as an economic bellweather for the world, the New York Stock Exchange is an integral part of the story of America. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from Wall Street.
Video

Video Islamic State Emergence Transforms Syria and Iraq in 2014

The emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as a potent force in early 2014 changed the dynamics of the region. Their brutal methods - including executions and forced slavery - horrified the international community, drawing Western forces into the conflict. It also splintered the war in Syria, where more than 200,000 Syrians have died in the conflict. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell looks back at a deadly year in the region -- and what 2015 may hold.
Video

Video Massive Study Provides Best Look at Greenland Ice Loss Yet

The Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than predicted, according to a new study released in the Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences that combines NASA satellite data and aerial missions. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the finding means coastal communities worldwide could be at greater risk, sooner, from the impact of rising seas.
Video

Video US Marines, Toys for Tots Bring Christmas Joy

Christmas is a time for giving in the United States, especially to young children who look forward to getting presents. But some families don't have money to buy gifts. For nearly 70 years, a U.S. Marines-sponsored program has donated toys and distributed them to underprivileged children during the holiday season. VOA's Deborah Block tells us about the annual Toys for Tots program.
Video

Video France Rocked by Attacks as Fear of ISIS-Inspired Terror Grows

Eleven people were injured, two seriously, when a man drove his car into crowds of pedestrians Sunday night in the French city of Dijon, shouting ‘God is Great’ in Arabic. It’s the latest in a series of apparent ‘lone-wolf’ terror attacks in the West. Henry Ridgwell looks at the growing threat of attacks, which security experts say are likely inspired by the so-called "Islamic State" terror group.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid