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

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid