Thursday, September 06, 2007

He Has A Point

And everyone thought Putin was just saber rattling.
Mr Putin, in announcing the resumption of round-the-clock flights by long-range bombers with a nuclear capability, pointed out that other nations – in other words, the US – had continued their missions since the end of the Cold War.

Defense News reports"A U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber mistakenly loaded with five nuclear warheads flew from Minot Air Force Base, N.D, to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., on Aug. 30, resulting in an Air Force-wide investigation, according to three officers who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the incident.

The B-52 was loaded with Advanced Cruise Missiles, part of a Defense Department effort to decommission 400 of the ACMs. But the nuclear warheads should have been removed at Minot before being transported to Barksdale, the officers said. The missiles were mounted onto the pylons of the bomber’s wings.

Of course they are more of a danger to American civilian populations than to the Russians. Not because of a possible nuclear explosion but from a leak of toxic plutonium. Forget anthrax scares, this is scarier because it will never be announced.

At no time was there a risk for a nuclear detonation, even if the B-52 crashed on its way to Barksdale, said Steve Fetter, a former Defense Department official who worked on nuclear weapons policy in 1993-94. A crash could ignite the high explosives associated with the warhead, and possibly cause a leak of the plutonium, but the warheads’ elaborate safeguards would prevent a nuclear detonation from occurring, he said. In 1966, a bomber collided with an aerial tanker and exploded over Palomares, Spain. Four nukes fell to earth and were recovered. Studies on the effects of the nuclear accident on the people of Palomares were limited, but the United States eventually settled some 500 claims by residents whose health was adversely affected. Because the accident happened in a foreign country, it received far more publicity than did the dozen or so similar crashes that occurred within U.S. borders. As a security measure, U.S. authorities do not announce nuclear weapons accidents, and some American citizens may have unknowingly been exposed to radiation that resulted from aircraft crashes and emergency bomb jettisons.

At least 4,000 people died as a result of nuclear projects during the Cold War, and 36,500 became ill with radiation-related diseases, the Rocky Mountain News reported Friday.

The News said it collected the numbers by records from federal projects involving uranium, including the building and testing of bombs, and did not include people who had never filed claims or whose claims were rejected. People who mined uranium, built bombs and who inhaled dust from bomb tests – whether they were workers or nearby residents – were included in the tally.

The nation built 70,000 atomic bombs, beginning in 1945. Some of the uranium used in the bombs dropped on Japan came from Uravan, Colo. About 15,000 workers were employed 15 miles west of Denver at Rocky Flats, making plutonium triggers for the bombs.

Of the 36,500 who became ill, about 15,000 were involved in the manufacture of bombs. The radiation they were exposed to sometimes took years to affect them. Some of them may have ultimately died as a result of their work, but were not listed among project deaths by the government.

Hundreds of thousands of people, including soldiers, were exposed to radiation from nuclear tests.

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