• Too many near misses
    September 27,2013

    To many near misses

    Thank you for publishing information about recently released details of the 1961 “near miss” of an accidental release of two nuclear bombs in North Carolina. This was, by no means, the only accident that occurred during — or after — the Cold War. The planet is just darn lucky to have not been destroyed by our foolishness.

    Unfortunately accidents with nuclear weapons can and do still happen. Of the more than 16,000 nuclear warheads still in existence in the world — split nearly evenly between the United States and Russia — over 4,000 are on active alert. This means they can be launched in less than 10 minutes time. Once, launched — either on purpose or accidentally — they cannot be retrieved. Ten minutes.

    One fairly simple way to dramatically reduce the chance of nuclear annihilation would be to decouple the warheads from the missiles used to launch them, something that might be done with relatively little political pushback. This alone would go a long way toward preventing an accidental launch and make an intentional launch more complex and purposeful. Until we take this simple step, the chances of total destruction of the planet are insanely high.

    One additional, important step — even if mainly symbolic — would be for the Senate to actually ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which has been in limbo since its close defeat during the Clinton years. How can we even discuss nuclear weapons with other countries — especially Iran and North Korea — when we’ve failed to deal with this basic issue?

    I’ve lived my entire life in the dark shadow of possible nuclear war — from fallout shelters to memories of my mother in tears during the Cuban missile crisis. And years after the Cold War ended, there still exists the very real possibility of senselessly destroying ourselves and all life on the planet. Why are we still waiting to tip those odds in favor of life?

    John Snell


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