Saturday, March 13, 2004

Nuke fear 

Drudge is being his typical alarmist self, saying "CANADA WORRIED BY NUKE MISSILE MISHAP... DEVELOPING..."

Well, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has the actual story. And it's really a whole lot of nothing, but it's hard to tell that from the article.

It might not have been a "broken arrow" nuclear missile accident, but a mishap that damaged a Bangor Trident submarine ballistic missile and was kept under wraps by the Navy until this week threatens broken trust on an international scale.
Why it was "kept under wraps" is because it wasn't a big deal. We'll get to that part. First, more fearmongering.

Libby Davies, a member of Canada's national parliament from Vancouver East, yesterday said she intends to seek the same kind of answers for Canadians that her U.S. congressional counterparts are seeking for Americans.

"If something happens in Bangor, we're the ones upwind. Nuclear fallout knows no border," Davies said.

"The whole issue of transparency in government is fundamental to our democratic system. I think when something is covered up it is pretty outrageous."
Okay, by now you're wondering how close the Navy came to wiping out half of Puget Sound, right? Wonder no more, because here is what has everyone up in arms:

The incident occurred when a missile being extracted from the USS Georgia's No. 16 tube smacked into an access ladder left in the tube, punching a 9-inch hole in the missile's nose cone.
So there you have it. Missile smacks ladder. Ladder punches hole in some sheet metal on missile. In terms of the risk to the surrounding population, this is about as dangerous as a baseball crashing through a window.

It takes a whole lot more than bumping into a ladder to detonate a nuke. These things don't just sit around in submarines and silos, waiting for someone to make one false move. You have to really mean it to cause a nuclear detonation in one of these weapons. An instructor of mine gave a good example: Many modern explosives can potentially detonate from the shock of a hammer blow. But you could pound on a nuclear warhead all day long with a sledgehammer and nothing would ever happen. You could dribble the fissile core on concrete. They are hardy devices (thank goodness) that can survive drops from various altitudes without detonating. Just ask the people of Savannah, Georgia, who are alive today because nukes don't explode unless someone wants them to.

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