•  
Fri, 23rd June 2017

Anirudh Sethi Report

  •  

Archives of “Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents” Tag

Risk Of “Accidental” Nuclear War Growing, UN Research Group Says

The warning comes as the Pentagon begins an extensive review of its nuclear arsenal.

On Sept., 26, 1983, shortly after midnight, the Soviet Oko nuclear early warning system detected five missiles launched from the United States and headed toward Moscow. Stanislav Petrov, a young lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Force, was the duty in the Serpukhov-15 bunker that housed the Oko command center. Petrov was the man in charge of alerting the soviets about a nuclear attack, which would trigger a retaliatory strike. He determined that the Oko had likely malfunctioned and the alarm was false. The Americans would not start World War III with a quintet of missiles (risking total annihilation.) It was a daring judgment call. He was, of course, right. As the U.S. prepares to undertake a new nuclear posture review to determine the future direction of the nation’s nuclear weapons, a report from a United Nations research institute warns that the risks of a catastrophic error — like the one that took place that early morning in 1983 — are growing, not shrinking. Next time, there may be no Lt. Col. Petrov in place to avoid a catastrophe.

On Monday, the U.S. Defense Department commenced a new, massive study into its nuclear weapons arsenal, looking at how weapons are kept, how the U.S. would use them in war and whether they present an intimidating enough threat to other countries not to attack us. The review was mandated by President Trump in a Jan 27, memo.

 The Pentagon is scheduled to complete the review by the end of the year, an essential step as the military seeks to modernize different aspects of its nuclear deterrent. But a new report from the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, or UNIDR, argues that as the modern battlefield becomes more technologically complex, crowded with more sensors, satellites, drones, and interconnected networks, the risks of another nuclear accident are on the rise.

“A greater reliance on automated systems can lead to misplaced confidence while introducing new points of vulnerability,” says the report. Those new points of vulnerability include so-called “hidden interactions.” That means a sensor or computer program misinterpreting some bit of data and possibly presenting false information in a way that could cause an accident.

The 1987 incident provides a good case in point. Oko satellites mistook a very unusual sunspot on top of a high altitude cloud as a missile strike, hence the false alarm.

Take those satellites, combine them with sensors on drones and data from other sources as well, including new, perhaps unproven technologies to detect missile launches and the picture becomes much more crowded and murky.

North Korea Could Be in Possession of 20 Nuclear Bombs by Year’s End

In the wake of its latest nuclear test, Pyongyang has reportedly increased its uranium enrichment and could have enough radioactive material for roughly 20 bombs by the end of the year.

North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006. While the yield of that first test was estimated to be less than one kiloton, the DPRK has made significant advancements over the last ten years. Last week’s test was the fifth and is believed to have measured 30 kilotons, twice the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

While the scope of Pyongyang’s nuclear activities is impossible to know for sure, a new assessment by weapons experts estimates that, in addition to the North’s existing plutonium stockpile, increased uranium production could give the DPRK as many as 20 nuclear bombs by the end of the year.

According to the report, posted to 38 North, experts believe that the increased production, coupled with the North’s bountiful uranium deposits, has likely given the country roughly 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of weapons-grade uranium per year, enough to make seven nuclear weapons. The experts also predict that North Korea has the ability to mount these nuclear devices to missiles.