Nukes In Your Backyard
March 31, 2015
nuclear facilities nuclear mishaps
This map displays locations for some of the startling accidents and mishaps involving nuclear weapons in the United States and around the world. The map also includes the locations of current nuclear weapons-related facilities, including manufacturing plants, research labs, bases that support strategic nuclear weapons deployments, plus command and control facilities. It is by no means all-inclusive.
Eric Schlosser, author of Command and Control, was a major inspiration for this map. Through painstaking research and information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, he documented over 78 incidents in his book. In an interview, he states that just between the years of 1950-1968, there were over 1,000 incidents.
One of the documents Schlosser uncovered was "Acceptable Premature Probabilities For Nuclear Weapons," a former top secret document which calculates the risk of detonation of nuclear weapons based on their yield range. At the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in December, 2014 in Vienna, Schlosser referenced these risks and rightly pointed out:
"When the odds of something are low, it still may happen. The problem with luck is that eventually it runs out."
It's important to note that the U.S. government publically acknowledges only 32 "broken arrows" since 1950. Hundreds of incidents continue to remain classified. A broken arrow as defined by the US Navy is as follows:
- The accidental or unauthorized detonation, or possible detonation of a nuclear weapon (other than war risk)
- Non-nuclear detonation or burning of a nuclear weapon
- Radioactive contamination
- Seizure, theft, or loss of a nuclear weapon or component (including dropping)
- Public hazard, actual or implied
Oskar Morgenstern, the founder of economic game theory, states in his book The Question of National Defense:
"Some day there will be an accidental explosion of a nuclear weapon, a pure accident, which has nothing whatsoever to do with military or political plans, intentions, or operations. The human mind cannot construct something that is infallible. Accordingly, the laws of probability virtually guarantee such an accident. With thousands of nuclear weapons in existence, the danger of a nuclear accident in the world is unquestionably increasing."
Any detonation of a nuclear weapon, whether by accident or design, would have devastating humanitarian consequences on civilian populations. (See PSR's Nuclear Famine Report )
At present, there are 16,300 nuclear weapons remaining in the world today, out of which 7,300 belong to the United States. Rather than phasing out nuclear weapons, the U.S. government is planning to spend $348 billion over the next 10 years to modernize and maintain our nuclear arsenal.
The clock is ticking and our luck is running out with every passing day. More and more red dots will be added to this map if the political will to abolish nuclear weapons worldwide does not grow. Please help PSR generate the political will to ban these weapons of mass destruction.
When it comes to nuclear weapons, prevention is the only cure.
Theresa Shaffer is the Security Outreach Associate at Physicians for Social Responsibility. She is a recent graduate from the University of North Texas with a B.A. in French and a B.A. in International Studies with a concentration in Peace Studies. You can follow her on twitter @PSRsecurity.