Atomic Histories

Almighty Dan Zak

Almighty

Courage, Resistance, and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age 

By Dan Zak, reviewed by Kai Bird

“Zak’s narrative is a perfectly measured blend of biography, suspense and history. He skillfully uses the small, finite story of the Y-12 protest [the break-in 4 years ago by Sister Rice and friends] to explore our national identity as a people whose culture is now intimately connected with things nuclear. Our bomb culture has not come cheap; the environmental costs have been devastating for many communities. And even though scores of governments- but not our own- are on record supporting a treaty that would ban nuclear weapons, Zak shows this is still an outlier dream. He quotes a United States admiral intoning: ‘I don’t see us being nuclear-free in my lifetime. Or in yours.’

We are stuck with Armageddon in our dreams. And in the meantime the Sister Megans of our bomb culture will no doubt try again and again to cry out against our complacency. But truly, it seems hopeless. As Billy Pilgrim laments repeatedly in Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’, ‘So it goes.'”

more at NYTimes


Interview with Dan Zak, “Almighty” author 

A Texas public radio interview with the very knowledgable and thoughtful Dan Zak, author of “Almighty”. Dan discusses The Lieu-Markey bills to restrict presidential authority to launch nuclear war, the B61-12 nuclear bomb and its new capabilities, the planned trillion-dollar “modernization” of the US nuclear arsenal, North Korea, deterrence, and the Oak Ridge Y-12 break-in of 2012.

audio podcast

Black Saturday, October 27, 1962.

In the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, this was the day Vasily Arkhipov did not use the nuclear torpedo against the US ship dropping depth charges on it. It was also the day a US U2 was shot down over Cuba, killing the pilot. It was also the day this happened.

Mark 17

60 yrs ago, the biggest nuclear weapon in the US arsenal was accidentally dropped 5 miles south of Albuquerque, New Mexico

On May 27, 1957, 5 miles south of the Albuquerque airport, a Mark 17 H-bomb (pictured at left) was accidentally dropped from a B-36 Peacemaker on it’s way to Kirtland AFB. The plutonium pit was not on board, but the fissile ‘spark plug’ detonated. Bits of the bomb, the biggest ever deployed by the US at 15-20 megatons, could still be found in the area (see picture below). But the authors of this 2010 report urged the collecting public to hurry, as the area would soon be covered over by a development called “Mesa del Sol”. And so it now is.(source: Carl Willis, “Albuquerque, Ground Zero”)

Cooperation of US and Russian scientists helped avoid nuclear catastrophe at Cold War’s end

Former Los Alamos National Laboratory director Siegfried Hecker recounts the epic story of how American and Russian scientists joined forces to avert some of the greatest post-Cold War nuclear dangers.

Hecker is currently a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, and a research professor of Management Science and Engineering.

U.S. Had Plans for “Full Nuclear Response” In Event President Killed or Disappeared during an Attack on the United States.

From the Nukevault

Newly declassified document expands limited public record on nuclear “pre-delegation”.

Both USSR and China were to be targeted simultaneously, even if attack were conventional or accidental, and regardless of who was responsible.

LBJ ordered a change in instructions in 1968 to permit more limited response, avert “dangerous” situation.

See: Electronic Briefing Book No. 406

How A War Game Brought The World To The Brink Of Nuclear Disaster

1983: Once-classified documents show how close Soviet Union came to launching nuclear war

“Chilling new evidence that Britain and America came close to provoking the Soviet Union into launching a nuclear attack has emerged in former classified documents written at the height of the cold war… Cabinet memos and briefing papers released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that a major war games exercise, Operation Able Archer, conducted in November 1983 by the US and its Nato allies was so realistic it made the Russians believe that a nuclear strike on its territory was a real possibility…”

(Jamie Doward, The Observer, 10/02/13)

Distribution of Fallout Soviet Total Attack Low Force

Studies by Once Top Secret Government Entity Portrayed Terrible Costs of Nuclear War

NESC reports included both Soviet and US first strike scenarios

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 480. Posted July 22, 2014.

“The NESC reports on nuclear war were multi-volume, highly classified studies and none has ever been declassified in their entirety. The summaries published here today- for the annual reports from 1957 to 1963- provide a glimpse of the full reports, although important elements remain classified. Besides the summaries and fuller reports for 1962 and 1963, today’s posting includes a number of special studies prepared by the NESC, including an especially secret report requested by President Eisenhower that led to the production of the comprehensive U.S. nuclear war plan in 1960, the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP)…”

(read more)

My Journey at the Nuclear Brink by William J. Perry

My Journey at the Nuclear Brink

William J. Perry [Former Secretary of Defense]

Published by Stanford Security Studies, Nov. 2015

Perry argues that nuclear weapons now “endanger our society rather than securing it.” He is one of the founders, along with Sam Nunn, George Schultz, and Henry Kissinger, of the Nuclear Security Project.

In his own words:

“This book is a selective memoir of my experiences with nuclear weapons and nuclear crises, and its purpose is to alert the public to the real and growing dangers of a nuclear catastrophe. I hope you will read this book and learn from it. But I realize that this book, even if effective, will reach only a small audience. In particular, it will reach very few of our young people. The problems I have described are going to be with us for decades, so our young people must play a key role in dealing with them.

Therefore I have undertaken to put these concepts into a form more widely accessible and available to young people. I am doing this through the William J. Perry Project, whose goal is mass education on nuclear dangers… For some years I have taught a course at Stanford about nuclear dangers, and I am now developing that course into an online course that has the potential to reach not just hundreds of students, but hundreds of thousands… The broader series of educational materials under development is called “Nuclear Weapons: 20th-Century History, 21st-Century Decisions,” or 20-21 for short. We not only want people to understand the history, but to engage in current-day issues facing the United States, such as the impending nuclear arms race and the danger of a resumption of nuclear testing.

I hope to encourage young people to take the baton I am trying to pass to them. My generation created this existential problem- their generation must find a way to solve it.”

 

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