For the past year, the aging US nuclear weapons arsenal has been the subject of a brewing controversy with all the makings of a major policy debate through the 2016 Presidential campaign. And if history is any indicator, the debate promises to turn into a really stupid stalemate.
Beginning in 2013, Associated Press reporter Robert Burns wrote an excellent series of articles detailing numerous problems with the US Air Force’s nuclear missile operators, including cheating on proficiency tests, drug abuse, and abysmal morale. 60 Minutes did a segment on the nuclear force, and last week the New York Times editorial board chimed in. Amid it all, the Department of Defense called for several reports to be compiled, lending a patina of seriousness to its flailing.
The subject will no doubt be a topic of discussion for months to come whenever, say, a potential presidential candidate or nominee for secretary of defense answers questions from reporters, constituents, or senators. But the discussion should not be framed around how to get rid of obsolete Cold War relics, as the Times implied. It should focus on the fact that every decrepit warhead brings us a little closer to actual war. Fought with nukes.
Writer of the Vice article:
Two years ago, the Russian government provided a tally: two submarines, 14 reactors — five of which contain spent nuclear fuel — 19 other vessels sunk with radioactive waste on board, and about 17,000 containers holding radioactive waste. The last known dumping occurred in 1993.
Of particular concern are the two submarines, the K-27, which was dumped into the Kara Sea in 1981, and the K-159, which sunk in 2003 into the Barents Sea, while being towed for dismantling. After an expedition to the K-159 last summer, Russian authorities concluded that there was no unusual radioactivity.
“There was no extra radiation from that submarine,” Nils Bohmer, a nuclear expert at the Bellona Foundation, a Norwegian environmental nonprofit, told VICE News. “But later the Russian authorities said that within 10 to 15 years, a decision had to be made whether or not the sub should be lifted.”