Cheating on required monthly exams, low morale and security lapses are all problems that have been cited in missile facilities across the United States. At the third Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons Conference held in Vienna, Austria, last month, Eric Schlosser, an investigative journalist and author of “Command and Control,” emphasized that it’s a miracle there hasn’t been a catastrophic accident involving nuclear weapons yet. “The problem with luck,” he said, “is that eventually it runs out.”
Schlosser provided one example out of a thousand mishaps that have occurred. In Goldsboro, N.C., in 1961, two hydrogen bombs fell out of a B-52 bomber when the plane went into a tailspin. Three of the four safety mechanisms in one of those bombs become unlocked as it plunged to the ground. Fortunately, the last switch prevented the full detonation of a 4-megaton hydrogen bomb.
At the conference, testimonies of the survivors of Hiroshima and nuclear testing also highlighted something that many people tend to forget when strategizing about the nuclear arsenal, which is the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that result when nuclear weapons are detonated over civilian populations.
Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima survivor, provided a statement at the opening session. “As a 13-year-old schoolgirl, I witnessed my city of Hiroshima burned in the heat of 4,000 degrees Celsius by one atomic bomb.”
Afterward, Pope Francis delivered a message to the conference. “Spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations,” he said.