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Letter: Story on nuclear mistakes is evidence of the dangers we face
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I was pleased to see the Associated Press account of the Air Force’s most recent nuclear screwup Sunday in The Times. The same report appeared in the Atlanta papers, so I imagine it appeared in all the major newspapers around the nation.

Maybe the public will finally wake to the real danger of a nuclear exchange as long as any nation, friend or foe, has nuclear bombs on hair triggers and ready to launch. Georgia’s Sam Nunn and Indiana’s Richard Lugar, both former U.S. senators and two pretty knowledgeable men, have been trying to do something about this for years, but the public seems indifferent to their warnings.

What was left unsaid in the story is all the many other nuclear accidents that have occurred in the U.S. Once, the Air Force accidentally dropped a fully armed nuclear bomb on North Carolina. An account of this and other nuclear accidents can be found in Eric Schlosser’s book, “Command and Control.” If you want a taste of what’s in the book (and something to keep you up at night) look up the Damascus accident.

On Sept. 18,1980, a workman dropped a socket wrench into a nuclear weapon silo and pierced the skin of the rocket’s fuel tank. The fuel exploded and the rocket ejected from the silo. It landed close by, and no radioactive material was exposed, but one man was killed, another seriously injured, and the launch complex was destroyed.

This is just one of many close calls. How long will our luck hold out?

Joan King

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