26Nuclear Defense Treaty: Missile System Restrictions
The USA and the USSR entered into a treaty during the Cold War that restricted the development of defense systems against nuclear missiles. This agreement aimed to maintain the effectiveness of the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine, wherein neither party would initiate an attack due to the certainty of devastating retaliation in the absence of proper defense systems.
27. In the early years of the Cold War, a debate arose regarding whether the United States should retaliate in the event of a Soviet nuclear strike. Some argued that if such an attack occurred, the US would already have suffered a defeat. General Thomas S. Power, Commander in Chief of the Strategic Air Command, famously remarked, "Restraint? Why are you so concerned with saving their lives? The whole idea is to kill the bastards. At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian left alive, we win!"
28. Despite possessing a nuclear arsenal capable of obliterating the world, the US government maintains the position that it must retain the ability to launch a first strike. While countries like the Soviet Union, India, and China have declared a No First Use (NFU) policy, the US, along with France, Pakistan, and the UK, explicitly refuses to adopt such a policy. Russia, on the other hand, asserts a "defensive only" policy, contending that its nuclear capabilities will solely be employed in self-defense.
29. The W19 was a nuclear artillery shell that the United States developed for use from an 11-inch howitzer in the 1950s. With a yield of up to 15 kilotons, the W19 ranked among the smallest nuclear weapons ever developed by the US, yet it possessed sufficient power to inflict significant damage. However, the W19 was never produced in large quantities and was eventually phased out in the 1960s.
30. General MacArthur proposed a strategy to achieve victory in the Korean War by employing 30 to 50 atomic bombs on air bases. Additionally, he suggested spreading nuclear waste along the ground to establish a lasting radioactive border, serving as a deterrent against future invasions from the North. However, President Truman's decision to relieve General Douglas MacArthur of his command in 1951 likely played a crucial role in averting the outbreak of a global nuclear conflict.
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31Nuclear Tractors: Mutating Wheat
The Soviets embarked on Project Gamma Kolos, also known as nuclear tractors, in an attempt to induce mutations in wheat seeds before planting them. These tractors were equipped with containers of cesium 137 and lead shielding to protect the driver. The irradiation of wheat seeds aimed to generate beneficial mutations in the crops. Additionally, radiation was applied to the harvested grain to prevent germination.
32. Project Iceworm was a covert United States Army initiative during the Cold War that focused on constructing a network of mobile nuclear missile launch sites beneath the Greenland ice sheet. Originally envisioned as a vast military complex spanning 52,000 square miles, the project's actual length at the time of its evacuation was 1.9 miles. The complex included facilities such as a hospital, a shop, a theater, and a church. Presently, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet poses a risk of potential toxin release into the ocean. Greenland only became aware of this classified project in 1995.
33. Project PACER, initiated in the 1970s, aimed to generate power using nuclear bombs by detonating them within an underground cavity filled with water, utilizing the resulting steam to drive a turbine. Controversy surrounding the use of nuclear bombs led to the cancellation of the project.
34. The Iranian nuclear program had its beginnings with assistance from the United States. Through a program called "Atoms for Peace," the U.S. exported nuclear equipment, plans, and highly enriched uranium to 30 countries.
35. Project Sapphire involved a covert operation by the US Air Force to clandestinely transport nuclear material equivalent to 50 nuclear bombs from Kazakhstan following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The objective was to prevent the material from falling into the wrong hands.
36Baruch Plan: Global Nuclear Oversight
In the aftermath of Hiroshima, the U.S. made a pledge to dismantle all nuclear weapons on the condition that a single organization would oversee global nuclear material and mining operations under the Baruch Plan. The Soviet Union rejected Bernard Baruch's version of the proposal, fearing that it would perpetuate the American nuclear monopoly.
37. Britain's nuclear industry participated in a highly classified international endeavor known as Project Sunshine, which involved the clandestine procurement of deceased infants for approximately three decades. Scientists from the UK Atomic Energy Authority collected children's bones and bodies to be shipped to the United States for undisclosed nuclear experiments. Approximately 6,000 bodies were acquired between 1955 and 1970.
38. In 1958, the U.S. conducted Operation Argus, a covert series of low-yield nuclear detonations in the upper atmosphere. The objective was to create a radiation belt capable of degrading radio and radar transmissions while damaging and destroying ICBM warheads. The tests demonstrated the potential effectiveness of such a belt but also revealed that it dissipated too rapidly to be highly efficient, posing risks to space vehicle crews.
39. The US Air Force maintained a substantial fleet of B-52 bombers continuously airborne from 1961 to 1968. Known as Operation Chrome Dome, this program involved an average of 75 daily flights with nuclear payloads over the North Pole and the Atlantic as a deterrent against the USSR. Several nuclear weapons were lost in accidents, and some were never recovered.
40. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union used an automatic nuclear weapons system known as Dead Hand. It had the capability to initiate the launch of Russian ICBMs targeting various cities in the event of a detected nuclear attack through seismic, light, radioactivity, and pressure sensors along the country's borders, even without human oversight. Allegedly, the Dead Hand system remains in use by Russia.
41Undersea Cable Taps: Nuclear Espionage
In the 1970s, the USA installed nuclear-powered undersea data cable taps to spy on the Soviet Union.
42. Suitcase nukes do exist, and according to the highest-ranking GRU defector, Stanislav Lunev, they may already be deployed by GRU operatives on US soil. Lunev claimed that "it is surprisingly easy to smuggle nuclear weapons into the US."
43. In 1978, a Soviet Union nuclear reconnaissance satellite named Kosmos 954 crash-landed in Canada, carrying its 50kg uranium core. This incident prompted a massive cleanup operation to address the radioactive material. However, the locals residing in the area at the time were largely unaware of the incident. After 10 months and an expenditure of $6 million CAD, an American-Canadian team failed to recover 99.9% of the uranium fuel, despite covering 50,000 square miles.
44. Banjawarn Station in Western Australia was once owned by the Japanese cult responsible for the 1995 Sarin subway attacks. They allegedly utilized the extremely remote property for chemical weapons experimentation, and some speculate that an unexplained seismic event may have involved the detonation of a nuclear bomb.
45. During the Soviet era, Russia constructed a series of over 130 nuclear-powered, unmanned lighthouses along the northern polar coast. However, these installations have since fallen into disrepair. Not all of the original sites are known, and some have been looted, including the Strontium-90 cores.
46Swiss Nuclear Weapons: Armed Neutrality Plan
As part of their "armed neutrality" policy, Switzerland seriously considered developing nuclear weapons and acquired 10 tons of uranium in the early 1960s, with plans to produce up to 100 bombs.
47. Both the IRS and the USPS have contingency plans in place in the event of a nuclear war. The IRS has an employee handbook called the "Internal Revenue Manual" that outlines procedures for collecting taxes after a nuclear event. Meanwhile, the USPS is prepared to continue delivering mail and has 60 million change-of-address forms at the ready.
48. During the Cold War, a significant solar flare disrupted a set of US surveillance radars, leading to the mistaken belief that the Soviets were intentionally blocking the radars. This scenario had been anticipated, with plans in place for the US to respond by firing nuclear missiles within 15 minutes. However, scientists were able to provide an explanation for the disruption, preventing the escalation of the situation.
49. Ford had drafted plans for a nuclear-powered car, envisioning the cabin to be located at the front of the vehicle due to the need for shielding. The concept included the replacement of gas stations with fuel recharging stations, with the car expected to travel up to 5,000 miles between refuelings using a steam-producing core.
50. In the 1960s and 1970s, nuclear-powered cardiac pacemakers were utilized, containing a small amount of plutonium encased in epoxy and titanium to withstand gunshots or cremation. As of 2003, over 50 individuals still had such pacemakers. If discovered by a coroner, the pacemaker is supposed to be returned to Los Alamos for proper disposal.