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Last Post by jasimp
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It's not as scary as you think.

The fact that they had the nuclear weapons does not mean they could have used them as nuclear weapons. The weapons have to receive special encrypted signals from NORAD before they will arm the nuclear bombs. Nobody on the plane could do anything to arm them. And it takes more than one trained person working simultaneously on the ground to arm a bomb. Nobody can do it alone.

Even if the missile is accidentally fired, the nuclear bomb can't go off, unless the complex arming sequence is completed. Instead, if any explosion at all happens, the high explosives in the bomb go off in the wrong order, without detonating a nuclear explosion. It just scatters the uranium or plutonium.

This has actually happened in several cases where nuclear bombs were involved in airplane crashes. The most well known are the Spanish coast and Greenland crashes. Nobody was worried about a nuclear detonation, except except panicked layman newsmen.

Soviet devices are a different story. They had no such safeguards.

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People can actualyl survive much higher levels of radiation without serious damage then previously thaught.

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The thing that scares me the most isn't the fact that the nuclear missiles were being flown around like they were, but the complacency and lack of attention that led to them being flown around. Being a veteran of the US Military who actually has experience with nuclear weapons procedures, it simply boggles my mind that such a breakdown in the system could occur. I can guarantee you that many heads will roll for this one...

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I still don't like the idea of them scattering uranium or plutonium

Would you rather that the nuclear bomb goes off?

That scattering hasn't ever happened yet.

It's the worst case accident (such as in a fire), where the high explosives do go off. But because the accident does not activate the high explosives in exactly the right sequence, the fissionable material is not compressed to a critical mass. It is scattered instead, because the explosion is lopsided. The affected area is about the size of the area affected by the dust from the use of explosives in surface mining.

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The thing that scares me the most isn't the fact that the nuclear missiles were being flown around like they were, but the complacency and lack of attention that led to them being flown around. Being a veteran of the US Military who actually has experience with nuclear weapons procedures, it simply boggles my mind that such a breakdown in the system could occur. I can guarantee you that many heads will roll for this one...

Probably nobody noticed that the real warheads hadn't been replaced with dummy ones. Dummy warheads are needed for aerodynamics, so the plane flies right.

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On the supposed scattering problem:
What's the dosage of such substances that would be scattered in that event?

According to the encyclopedia function of Reference.com, U-235 has a half-life of 7×108 years, while Pu-239 has a half-life of ~24,000 years. Sure, they're dangerous, because of the possiblity of using them in a bomb (hence the original warhead problem), but I don't think the radiation from them would be able to do much without a massive dosage.

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Probably not but like ft3ssgeek said, it is the fact that they were flown around. The fact that someone would be so careless is a big issue. People should be more careful with our weapons.

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