Thursday, October 28, 2010



by Walter Pincus  Tuesday, October 19, 2010; A13 

Outside of the nuclear weapons communities, little notice was paid last week to the announcement that authorization had finally come through to begin dismantling the last of the minivan-size B-53s, the most powerful thermonuclear bombs ever deployed in the active U.S. stockpile.
A terror weapon if there ever was one, the 10,000-pound B-53 was designed to deliver an explosion of nine megatons. That is the equivalent of 9 million pounds* of TNT, or 600 times the power of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
Believe it or not, the last 50 B-53s were not retired from the active stockpile until 1997, and even then some were held as a "hedge" in case a new threat emerged.

*The equivalence was 9 million tons, not 9 million pounds. Note the corrrection at top of article

Rest here    B-53 at Wikipedia    My comments to Walter’s article are here:

Fact sheet on Pantex Plant from Nukewatch New Mexico   Pantex Plant at

The B53 also played a prominent role in Project Chariot, and the book “The Fire Cracker Boys”.  In reading what Wikipedia had to say about the book, I need to state That I read the 1995 version,  the Wikipedia entry  asserts was been reissued in  2007  as The Firecracker Boys: H-Bombs, Inupiat Eskimos, and the Roots of the Environmental Movement). [ I just ordered the 2007 version]
Project Chariot was an attempt by Ed Teller to find a use for his pet project – the second generation thermonuclear high yield weapon, built over the objections of many including J. Robert Oppenheimer to build harbors, settling on “a site at the mouth of the Ogotoruk Creek near Cape Thompson, approximately 30 miles southeast of the Inupiat Eskimo village of Point Hope.”

A large thermonuclear Bomb was to blast the core depression, followed by three small bombs to excavate the entrance channel.  There were two reasons for this proposal: one to find a peaceful use for this device under the Plowshare Program – atoms for peace, and two, to circumvent an expected ban on nuclear testing – to find a way to continue testing by claiming “we are not testing, we are building harbors”. That fooled no one but the American public.

Project Chariot is important as it gave rise to NEPA, and the work done by the few University of Alaska scientists who opposed this ( all four were fired, but much later three were awarded honorary doctorates – one died in a very mysterious way during the height of the opposition), an event not attended the then President Wood) is considered by many to ne the very first Environmental Impact Statement ever performed, although it was not called as such.

The book itself actually started in 1987 from a grant to a movie for public television, but the worry that it “would antagonize … university president Wood”- and restrict U.S. government grants caused “the station to try to find a way to withdraw funding”.  The result was the book. I can highly recommend it as a window into the mindset of the various factions during the late 1950’s to 1960’s.

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