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Risk of accidental nuclear attack said rising
The estimates are staggering, and, are difficult to believe. This was
just published this PM.
BOSTON (Reuters) - The risk of millions of Americans dying from an
accidental nuclear attack by a Russian submarine is rising, scientists
report in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.
Citing what they called the steadily deteriorating condition of
Russia's nuclear command system, the study's authors laid out a
scenario of a plausible accidental attack: a single Russian nuclear
submarine launching its weapons against the United States.
Nearly 7 million people would be killed instantly from the
thermonuclear explosions in the eight cities researchers chose
They selected the submarine scenario because "the Russian general
staff cannot continuously monitor the status of the crew and
As the study's co-author Theodore Postol, now of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology and a former Navy weapons expert, told a
Boston news conference: the Russians "have had a lot of trouble with
their submarine force historically."
Postol and the study's lead author, Dr. Lachlan Forrow of Beth Israel
Deaconess Medical Center, said authorities believe that a launch based
on a false warning of a nuclear attack would be the most plausible
scenario for an accidental attack. They noted that several false
alarms had already occurred in both the United States and Russia. Each
country maintains their nuclear arsenals on high alert, the
In prose similar to a thriller's, the scenario details an attack by a
single Russian nuclear submarine, armed with 16 missiles carrying 48
100-kiloton nuclear warheads, launched against the continental United
States from the Barents Sea. The missiles have a range of 5,150 miles.
Researchers estimated 6.83 million people in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago,
New York, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.,
would be instantly killed by the thermonuclear blasts.
"An attack such as the one we have described would not only cause more
than 6 million immediate Americans' deaths in nuclear firestorms we
have conservatively estimated, and not only cause the hundreds of
thousands or millions of additional casualties as a result of
radiation injuries, but plausibly trigger a U.S. nuclear response,"
"During a period when Russia is not even our adversary, this is
politically, medically, and morally obscene," he said.
The study is the first salvo in a campaign called Abolition 2000 that
the Boston-based Physicians for Social Responsibility is helping to
"Abolition 2000 has a simple goal: a signed global agreement by the
year 2000 committing the world to the permanent abolition of nuclear
weapons within a specified time frame," Forrow said.
He called on President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin "to
remove the nuclear weapons from high-alert status and remove from them
the capacity to be rapidly launched."
Forrow said a much larger group of researchers from around the world
will gather in Geneva, Switzerland, Saturday. The group intends to
present the first 13 million signatures collected on Abolition 2000
petitions in connection with the 1998 U.N. Nuclear Nonproliferation
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