Sunday, December 25, 2016

Expanding our nuclear capacity, bomb shelters and fear

Years ago, I was exploring a City Hall building about to undergo renovation. This was in New Britain, Conn. I was working as a newspaper reporter. Joined by the city property manager, we went to the basement and worked our way through a series of tunnels and small rooms in the circa-1850s building.

In one room was a stockpile of bomb shelter supplies. It included toilet paper, drinking water in cans, and food rations, mostly high protein biscuits. It was a total time warp.

We really don't think today about nuclear weapons and war the way we did in the 1960s. I was a kid back then, but clearly remember a duck-and-cover drill. In class I daydreamed about a nuclear bomb going off in the distance.

The government no longer prints phamlets about radiation or technical guides for do-it-yourself bomb shelters. But those days may return.

Readers of Eric Schlosser know about the real risk of nuclear near-catastrophe (See his recent World War Three, by Mistake in the New Yorker), as do followers of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist, which has moved the Doomsday Clock forward to three minutes to midnight, and that was before Donald Trump won the election. But most people, I suspect, don't pay it much mind.

I haven't thought about the risk of nuclear bombs going off by accident or design in many years. There's too much stress about it, and I'll admit to avoiding the topic altogether. But then Trump Tweeted this:
The idea of expanding our nuclear capability ... and why exactly? It feels as the stress of the 1960s is about to make a return.

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