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Aging Nuclear Weapons At Risk For Accidental Explosions?


I was just reading about how the U.S. wanted to possibly replace old, aging nukes with newer ones. This was in Scientific American in April of 2007.

Some guys said that the bombs would still work after 100 years.

I was only about 2/3 through the first page when the thought occurred to me, "Could an old nuclear bomb from the 70's spontaneously blow up?"

I remember an episode of MacGyver from the first season in which he and a friend dealt with old cases of dynamite that were leaking nitroglycerin. The nitroglycerin looked like clear hair gel. When a single drop was thrown to the ground, that small amount caused a potentially harmful explosion. Pretty serious stuff.

I was wondering about medical trials for new drugs. You test some people for a few months or years, and then say, "Well, I guess this drug is ok." Then 80 years later it turns out it causes cancer. Like cigarettes! Everyone was smoking back in the 50's, and no one was really aware of the long term harm it could cause.

So it all makes me wonder if there are long term dangers that can build up over time, with respect to aging nuclear weapons, and if there is no way we could possibly prepare for them. Like what if there's an as yet undiscovered state that the radioactive material could reach which would result in a random atomic detonation?

If this were possible, every aging bomb in existence would be at risk, and we've got thousands, right?

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