ACCIDENTAL NUCLEAR WAR: A Timeline of Close Calls
The most devastating military threat arguably comes from a nuclear war started not intentionally but by accident or miscalculation. Accidental nuclear war has almost happened many times already, and with 15,000 nuclear weapons worldwide — thousands on hair-trigger alert and ready to launch at a moment’s notice — an accident is bound to occur eventually.
The list of close calls above is too long for comfort, yet it’s likely very incomplete, given that these represent only America’s declassified events. Many other events may have occurred in the U.S. that we don’t know about, and we certainly don’t know about close calls the other eight nuclear countries have had. Many nuclear experts are concerned about a war between India and Pakistan, and if one of them were to accidentally start a nuclear war, the resulting nuclear winter could kill 1 billion people worldwide.
Moreover, there are signs of the Cold War restarting. The U.S. and Russia are both upgrading their arsenals, which means new weapons and new ways for something in the system to go wrong. The risk of accidental nuclear war is only growing, and barring major initiatives for risk reduction, it’s merely a matter of time until our luck runs out.
Most of the reports in the timeline above come from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Nuclear Files, Eric Schlosser’s book, Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety, or Mother Jones. They are either paraphrased or directly quoted, and each links to the original source.
See liked article for actual timeline.