The US still keeps hundreds of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert — here’s what it means and why it’s a huge risk

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Since the Cold War, the US has kept an estimated 900 nuclear weapons on “hair-trigger alert,” meaning the president could decide to launch them in just a few minutes.
The policy reportedly wasn’t discussed during Trump’ s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday.
Some global security experts and scientists say that hair-trigger alert endangers American cities, because the US could inadvertently start a nuclear war.
A senior scientist from the Union of Concerned Scientists proposes turning the missiles’ hair-trigger alert setting off as a temporary solution.

At a highly anticipated summit in Singapore Tuesday, US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un discussed the future of the two nations’ nuclear arsenal programs. They ultimately agreed to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Leading up to the summit, Trump argued that North Korea’s highly-secretive nuclear program threatens American security. After the meeting, a joint statement said the two countries would “join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime.”

While the meeting seemed optimistic, global security experts say there is another domestic nuclear policy that the Trump administration reportedly did not address — and one just as dangerous as North Korea initiating nuclear war with the US.

Since the end of the Cold War, the US has had 450 land-based missiles and hundreds more missiles undetectable submarines that are all on “hair-trigger alert” — a policy that allows for the launch of nuclear weapons in 10 minutes. Only the president’s permission is required to launch these weapons, according to the Department of Defense.

But a growing number of experts believe the US should consider retiring this policy. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), an advocacy group comprised of hundreds of scientists, engineers, and economists, published a report in 2016 on the dangers of hair-trigger alert. The same year, more than 90 prominent American scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, sent a letter to President Obama that urged him to take the nation’s land-based nuclear missiles off hair-trigger alert.

Lisbeth Gronlund, co-director and senior scientist at the UCS Global Security Program, argues that keeping nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert endangers American cities and towns more than it protects them.

“The president would have 10 minutes to make a decision whether or not to launch the weapons,” she told Business Insider. “That’s a tremendous amount of time pressure.”

The argument for being able to launch 900 nuclear missiles in under 10 minutes

Besides the US, Russia is the only other country known to have a hair-trigger launch status. It’s unclear whether Israel, China, and North Korea have their own hair-trigger alert policies, which means that Kim could theoretically have the same nuclear power as Trump.

The US land-based arsenal is siloed in five states, including Nebraska and Colorado, hundreds of miles away from residential communities. It’s believed that in total, the US keeps roughly 900 weapons on hair-trigger alert. The locations and exact number of submarines, located in the deep ocean, are …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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