Warning: include_once(/web/abq-journal/web/wp-content/plugins/wp-super-cache/wp-cache-phase1.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /web/abq-journal/wp-content/advanced-cache.php on line 21 Warning: include_once(): Failed opening '/web/abq-journal/web/wp-content/plugins/wp-super-cache/wp-cache-phase1.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/share/php:/usr/share/pear') in /web/abq-journal/wp-content/advanced-cache.php on line 21 Warning: include(/web/abq-journal/web/wp-content/plugins/wp-super-cache/wp-cache-base.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /web/abq-journal/wp-content/plugins/wp-super-cache/wp-cache.php on line 72 Warning: include(): Failed opening '/web/abq-journal/web/wp-content/plugins/wp-super-cache/wp-cache-base.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/share/php:/usr/share/pear') in /web/abq-journal/wp-content/plugins/wp-super-cache/wp-cache.php on line 72 Warning: include_once(/web/abq-journal/web/wp-content/plugins/wp-super-cache/ossdl-cdn.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /web/abq-journal/wp-content/plugins/wp-super-cache/wp-cache.php on line 92 Warning: include_once(): Failed opening '/web/abq-journal/web/wp-content/plugins/wp-super-cache/ossdl-cdn.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/share/php:/usr/share/pear') in /web/abq-journal/wp-content/plugins/wp-super-cache/wp-cache.php on line 92 Documentary explores safety problems with America’s nuclear stockpile | Albuquerque Journal

Recover password

Documentary explores safety problems with America’s nuclear stockpile

"The Trinity Site in southern New Mexico was where the first atomic bomb was tested. (Courtesy of WGBH)

“The Trinity Site in southern New Mexico was where the first atomic bomb was tested. (Courtesy of WGBH)

Nuclear accidents are terrifying.

The documentary “Command and Control” exposes the truth about the management of America’s nuclear arsenal and shows what can happen when the weapons built to protect Americans threaten to destroy.

The film will air at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10. on KNME, Channel 5.1, as part of the “American Experience” series.

“Command and Control” also features former Sandia National Laboratories employee Bob Peurifoy.

Peurifoy was an engineer who joined the nuclear weapons lab in 1952 and subsequently became its leading advocate for nuclear weapon safety.

“I had the privilege of working difficult times with improvements to weapons safety,” he says. “I’m proud of what we’ve done, and the (nuclear) stockpile is considerably safer right now than it was a bunch of years ago.”

Former Sandia National Laboratories employee Bob Peurifoy. (Courtesy of WGBH)

Former Sandia National Laboratories employee Bob Peurifoy. (Courtesy of WGBH)

During his time there, Peurifoy was immersed in nuclear weapon design.

“When I joined Sandia, things were entirely different,” he says. “The Cold War was just starting, and we were concerned, properly so, that the Soviets might provoke, cause or start a war.”

Peurifoy says Sandia was a spinoff from Los Alamos.

“We were an engineering laboratory,” he says. “We designed things, and we didn’t invent. Los Alamos did that. We were a team, and our purpose was deterrence. The world had changed with the invention of the atom bomb.”

The film recounts, in chilling, minute-by-minute detail, the story of a deadly 1980 accident at a Titan II missile complex in Damascus, Ark.

Through the first-person accounts of Air Force personnel, weapon designers and first responders who were on the scene, the film reveals the unlikely chain of events that caused the accident and the feverish efforts to prevent the explosion of a ballistic missile carrying the most powerful nuclear warhead ever built by the United States – 600 times more powerful than the bomb that devastated Hiroshima.

Senior Airman Dave Powell was a 21-year-old missile repairman at the Titan II complex near Damascus, Ark., in 1979. (Courtesy of Dave Powell)

Senior Airman Dave Powell was a 21-year-old missile repairman at the Titan II complex near Damascus, Ark., in 1979. (Courtesy of Dave Powell)

On the evening of Sept. 18, 1980, Airmen David F. Powell and Jeffrey L. Plumb were performing routine maintenance at the Titan II silo near Damascus, Ark. At the age of 21, Powell was considered a highly experienced missile technician; Plumb, who had just turned 19, was still in training.

As the two stood on a platform near the top of the Titan II, a socket fell from Powell’s wrench, plummeted 70 feet and, shockingly, punctured the missile. A stream of highly explosive rocket fuel began pouring into the silo.

“The story of the Damascus accident is one that nobody really knows, and in fact, I’m not sure anybody’s supposed to know,” says Mark Samels, producer of “Command and Control” and executive producer of “American Experience.” “As safe and secure and as well-designed and well-operated as our nuclear weapons system may be, it’s subject to the X factor. And the X factor is human fallibility. The most powerful weapons that we’ve ever created as human beings have a threat built into them. And that threat is us.”

The film is directed by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Robert Kenner and based on the critically acclaimed book of the same title by Eric Schlosser.

“Today, the U.S. still has approximately 7,000 nuclear weapons. ‘Command and Control’ teaches us that these weapons not only pose a threat to our enemies, but also to ourselves,” Kenner says. “After an accident, everyone will be asking why we didn’t do something. We need to be asking these questions before it’s too late.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/921114/forever-safe.html

Work at the Trinity Site at White Sands Missile Range is featured in "Command and Control." (Courtesy of WGBH)

Work at the Trinity Site at White Sands Missile Range is featured in “Command and Control.” (Courtesy of WGBH)

Sandia National Laboratories, formerly called Sandia Laboratory, is featured in the film. (Courtesy of WGBH)

Sandia National Laboratories, formerly called Sandia Laboratory, is featured in the film. (Courtesy of WGBH)

TOP |