Accident-Prone - And

Lethal Doubts rise on the safety of three types of nuclear warheads

The W-79 is an artillery shell, the W-88 rides atop missiles that would be fired from submarines and the W-69 is the business end of missiles designed to be launched from bombers at ground targets. Despite the diversity of their delivery systems, these three weapons, which together make up about 10% of the total U.S. inventory of nuclear warheads, share a frightening characteristic: all are, or have been, subject to safety problems that some experts fear just might cause them to explode accidentally.

Almost certainly, an unintentional blast would detonate only the chemical explosives that, if fired deliberately, would compress the...

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