Technical flaws could be "eliminated readily once they are discovered . . . but it takes a great deal of ingenuity to prevent them beforehand." #readingToday
"We cannot derive much confidence from the fact that no unauthorized detonation has occurred to date," Iklé warned: "the past safety record means nothing for the future." The design of nuclear weapons had a learning curve, and he feared that some knowledge might come at a high price. Technical flaws and malfunctions could be "eliminated readily once they are discovered . . . but it takes a great deal of ingenuity and intuition to prevent them beforehand." The risk wasn't negligible, as the Department of Defense and the Air Force claimed. The risk was impossible to determine, and accidents were likely to become more frequent in the future. During Air Force training exercises in 1957, an atomic bomb or a hydrogen bomb had been inadvertently jettisoned once every 320 flights. And B-52 bombers seemed to crash at a rate of about once every twenty thousand flying hours. According to Iklé's calculations, that meant SAC's airborne alert would lead to roughly twelve crashes with nuclear weapons and seven bomb jettisons every year. "The paramount task," he argued, "is to learn enough from minor incidents to prevent a catastrophic disaster."
Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons,the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser