Monday, February 01, 2016

Kosmos 954, The Nuke That Fell To Earth

Kosmos 954 was a Soviet nuclear-powered surveillance satellite. On January 24, 1978, a Soviet satellite partially burned up in Earth orbit and a few scattered pieces fell to the ground across what was then Canada's Northwest Territories. Fortunately this is one of the most thinly-populated regions of Canada because Kosmos 954 was lethally radioactive. It carried a cargo of dense uranium discs that were so radioactive that they could kill anyone who came near them. American and Canadian teams worked in an extensive recovery effort called Operation Morning Light. They had orders not to wear radiation suits for fear of frightening local residents. Despite the extent of the clean up effort, less than 1 percent was ever recovered and properly disposed of. Much of the debris remains in Great Slave Lake.

Operation Morning Light members, U.S. and Canadian teams, picked up the
Russians’ contaminated space junk–mostly by hand–in the early months of 1978.
There were lessons learned from this close call. It stimulated the awareness in Canada that a federal nuclear emergency preparedness and response plan was needed. The government of Canada sent the USSR a bill for over $6 million to pay for the cleanup. Eventually the Soviets paid half that amount.

 More here

Thanks Bruce!

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