The Lost Plutonium-239 On The Nanda Devi Peak: A Sleeping Monster Inside The Snow

A mission was undertaken in the 1960s to put a nuclear-powered sensing device on the summit of India’s second-highest peak. Installing the device entailed transporting the generator’s nuclear fuel, which consisted of seven plutonium capsules. When the squad arrived at their tent, the extreme cold caused them to reconsider. The leader chose his men from a pool of men and machines.

Because they were unable to transport the generator, the team secured it near the camp and returned to safety. When they returned, the deadly plutonium stock, which was half the size of the Hiroshima bomb, was gone. For decades, the area has been virtually closed. The threat of radiation would have an impact on the lives of millions of Indians.

Spies on the world’s roof:

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Indian Government collaborated in the autumn of 1965 to transport a surveillance device to the summit of Nanda Devi, India’s second-highest mountain. It was the first major combined operation performed by the CIA and India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB), made possible by the period’s heated geopolitical dynamics.

Only three years before, India had been humiliated in its war with China, and China had conducted its first nuclear tests in Xinjiang province in 1964. The device that the IB and CIA were carrying on their mission was designed to keep an eye on a Chinese nuclear test site and would be fuelled by seven cigar-shaped rods of plutonium-239, enough to be radioactive for 1000 years.

Both plutonium-239 and plutonium-241 are fissile, which means they can sustain a nuclear chain reaction, allowing them to be used in nuclear weapons and reactors.

The climber team was greeted with a storm on their way up, with only approximately 1000 feet to the summit, and the expedition had to be called off. They did, however, leave the monitoring equipment at a camp along the route, at nearly 24,000 feet, aiming to return it to the peak on their next summit attempt.

The climbers expected to find it at the start of the next season after leaving it at a camp along the route. However, the equipment, which included a 17-kilogram nuclear assembly, was carried away by an avalanche that winter.

When the team returned the next spring, the device had vanished. An avalanche carried away the equipment, which included a 17-kilogram nuclear assembly containing 5kg of radioactive Plutonium, that winter. It had been buried deep in the snow by an avalanche, and it was gone for good.

The Unsettling Part:

The Nanda Devi ice shelves are one of the river Ganges’ sources; a sizable population resides around this river. Water tests taken from the mountain’s base revealed alarming levels of Plutonium-239 in 2005.

Here’s What Wikipedia Says About Plutonium-239 Dangers:

Plutonium-239 emits alpha particles, transforming into the relatively innocuous uranium-235. As an alpha emitter, plutonium-239 is not particularly toxic as an external radiation source; but, it is hazardous and carcinogenic if consumed or inhaled as dust.

A pound (454 grams) of plutonium ingested as plutonium oxide dust is expected to cause cancer in two million people. As a result, as little as a milligram is very likely to cause cancer in a person. Plutonium, as a heavy metal, is also poisonous. So, somewhere beneath the snow, a terrible monster is sleeping.

Latest from Articles