Chicken-Powered Nuclear Bomb
British Army Planned Nuclear Chicken Landmines
London — A claim that Britain considered using live chickens in a nuclear weapon aroused skepticism Thursday, but Robert Smith (head of press & publicity at The National Archives) insisted that it was not an April Fool’s hoax.
The Archives released a secret 1957 Ministry of Defence report showing that scientists contemplated putting chickens in the casing of a plutonium landmine. The chickens’ body heat was considered a possible means of preventing the mine’s mechanism from freezing.
Listing ways of extending the armed life of the landmine, the declassified document proposed “incorporating some form of heating independent of power supplies under the weapon hull in the emplacement. Chickens, with a heat output of the order of 1,000 BTU (British Thermal Units) per bird per day are a possibility.”
Andy Oppenheimer, co-editor of Jane’s World Armies, said, “I have a feeling that it’s an April Fool’s joke - the idea of using chickens is hard to believe." He said wrapping the device in fibreglass to keep it warm would have been a better option.
The Times of London also expressed skepticism. Referring to the April 1st date, the Times front page headline read, “Is today the day to reveal the chicken-powered nuke?”
Tom O’Leary, head of education and interpretation at the National Archives, said he had no doubt that the document was authentic. Mr. O’Leary said the idea is mentioned briefly in a “Blue Peacock” document as, “purely a suggestion in an official document that that is a possibility that was proposed, and there was no indication that the feasibility was ever tested... It did not mention chickens but did deal with the problem of maintaining the right temperature. The nuclear warhead had to be kept within a specific temperature range, but environmental trials suggested it might not have survived the rigours of a mid-European winter.”
The Blue Peacock Project began in 1954 and was aimed at preventing enemy occupation of territory due to nuclear contamination. Designs were based on Britain’s Blue Danube free-fall bomb, which consisted of a plutonium core surrounded by a sphere of high explosive with detonators spread across the surface. The steel casing was so large that it had to be tested outdoors in a flooded gravel pit.
Officials decided in 1957 to acquire 10 Blue Peacock landmines, each weighing 7,250 kilograms. The mines were to be left buried or submerged by the British Army of the Rhine (Germany). They would then have been detonated by wire from up to 5 kilometres away or by an 8-day timer in the event of a retreat from invading Soviet troops - to prevent them from occupying the area. If disturbed or damaged, they were primed to explode within 10 seconds.
Nuclear historian David Hawkings revealed the plan for the nuclear mine, which was as abandoned in 1958 after 4 years of R&D - the Ministry of Defence Weapons Policy Committee decided that work on Blue Peacock should stop because of reservations about the fallout hazard.
A prototype survives in the historical collection of the Atomic Weapons Establishment, a government agency which has its headquarters at Aldermaston west of London. Details of the chicken proposal feature in an April 2 - Oct. 30 exhibition titled The Secret State at the National Archives in Kew, west London.
Meanwhile, joe-ks.com has discovered the real reason for the Avian flu affecting thousands of chickens in Abbotsford, B.C. - Premier Gordon Campbell is secretly renewing plans for a Fraser Valley Peacock Project...