Full Story CIA India Lost Nuclear Device in Himalayas Nanda Devi in year 1965 Operation Hat
Forty-five years ago, a joint Indo-US espionage mission lost five kilograms of plutonium in the Himalayas.
It is still missing but the government of India has decided to ignore the ongoing threat.
This incident was first reported in the Rolling Stone publication Outside in April. 1978.
The secret of the lost SNAP was kept until May 1978 when the US
journalist Howard Kohn revealed the existence of Operation Hat
in Outside magazine.
Year 1964 –
On October 16, a great mushroom cloud had been spotted towering over the remote Chinese missile-testing range at Lop Nur.
Details regarding the twenty-two kiloton device were scarce.
This was the first nuclear test made by China
In 1964, China had conducted its first nuclear tests in the western province of Xinjiang, stunning American intelligence agencies, who thought the Chinese were still years away from nuclear capability.
In 1962, China defeated Indian Army because of Indian Politicians who never understood China and foolishly ignored rising power of China and Development of Indian Arm Forces.
China was preparing and testing a nuclear device, which created fear in the minds of Indian intelligence agencies and American intelligence agencies.
After this India and USA decided to jointly keep watch on the china and signed a secret pact to work together and keep close watch on the activities of the China.
The result was Operation Hat - But Operation Hat Failed.
During 1965 to 1967, a second detecting device was successfully placed on a lower adjacent mountain, Nanda Kot mountain.
Nanda Devi is one of the tallest mountains of the imposing Himalayan mountain range.
It offers an unobstructed view of China’s distant test site.
Two villages, Lata and Reini, are the highest inhabited points on Lata Kharak; above them no human beings or tamed animals are to be found.
Further still lays the mighty Nanda Devi, India’s second highest peak, towering overhead at 7,816 metres above sea level.
Operation Hat began shortly after China's first nuclear bomb
test in 1964.
The US CIA, with the cooperation of the Indian government, planned an expedition to the Himalayas to plant a nuclear-powered monitoring station on the summit of 26,600-ft-high Nanda Devi, from where it would eavesdrop on the Chinese nuclear test programme in over-the-border Xinjiang Province.
The aim of putting the plutonium-run device on Nanda Devi in 1965 was to track nuclear and missile tests in China.
Plutonium device included
a 17-kilogram nuclear assembly
five kilograms of plutonium 238 and 239 that powered the nuclear device
Six Kilogram of Plutonium was used by the atomic bomb, which destroyed, which was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.
What was the mission –
the climbers would carry five loads to the summit of Kanchenjunga, the world’s third-highest peak at an elevation of 8,579 metres.
The cargo included the assemblies for a communication interpreter and an accompanying generator. Both would be installed at the peak.
Five Loads = 125 Pounds
the interpreter and the generator:
the sensor had four transceivers to relay information to a base station elsewhere in India, and a six-foot-tall antenna to collect data from the Chinese test site.
The generator, known as SNAP 19C—System for Nuclear Auxiliary Power—converted radioactive heat into electricity.
SNAP 19C was not a bomb , to explode a bomb needs trigger which was not present in the SNAP 19c.
But it was powered by radioactivity, radiation is toxic for humans as well as animals.
SNAP 19C had five elements:
a hot fuel block
radioactive fuel capsules placed in its core
thermoelectric generators mounted around it
the block’s outer casing
The only extant account of the device is found in the 94-page scientific study commissioned by Prime Minister Morarji Desai.
In the report, nine pages are spent describing the device:
The fuel, an alloy of Plutonium and Strontium—Pu-238, Pu-239, and Sr-90—was divided in seven capsules.
Each capsule had an inner cladding of tantalum (0.5mm thick) with sufficient void space for accumulation of helium gas, the gas emitted on radioactive decay.
The heavy-walled outer cladding of the capsule was of a 2.5 mm thick alloy—Haynes-25, which is composed of cobalt, nickel, chromium and tungsten, and possesses high temperature and corrosion resistant properties as well as high structural strength.
The fuel capsules were installed in a hexagonal graphite block along with other accessories like thermocouples, thermal insulation material etc.
Manmohan Singh Kohli, a Navy commander assigned to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), was the expedition’s leader.
With him were four officers from the IB:
Gurcharan Singh Bhangu
all were well-trained mountaineers, and winners of the Arjuna award, India’s highest recognition in sports.
Bill McKniff a CIA officer was stationed at a base camp on Nanda Devi. Three American mountaineers were hired by the CIA to accompany the Indian team.
The two teams were formed consisting of
an army of porters and Sherpa’s
twin teams of mountaineers
Thirty-three Bhotia men from Lata and Reini were hired for the expedition; nine Sherpa’s, members of a tribe of elite mountaineers, were brought from Sikkim for their expertise in climbing glaciers.
At that time, Rameshwar Nath Kao was the director of the Aviation Research Centre (ARC), a branch of the IB, and reported to Bhola Nath Mullik, the first director of the IB after Independence.
Mullik and his CIA counterparts supervised the expedition from Washington and New Delhi.
Later Rameshwar Nath Kao, become the founding director of India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
Manmohan Singh Kohli was in daily radio contact with Rameshwar Nath Kao.
Kao told Kohli about the secret mission.
After that Indian team went to America in a special plane, escorted by CIA agents conversant in Hindi and Punjabi.
Indian Team spent 40 days in America getting training in 40 days in the US the CIA men did not leave Indian team.
the Indian climbers were taken to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, where they were briefed on the mission and conducted mountaineering drills on Mount McKinley, the highest peak on US soil.
The leader of the American team in Alaska was none other than Barry Bishop
First, it was decided to put nuclear device on Kanchenjunga, the world’s third-highest peak at an elevation of 8,579 metres.
But later it was decided to put device on Nanda Devi.
The western peak, the higher of the two, is known as Nanda Devi, while its shorter sibling is usually called Nanda Devi East.
The climb from Lata village to the summit of Nanda Devi stretches over about 125 kilometres, and the teams had divided the distance into seven intervals:
from the sanctuary to the base camp, on from there to four more intermediate camps, and finally to the summit.
The porters from Lata and Reini carried the rations—purchased locally—to the base camp, and brought the five loads into which the sensor had been divided up to camp two.
From there to the summit, the critical equipment would be in the hands of the Sherpas.
It was decided that From the Nanda Devi base camp, Kohli would stay in radio contact with Mullik and Kao in Delhi.
On the ground, he would direct the climbers, porters and Sherpas, and decide what each one of them was to do at particular points of time.
Since Kohli was the expedition leader, the American climbers were also placed under him.
Names of American climbers to the Nanda Devi expedition:
Gordon Sleeper, the technician who had demonstrated the nuclear generator in Alaska, set up a relay station nearby to transmit the information gathered by the sensor to New Delhi and Washington.
The climbers made slow but steady progress between 24 September and the second week of October.
The climbing season was nearing its end
As winter began to fall, they battled against time.
By 16 October, snow was falling at a steady pace: visibility was dwindling, and the danger of an avalanche was serious
Kohli informed the situation to New Delhi and got permission to stop the mission and to secure the generator and the sensor at camp four, so they didn’t have to carry them all over again next year.
six Sherpas found a suitable rock cavity.
Half the loads were sheltered there and the rest secured to the rock with nylon ropes.
After a full winter’s rest and lots of planning, Kohli’s team returned to Nanda Devi in early May 1966.
The plan was to climb back to camp four, unburdened by the loads; the team would pick up the equipment where it had been secured the previous year, and simply take it on the final ascent to the summit.
When the team reached the camp four where the loads were hidden, the team got shocked The loads were missing, and the rock to which they had been secured was gone as well. It was clear that an avalanche had swept away the rock—and the equipment—during the winter, leaving behind no trace of the generator.
After that next 2 years American and Indian government tried to search the nuclear device but in vain. They never found that.
The last search operation was in 1966-68, when the Americans and Indians conducted a panic-driven survey of the area around Nanda Devi.
From Indian side still it is not clear who sanctioned the Operation Hat.
In Month of May 1964 Nehru died.
In 1978 the outside magazine published, wrote about Operation Hat and its failure and it came into public domain.
After that Jyotirmoy Bosu, a communist Indian Parliamentarian asked the questions about this and Parliament devoted an hour on 17 April 1978 to debating the Nanda Devi expedition.
After one hour debate in Indian Parliament Morarji Desai signed the order to form a six-member scientific committee to investigate the events of 1965.
It was led by
Dr Atma Ram, Principal Scientific Adviser to the prime minister,
Homi Sethna, the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission who spearheaded India’s first atomic tests in 1974;
Prof MGK Menon, the Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister Director General of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO);
Dr Raja Ramanna, the director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), who also designed and installed several of India’s nuclear reactors;
Dr V Ramalingaswami, the Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research;
Dr AK Saha of the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics.
They were the six best Indian scientists in the nuclear and public health fields in that era.
Their 94-page report deconstructed SNAP 19C, its individual components and their half-lives, hazardous effects and accident conditions.
The committee report suggested that the possibility of an accident involving the missing generator was minimal, based on the partial details about SNAP 19C that were made available to the committee by US agencies,
The committee recommended to Indian government following
1) to periodically monitor the environment near Nanda Devi to detect any radioactive radiation in the air, water and soil
2) to develop new techniques for locating the device
The GANGES one of the largest rivers in the subcontinent, has many headstreams. And one of them, the Rishi Ganga, originates from the Nanda Devi glacier, not far from the village of Reini, where it is fed by melting ice and rain from the Nanda Devi sanctuary.
In 1967, Operation Hat finally scored a success. But still one nuclear device is missing which is dangerous for everyone.
Reality views by sm –
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Operation Hat Himalaya CIA Nuclear Device Lost
29 August 2012
Full Story CIA India Lost Nuclear Device in Himalayas Nanda Devi in year 1965 Operation Hat